New Year, New Beginnings

Beginner’s Mind.


Reflective Practice.

As the New Year gets underway, I’m juggling ideas on how to push forward on several fronts including McGee’s Musings. All have to do with rebalancing the mix of new thinking, ongoing learning, and drawing on experience. They also all have to do with variations on the notion of doing the work and sharing it earlier than my internal critic would like.

Here’s a wonderful quote from Ira Glass of NPR’s This American Life that captures some of this:

Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

Ira Glass

This is drawn from an excellent interview with Glass on the topic of storytelling. Regardless of my experience or expertise in any area, I believe it’s important to keep what’s powerful about “beginner’s mind” and to keep the self-critic at arm’s length.

Another perspective is to do a better job managing the balance between consuming and creating. As an interesting and ironic example of this point, I’ve just spent nearly an hour tracking down a blog post I read the other day on this very point. The post was titled “The Dangerous Effects of Reading” from David Tate’s Certain Effect blog. He makes the following observation:

In our personal lives we tend to optimize for one of two things: input or output. Reading or writing. Consuming or creating. The environment we live in – the prevailing culture – by default is optimized for consumption. Even our personal computers are turning into devices that are optimized for consumption! This is terrible and dangerous.

If the world overwhelms you with its constant production of useless crap which you filter more and more to things that only interest you can I calmly suggest that you just create things that you like and cut out the rest of the world as a middle-man to your happiness?

So my primary goal for this coming year is to create more and to share it. I still will strive to exceed threshold levels of quality, but I’ll set the dial more towards “ship it” than to “make it perfect”. I trust my friends will help me adjust that calibration as we go.

3 thoughts on “New Year, New Beginnings”

  1. If you are anything like me, all hopes for a happy, healthy and prosperous new year are pinned on that one important night – New Years Eve. Resolutions are made – promises that we vow to lead a much healthier, honest.

  2. I want to say that the above posts, although originally assigned or I would not have stumbled upon them, have been quite refreshing for me personally. I am currently enrolled in a doctoral program in education. Maybe being a little full of myself, so to speak, I have always felt that I was a good writer, and although in my role as a professional nurse, the image of “educator” might not automatically come to mind, there is huge component of education intertwined within professional nursing. one would have thought I might have considered entering into a ND or PhD track, but, oh no, not me. I entered the field of education and now find myself surrounded by folks who have carried the formal titles of educator for years.

    What was I thinking?!? Why didn’t I stay with the field that I knew? However, two years into the coursework, I am now glad that I am getting some diversity in my educational plan, and I am happy that I stepped out of my comfort zone to explore a knew way of thinking and learning.

    As I entered into this new territory, the above self-realizations were originally very disturbing to me. Where had the writer gone who could easily sit down and hammer out a little paper, story, blog post, etc. Why couldn’t I come up with things to fulfill both the educational program’s expectations while still satisfying my own inner-critic needs.

    As a result of reviewing the comments in this string, I now see that my focus has been to continue to create only quality work, and the current expectations do not always permit me the time to reach what I consider to be true quality in every instance. Thanks for alerting me to the fact that everybody goes through this consumption/creating process at different points in their lives. I can’t wait to get back to to a point wherein I can explore the things that truly interest me and learn how to best communicate them to others effectively. At least, hopefully, it will finally come.

  3. Glad to see you found some encouragement in this post. To me it’s a reminder that you just have to keep chipping away at the work and pay attention to your own judgment and standards

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