I started today with high hopes for all the awesome things I would accomplish.
Wake up early, make some coffee, pancakes for breakfast with the family, more coffee, sit down for a few quiet hours to write.
Then, as it tends to do sometimes, life decided to barge in, giving me a swift kick in the shins before running off shouting obscenities and taking any semblance of motivation and creativity with it. It was one of those days where nothing seems to go the way you want it to – one of those days when you just can’t find your groove, no matter how hard you try.
So now it’s late, and my once-solid plans are shot to pieces. This isn’t the article I wanted to write – not even close. The house looks like it’s been hit by a category-two-year-old tornado. I’m on my second beer and debating whether a third will help.
But Kieran, you’re saying, why are you telling me this?
Because I’m still here, sitting down to write. Even though there are a million other things that need doing. If I could, I would have picked a better time – but the truth is, if I don’t write now, it won’t happen.
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Sure, it’d be easy to come up with some flimsy excuse for not writing an article this week. No-one will notice, that little voice says, if you just take the week off. But taking a break for even a few days is a slippery slope to giving up entirely – and that’s not a place I’m willing to go.
Most of us don’t have the luxury of time we can dedicate to creation – a time when we can switch off the toddlers, Twitters, day jobs, and other distractions that keep us from doing our best work. Whenever we can find time, we squeeze our creative tendencies into all the gaps – lunch breaks, early mornings, late nights.
The truth is, there will never be a perfect time to get things done. There will always be distractions, and there will always be days when we just can’t find our stride – days where some tiny detail that doesn’t go to plan makes us feels like everything is spinning out of control, and before we know it the whole day is lost.
There is one thing I can always control, though, and that’s choosing to write anyway.
Fuck waiting for the right time, or for inspiration to come down from on high. There’s no better time than right now to get down to work. Putting it off won’t make what I write any better, or get me any closer to reaching my goals.
My writing doesn’t make me any money, and precious few people other than yourself will ever read it. My only reward is the work itself – that feeling of satisfaction that comes from clicking Publish each week. That feeling doesn’t depend on other people, or the alignment of the planets, or anything else I can’t control. There’s only one thing I need to do to reach my goal – keep writing.
Do you know the difference between the people that are making money creating excellent products and doing work they love, and everyone else? Those people show up and do the work – especially when they don’t feel like it. Creating great work is a game of numbers – unless you’re exceedingly lucky, no-one hits the jackpot on their first attempt. The more time we spend practicing, then, the higher our chances are that we’ll come up with something spectacular. Even if we aren’t the best writers, or designers, or what-have-you, every day that we practice, every little thing we create, increases our odds of making something brilliant.
Every time you make a conscious choice just to sit down and begin, you’re building a habit of action. And the more habitual your work becomes, the less you’ll rely on outside factors lining up to keep yourself motivated. You start feeling accomplished not because your work has been validated by others – but simply because you showed up and got shit done.
Isn’t it nice to keep things simple?
So that’s why I’m still writing now, even though the timing is terrible. That’s why I’ll keep writing next week, and the week after. Not because I’m looking for approval – but because every time I write, I get a little bit better. Every terrible article raises my chances that one of them will be awesome. And, even on those days when it feels like the world is out to get me, every word I write is better than writing nothing at all.