This is about my upcoming workshop, something I’ve been working on for a long time.
It’s a theme that has come up for me again and again. I’m a blogger, but I’ve also crowd funded a documentary. Then we traveled around the world interviewing two dozen people across five continents. I’m a blogger but I’m also a writer. I came up with an idea for a book, got a literary agent in NYC, sat down and wrote a proposal over four months, then sold my book idea. Then we traveled to China to learn Mandarin, to Beirut to learn Arabic, and to Mexico to learn Spanish. I’m a blogger but I also teach. I’ve been teaching blogging online with a focus on blogs with strong writing and photography for four years. I’ve had over 400 students over the years. All the projects I work on, I’ve created out of thin air, after I gave in my notice at GE and floated away on my savings and 401k. I bought a domain for $10 and started at zero.
You have to just do it. No one gives you permission, you just have to decide. It’s this way for all writers, photographers, filmmakers — creatives of any stripe — but it’s also true for small business owners, entrepreneurs and investors. If you want to work for yourself, you kind of have to grab it. Take it. Pretend like you know what the hell you are doing and just go for it.
Across all these experiences, I’ve tried to teach other people along the way. People say: tell me how to make a film. And I can do that. You know what your chances are of actually going out and making it? I would say exceedingly low.
It’s not just knowledge, desire, and talent — in various ways I’ve worked with people to address those issues and anyone can be taught how to do something. It’s not about not working hard enough. It’s all about STARTING.
It reminds me of an idea I hear in the writing community: If you write 250 words a day, every day, in a year, you’d have a book.
Why don’t people write more books? 250 words is an hour of time a day. It’s one page. It’s a habit. It’s easy, right? (But it doesn’t work.)
In the same way, many productivity tips and courses don’t seem to address the major issue the majority of so-called procrastinators seem to have. It’s not list-making. It’s getting over that first big hump. It’s starting.
Let me give you an example. I had someone in my online course for about a year. She had done most of the materials but she was not really moving forward with implementing the ideas. She came to my Barcelona workshop and we hashed it out. The whole thing. The plan, the strategy, her angle, her voice, the way it would look and feel once she did it. She could visualize the next steps. She could see it. What happened next? She has completely redesigned her site, solidified her focus and just crushed it. In a few weeks she does a big relaunch with her new, tightly-conceived blog (it’s a personal finance blog with a very strong personal story line).
What I’ve discovered is that the whole “write 250 words a day” theory is bullshit. You do that after your first book. Or after your 10th. It’s a fantastic way for established people to conceptualize their work and crank it out. But how do you start? Or better yet, how do you jumpstart?
I think it’s deceivingly simple. You need:
1. Time. You need a solid uninterrupted chunk of time to focus.
2. Feedback and a sounding board. Those ideas rattling around your head come to life when you speak them. They change and improve as you get feedback. Just hearing someone’s reaction will spark more ideas.
3. Momentum. That is the biggest thing. Once a plan is set in motion, once you get it going, it’s so much easier to keep it going.
I did this in my own life, too.
1. Time. I quit my job — gave up my corporate gig completely — and just set out to write. I had the insane luxury of total and complete uninterrupted time to contemplate all the things I wanted to do.
2. Feedback. I have a husband who reads everything I write, who is creative and very tied-in to the kind of work I’m doing.
3. Momentum. I didn’t realize it until I started putting these pieces together for others, but that’s one way I inherently work, I try to get past the “beginning” stage as quickly as possible. I dive in. I just go for it. Drew says, “Let’s go to Peru, please” and within a week I have several projects lined up. Boom. Done. (Drew and I joke that he has to be careful about what he mentions to me because I’m likely to shift our entire lives around faster than he can say, “Oh never-mind”.)
It was in my last workshop in November that I started talking about some of this with my students. I partnered with Sabine de Cock (who is a Dutch productivity coach, and lives in Barcelona, her tagline is “for thinkers and dreamers who want to do more” which just resonates with me). She and I have been working together to put together a program that she or I can run in the future. I want to train other people on it too, because I feel like I have figured out something huge. Massive. Like, the freaking key to being a creative person. You need to START. It’s so simple but so difficult.
Sabine and I are doing our first workshop together in May and we’re essentially doing this:
- Rent a house
- Get 8 students together
- No distractions
- Access to Sabine and I
- Concise daily lessons on productivity
- Meals prepared for you
- 7 AM until 10 PM you just work
- One very full week to get something started
That’s it. We’re calling it Hell Week (affectionately) because it’s like a boot camp. But I think it has the chance to really be a game changer to take people who have an idea like a start-up, a book, or a blog and get them past that painful beginning phase and into the cranking out work phase. It’s life changing. I see so many people because of this blog, who reach out to me and want to do something big and they are always seeking answers on the “how”. Just give me the steps. And I have. I have written over 150,000 words on how to do all the things I do and I have hours of video explaining it on Blog Brilliantly. And when people follow it, it works. But life, it gets in the way. Most people don’t have the luxury of enough savings to quit their job and just dive in. This lets people clear out the space that’s so critical.
By the way, there are
four three seats left in our first “Hell Week”. It’s in May in Barcelona. Procrastinators welcome.
I am also open to teaching other workshop facilitators my methods and theories because I’d like to see other people use it. I’ve seen it work. It makes me so happy to see people realize their dream projects. So if you’re someone who teaches, get in touch, if there’s enough interest I’ll put something together.