Trying Too Hard

Here’s something I’ve learned: writing is a lot less fun when I try to micromanage it. All year, we used production schedules, and project plans, and charts. Those tools worked well in our previous jobs! But when it comes to writing, there’s nothing like a Key Performance Indicator to make me creatively flaccid.

Truth is, I wrote two books this year despite those tools, not because of them.

Moving forward, we’ll keep it simple. I’ll write, and things will take as long as they take. When a book is ready, P will grab the reins and produce it. We’ll track our sales and pay our taxes, of course. No tight-assed business brain required.

Maybe I should be an artist for a few years and then go back to consulting, carrying my unwelcome perspective with me. I’ll tear down the metrics from the walls and delete most of the spreadsheets while the managers weep. Then I’ll help teams boil their purpose down to the simplest of phrases. Now go do those things!” I’ll cry, once the purpose is clear. Screw the metrics, just do the work with all your heart, okay?”

But no one wants that, do they?

Metrics are everywhere, grabbing our attention. On podcasts, I listen to writers talk about things like keyword optimization, daily wordcount, and perfecting their metadata. But how often do they talk about beautiful language, or their stories, or what is moving them, right now? Almost never.

Do we focus on the wrong things? The moon is bright and high above the city, and the view from where I’m sitting makes me want to tell you a story about a hidden world. Once I write it down, you’ll be able to see it too.

I’ve been making things harder than they need to be.

December 20, 2018 · mental models


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