If you want to get something done, have dinner with a designer.
This week, I had dinner with my friend Andrea
. She is a professional, big-D designer. She has worked for some of the biggest names in design (and some of the biggest names, full stop). She is also a phenomenal strategist. She has patents. I don’t have patents. Do you have patents? Okay, you probably do, but I don’t, and I think patents are, like books, a badge of absolute awesome.
Whew, okay, focus.
Andrea and I were munching on delicious Italian food and catching up on our life stories when she told me she was having trouble starting an assignment. She knew she’d get it done, but the assignment was being all big, hairy and gnarly in her mind, making it all but impossible to start.
I told her to stop thinking about the assignment as a whole and start thinking about doing one, tiny piece. That was all she was going to do tomorrow -- that one, infinitesimal piece of the assignment. Then, when she finished it, she had to tell me it was done. Her deadline was the end of the next day.
Now, you have to understand, I was so darn proud of myself in that moment. The design grasshopper had become the design master. I was grinning like an idiot. I had designed a process for a designer! Mwahahahahaha!
That’s when Andrea reminded me who the real design boss was.
“Okay, Emi, what about that book?” she asked me. “How’s it going?”
Inner smirk status: eliminated.
"Well, um, it’s okay, I guess. I’m using the newsletter as a feeder for the book and … okay, okay, okay, you got me. I haven’t been in Scrivner in over a week. I can’t get started. I still don’t know what the book is about, and I’m totally intimidated and lost, and I keep telling these wonderful people reading my newsletter that I will
write a book! But, I can’t really start, and I’m itching to read my friend Liz’s book that she spent a decade working on
. She’s going on book tour and everything, and she’s awesome, and I can’t shame her by writing crap, so it’s gotta’ be good, and my identity is totally wrapped up in writing, and … I got bubkus, okay? Bubkus. There, you got me. Oh, and I just spent last weekend writing all about a book that offers every insight one could possibly need about how to get started doing their art. Yeah, I’m a phony -- a big, fat phony."
This is when I need to pause and say, Andrea is the sharp tool in the shed you need for exactly these moments — moments where you need your medicine thrown back in your face with a side of your-imposter-syndrome-is-bullshit-and-I-don't-have-time-for-it attitude.
“You’re going to write a book tomorrow. … Stop looking at me like that. You’re going to write a book tomorrow, and you’re going to finish it before the end of the day, and you’re going to send it to me, so I know you got it done. … Seriously, stop looking at me like that.”
Grasshoper status: re-claimed.
“You’re going to do it.”
“I said, fine.”
“Okay. Tomorrow. End of day.”
“I’ll do it.”
On the train ride home, I panicked and, instead of starting to work on what I’d write in this book, I picked up another book and started procrasti-reading. I kept thinking about what a book is at its most fundamental level. A book is a medium. It’s a way to transfer information from one to many. It’s a tool. Some tools are more fancy than others, but that’s all a book is.
My focus, for the longest time, has been on the tool and how to make the tool, not why I was making the tool or who I was making it for (ugh, 'such a grasshopper design move!). I’d piddle around with a few ideas of who it might be for or why I would write it, but I was so focused on making the tool (which intimidates the living day lights out of me), that I left no space to focus on what mattered: the who and the why. No one cares about a tool they don’t need.
Andrea was pushing me to eliminate the distraction of making the tool so I could focus on who I was making it for and why.
So, I need to go make a book now.
The Design Grasshopper
(Yes, I know, it’s 4:22pm and I haven’t really started…I’m warming up.)
P.S. A few hours went by between now and the time I was able to send this, and I did it! I wrote a book in one day!
(click on the first image and you can gallery through.)