Eight years ago I started writing for myself. Before then, every character I typed went towards a professor’s stipulated word-count. Writing was an assignment, not a pleasure.
Watching Woody Allen’s biography is what tipped me. Early in his career he wrote acts for a dinner show. Twice a week, every week, the beclub needed 4-hours of new material, and Woody had to write all of it; feeling inspired or not.
His dinner show experience struck me in a profound way. Allen trained to be as much a litterary machine as an artist. Churning out material by quantity, not necessarily quality. Surely, he wrote some great material in those years. And surely, he wrote some aweful material in those years.
However, he always wrote.
I wanted to write too. However, I was too critical of my work. My inner critic expected a level of quality that the writer in me had yet matured to articulate. 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 was the quota I assigned myself. Not an article scribbled in my journal, but one published on my personal blog. No longer could I patiently await inspiration that rarely came. Every single day I had to produce, inspired or not.
Something valuable came from this. Obviously, not the hundreds of poorly written articles. I’ll be the first to admit that if my collective body of work would be printed, it best be recycled. However, the excercise taught me to produce. Also, that I had an actual ability to do so.
The stint lasted eight months. For three of those months my output had jumped to two posts a day. Though as other projects introduced themselves, the discipline to write daily 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, do more .
Nearly everyone believes in the idea of learning from ones own mistakes. Most of us forget that in order to do that we must make mistakes to learn from. If you do not do, you cannot make a mistake — which may very well be the greatest mistake of all. So even if it’s bad, produce. Even if it’s for nothing more than to have something to learn from.