I’ve been struggling with my work. For the past few months I’ve struggled with feeling connected to those on the other side of my work. I see that emails get opened and the blog gets visits. But the response has been difficult to measure.
And this has been challenging for me. I’ve spent a lot of time wondering why.
Am I doing something wrong?
Have I lost touch with my readers?
All of this has lead me to evaluate how I think about my work. What if my work at its core was about offering something rather than getting a response?
It’s not about how big your work gets. It’s not about how many people are interested in what you do. It’s not about how much money you make. It’s not even about getting others to participate.
It’s about you doing something that you love and offering it to the world— regardless of its reception.
Steven Pressfield on Letting Go of Outcomes
A theme in Steven Pressfield’s little book, The War of Art, is dedication to your work regardless of the outcome. He emphasizes the roll of routine and habits. He talks about how creativity is about showing up and doing the work, and not waiting for inspiration to strike.
He told a story of a book he spent years writing and the struggle he had along the way. All he did was work on it, and nothing else. But the closer he got to finishing, the harder it became. His fear and resistance became more and more intense.
Eventually the moment came when he finished the book and he felt a rush of victory wash over him.
The next morning he went to a friend’s house and told him that he’d finally finished.
The friend’s reply blew me away. If I were his friend I would tell him: take the rest of the day off— no, take the whole week! Celebrate. Pop a bottle of champaign or pour a glass of whiskey. Etc.
His friend said, “Good for you. Start the next one today.” (p. 112)
What?!? Can you imagine it? I couldn’t for some time. But the more I view my work from a process oriented standpoint, the more I understand it.
Pressfield writes to write. Not to create books, get published, or be a famous author.
He writes because he’s a writer and that’s what writers do.
He’s in it for the work itself, not the product of the work. He is dedicated to the work itself, rather than what the work is creating.
That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t celebrate his successes. Or that he doesn’t feel some accomplishment when he finishes a book. It just means that the writing isn’t a means to an end, but is the end in itself.
When I’m in a good creative rhythm and routine, I find that I have more material than I know what to do with. I have more ideas than I have time to develop those ideas. The struggle becomes less about generating new content and more about keeping the routine and finding time to further develop content.
The opposite experience happens when I am out of routine and I realize that I need a blog post for next week. I sit and stare at a blank screen feeling so much pressure. The internal voices tell me things like, “say something worth saying!” and “don’t waste people’s time!” (they always use exclamation marks).
So I have to write, not for the sake of writing, but to create a specific outcome.
And that’s too much pressure.
There’s a balance here. You have to create with some end in mind. But maybe the main purpose should be creating to create, knowing that you’re reach that end eventually.
Jasmine Star, a fantastic wedding photographer and blogger, shared recently on Periscope about how she found traction and started her business. She blogs every day. Not all of it is good. Not all of it helps people find her and choose her. But in her words, “If you throw enough mud at the wall, something will stick.”
For me, it’s time to focus on the throwing, not the sticking.
How about you?
What if your work wasn’t about the response, but about doing the work? What if you did the work because you loved it? What if you didn’t allow how someone else responds to dictate how you feel about what you do? What if you did the work because it’s what you need to do and what you were made to offer the world?
How would things change for you? How could things change?