Your One and Only Life
If this is all you get, it’s worth asking what you plan to do with it? Are you going to keel over, wondering about all you could have done, could have been and might have accomplished? Or are you going to leave behind a series of movements you instigated, projects you shipped, and art you made?
The Long Game
Sam Altman, president of Ycombinator, tells founders that their greatest competitive advantage is a long term view. His timeline for a long term view is 10 years.
If you make your art every day for 10 years, it’s inevitable that you’ll be prolific. You’ll grow and evolve in ways you can’t possibly imagine. You will make a large statement with your work that can’t be ignored. You will have a massive body of work. In the words of Neil Gaiman, “You’ll leave the world a bit different for you having been here.”
Your status update with 1000 likes, your Instagram picture with 100 hearts, and your clever tweet with 100s of retweets are all fleeting. Nobody gives a shit about the great American status update. Remember mine from last week? Or the woman who was “freaking out because JK Rowling liked my tweet.” I didn’t think so.
We care about art that stands the test of time. We care about perennial sellers. Art that changes the culture. Art that touches our hearts. Art that moves us is a long game. It takes time, determination, persistence and effort.
It rewards its creator long after any sane person would quit. It’s sometimes dismissed by the pundits and written off as a failure by the people who funded it.
If a book doesn’t sell a million copies shortly after its launch, a publisher will move to what’s next. An editor at a publisher told me that the head of the publisher thought giving one of their most successful authors a book deal was a mistake. A few years later that author made them a fortune.
But you can’t control any of these things. That’s the beauty of being prolific. You can put your energy and effort into something that’s worth your time; something that might just start with an audience of one and eventually, an audience of millions.
This is part of a series about how to become a more prolific creator. You can download the entire book for free here.