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Creating work that matters

For the past several months, I have been writing and preparing to publish a book. At the same time, my family and I are preparing to welcome a new baby into our lives. The book is released in March and the baby arrives in April. Today, I want to talk about the process of creating work that matters.

This is what creating looks like, here are photos of me writing my book day after day, often around 5:30am at Starbucks:

Dan Blank writing

In other words, this process looks boring. It’s the same thing, day after day. These photos represent a small fraction of the time I spent working on this book.

What the images don’t convey is the range of emotions I experienced on each of these days as I wrote. You can’t see the moments of doubt, the enthusiasm, the questions that threatened to sideline the entire project, the breakthroughs, or the decisions I wrestled with.

Even now, I have taken thousands of actions to create the book, I have brought on a wide range of collaborators in the project, and there is still so much to do between now and March 7th, the publication date.

This entire time, at home, my wife, son and I have been preparing for the baby. We are making room in our lives, both physically and emotionally.

Of course, the fact of the matter is, we know we are entering into the unknown. Our biggest concern is always the health of my wife during the pregnancy, and the health of the baby. As much as we try to prepare, we know we can’t control much.

I work with creative professionals every single day, and the reality of their work is not dissimilar to the photos above. Every day, amidst complex lives and very real challenges, they push forward, little by little.

Creating work that matters takes time.

This reminds me of two quotes that underscore why someone chooses this work in order to make way for possibility and invest in their own potential:

“The best way to complain is to make things.”
— Singer/songwriter James Murphy

In other words: the power to create what you want to see in the world is in your hands. Then there is this quote, describing the reality that one goes through:

“Nothing ever goes according to plan. When I hear new filmmakers talk, they [complain] about their film. “Nothing worked, it was a disappointment.” They don’t realize: that’s the job. The job is that nothing is going to work at all, and you have to turn that into a positive, and get something much better than if you had all the time and money in the world.”
— Filmmaker Robert Rodriguez

I will be sharing more on the book very soon. In the meantime, I would love to know: if you had 15 extra minutes of time and mental energy each and every day, what would you create?

Thanks.
-Dan

  • I’m writing a novel, and it’s going slowly. But it is going steadily. But (did I say?) slowly. It is so good to be reminded that this is as it should be. It is very deep work. Thank you, Dan. I’m always inspired by your Instagram writing photos.

    • Thank you Heather! The trick for me is to attend to it DAILY. That way, even if it is slow, there is progress every day.

  • Deb Lecos

    Love this Dan. Thank you for the words of wisdom.

  • Dan, I’m really looking forward to your book! I just finished writing my fourth book and have 2 others in various stages. You are so right about the process of creating – the ups and downs, day after day, the daily sacrifices, the unknowns. I have been battling the joys and struggles, too, but your quote gave me encouragement to make something positive come out of the perceived failures.

    I think, too, that we have to make time for what matters most. So that extra 15 minutes is something we often have to just set aside. In other words, maybe I need to sacrifice 15 extra minutes of sleep, extra time online, etc. But 15 minutes can be such a gift when writing! People don’t often realize what they can accomplish in such a short snippet of time.

    • Thank you so much! I would STRONGLY recommend that you not give up 15 minutes of sleep. Sleep is nourishment to yourself in so many ways. Honor that.

      • Good point, Dan. I don’t usually sacrifice sleep, since I have a thyroid disease and need a lot of sleep. I was just sort of brainstorming as I wrote. I appreciate your point! 🙂

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