Let’s give ourselves the permission to Begin,
All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself.—Chuck Close
“The Linear Work Distortion is the false belief that creative work is a neat, step-by-step process, wherein the final product steadily reveals itself. In fact, that’s not how creative work really happens. It’s often messy, and iterative.”
This next passage is referring to a conversation David had with another successful individual when he was writing his first book. He could get started because he was overwhelmed from the idea of writing a book. This is what his friend said to him to help him beat his creative block:
“Noah sat near me on the couch. “What about the blog posts that got you this book deal? Is this how you wrote those? You counted the words and then wrote them?”
“No. I guess I just kinda wrote them.”
“Okay, but what did that look like? What were the steps?”
“Um…I guess I just kinda barfed them out. Then some time went by and I looked at them again. Then maybe I’d write an outline.”
“Then I’d kinda go back over them and smooth them.
“Draft. Then outline. Then what?”
Solution to the Creative Block:
“Draft, outline, polish. Break each chapter down into those three phases. Divide up your timeline. Put it on the calendar. Stick to the calendar. You’re done.”’
“At first, I was resistant to Noah’s advice. He made it sound so simple, as if I could count on making the writing happen on schedule. It wasn’t just the words that had to be written, they had to be accompanied by visual examples and illustrations. Trying to break it down into a process felt like a game of Whac-A-Mole. Every time I tried to put something on the calendar, I’d think of some other detail that would make that timeline impossible or unlikely, or it would open up some other unknown gap that I didn’t know how to fill. Then again, it was a better plan than simply writing 333 words per day. So, I fought through breaking everything down into steps. I assumed I wouldn’t follow it perfectly, but it would serve as a guide.”
“As I tapped out those first few words on the keyboard, it was clear something had changed. I stopped worrying about how each word might relate to other words in other chapters of the book. Each time I started to worry, I’d remind myself I had an airtight timeline on my calendar. I knew that if I wrote today, I could make that writing better tomorrow, and I’d still be on schedule.
“I was free to create in the moment.”
“Jon Bokenkamp, creator of NBC’s The Blacklist, has a nonlinear way of writing scripts. On Love Your Work, he told me that he starts with stream-of-consciousness writing. “I’ll open a scratch file, and I’ll just type to myself. And I literally will type in everything that comes into my brain. It’s kind of a dialogue with myself where I say, ‘All right, what’s the scene about?’”
“If Jon comes across a good idea while typing, he types that idea in all caps. “I’ll end up with three hundred pages of that, and I’ll print it out and go through and with a highlighter mark the things that are worth keeping…. From that, it turns into note cards, and I lay them out on my floor into the three acts of a movie structure.”
“knowing that my plan accounted for my nonlinear process made me less anxious and freed me up to be creative.”
when we watch people with more experience than we have, this is why we fall for the Linear Work Distortion. We expect our process as a beginner to be like the process of a master.
I love this example:
“One of Picasso’s models recalled that, as she stood in her pose, he merely stared at her, without drawing a thing. After an hour, he said, “I see what I need to do…. You won’t have to pose again.” The next day, he began a series of paintings of her in that pose – entirely from memory. “
“You could easily hear a story like that and conclude that Picasso was simply a master, and that there’d be no use in trying your hand at painting. But you’d be forgetting that Picasso was sixty-five years old, and had been drawing and painting day in and day out for decades at that point.”
“As you learn the process that works for you, adapt that process to your plan of execution as you attempt larger projects.”
Next chapter is Chapter 11: Permission to Suck
I hope these notes are helping you as much as they are saving my life.
With Love and Sincerity,
Jose Michael Rubio