Three years ago I started writing. Writing because I wanted to. Before then, every character was typed towards a word count. And that word count represented something that had been assigned.
Watching Woody Allen’s biography is what tipped me. Earlier in his career he wrote for a dinner show. Twice every week his club needed a new show, and Woody had to write it. Inspired or not, twice every week Woody had to produce.
Learning this struck me in a profound way. I learned that he was a machine. Churning out material by quantity, not necessarily quality. Surely he wrote some great material in those years. Surely he wrote some aweful material in those years. However, he always wrote.
I wanted to write, but had always been too critical of what I produced. My inner critic expected a level of quality that the writer in me had yet to mature into. Simply put, my expectation of my own ability undermined my confidence to practice.
Woody’s biography was the catalyst that changed me.
One article a day. That was the quota I gave myself. Not an article scribbled in my journal, but one published on my blog My Name’s Sebastian. No longer could I patiently await profound thoughts that never came. Every single day I had to produce, inspired or not.
Something specific resulted from this. Obviously, it was dozens, if not hundreds, of poorly written articles. I’ll be the first to admit that if my collective body of work were a ship it would sink. However, doing this excercise taught me to produce. And that my ability to do so was actual.
The stint lasted seven or eight months. For three of those months my output had jumped to two posts a day – one on my blog and the other on a satiracle news sight I’d started. Though as other projects introduced themselves, the discipline to write slipped away.
In retrospect, what the experience taught me was a method for growth. One that applies far beyond writing. The method’s simple; think less, produce more – or as the company I work at now says it, “shipping over not shipping”.
Everyone accepts the idea of learning from their mistakes. Most of us forget that in order to do so we must have made mistakes to learn from. If you do not produce, you cannot make a mistake – which may very well be the greatest mistake of all. So even if it’s bad, produce. If for nothing more than to have something to learn from.