For every best-selling book an author writes, every Oscar winning film an actor stars in, every Grammy-nominated album a musician produces, and every Nobel prize winning discovery by a professor, there are hundreds if not thousands of hours of work that never sees the light of day, doesn't resonate with an audience, or make it past the cutting room floor.
Because we don't know about somebody's work until they're in the spotlight, we overlook what actually went into it. A successful creative career in any field is years in the making. But there is one way to accelerate progress in your creative career.
Seth Godin has written more than 6,000 blog posts and 19 books. In an interview, he said that NONE of his blog posts have gone viral. If you go to Amazon and search for some of the books he's written, what you discover will shock you. Buried under all his best-sellers are books like Email Addresses of Famous People.
If you're new to the Unmistakable Creative, you've probably never heard of BlogcastFM and The Skool of Life, the precursor to the podcast and a personal blog where I wrote hundreds of articles. You've also never heard of the 3 other blogs I started. When my editor Stephanie stumbled on my piece about how writing 1,000 words a day changed my life, I'd already published hundreds of articles on Medium. As I've said before, I'm not a great writer. I just write a lot.
In his book Originals: How Non-Conformists Change the World, Adam Grant discovered that successful creatives had one thing in common. "In every field, even the most eminent creators typically produce a large quantity of work that's technically sound but considered unremarkable by audiences," says Grant. If you want to increase the quality of your creative work, start by increasing the volume of it.
Increasing the Volume of Your Creative Output Takes the Pressure Off
If you produce a low-volume of creative output, the pressure to make something remarkable is going to be so intense, you'll stifle your creativity. But if you know you'll be back tomorrow, the quality of your work today doesn't matter as much. As Dani Shapiro said in Still Writing, today is "one stitch in a tapestry of days." One of the first things we encourage people in our writers course to do is to stop worrying about the quality of their writing and start increasing the quantity of it. Your cumulative output matters more than any individual piece of work.
Create Work That You Don't Share
Just because you create something, it doesn't mean you have to share it with the world. I don't share 90% of what I write with my readers. But that 90% is what prepares me for the 10% I do share. As I said in an Audience of One, what you create in private will often plant the seeds for your most resonant and impactful public work.
Reduce the Scope But Stick to the Schedule
This is one of the best pieces of advice I've received from James Clear. What does it mean? My scope is 1,000 words a day. But there are days when I can't seem to hit the word count. By reducing the scope to 500 words or just putting pen to paper, I'm able to stick to my schedule of writing every day.
The simple secret become a better artist is to become a prolific one.