11 Lessons From Writing A Book
“Writing is hard for every last one of us… Coal…
Day 113 – 118. Kind of a quick update with phone snaps. Just taken a bit of time off the bike in San Diego, catching up on everything, and hanging out with friends (shout out to the wonderful Hollands Bikes too – if you’re in the neighbourhood, check ’em out!). Hit the road again yesterday but didn’t get far – the water was calling. So currently this is being written near Encinitas, after a unsuccessful but very fun surf session in the Pacific, and a distant whale sighting. Nice. Lot’s planned for the route up the coast so hope to post more engaging content shortly!
Anyway, as there’s not a lot to report this time around, below is an (opinionated) article that I wrote for The Elephant Journal, that nods to the lifestyle-side of the Vague Direction project, about the connected world.
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Challenging The Status Quo in a Connected World.
If you could do anything, what would you do? If you could create something, what would you create? If you could live the good life, what would it look like? What are you waiting for?
In over a century of industrialisation, we’ve been brainwashed. Brainwashed by the rules that the powerful set for the rest of us factory workers, to ensure their status at the top, and to crush our ambition. The 9-5, compliance, suit and tie and polished shoes, degrees, playing it safe, keeping your head down, fitting in and working up the ladder. Leave your inquisition at the door, follow someone else’s instructions and you’ll get to where you want to go. Swallow your pride, and give up on your dreams.
Fuck that. In the last decade, things have changed – we’re not living in an industrial world anymore and following rules is overrated. Iain Duncan Smith take note, there’s a revolution happening under your nose and it’s called the internet. We don’t need permission to create or share our work, and the world wide web wasn’t built for looking at cat videos on YouTube (that’s just a wonderful side effect). It was built to connect us. Anyone with a laptop or a smartphone is now connected to almost everyone else on the planet. An individual can spread a global message from anywhere in the world. You can tweet William Shatner from space. Evil dictatorships are being toppled, and governments are being embarrassingly exposed. A savvy teenager can question the status quo, design an app, create thousands of jobs and build a multi-billion dollar company. The online landscape is a place where your work, whatever that is, can and should be shared. Right now, for the first time in history, your work can spread.
Playing it safe worked well, up until quite recently. The process of doing what you’re told and adhering to those above you was tested. Start at the bottom, and gradually make upward steps. There’s a reason why these processes have been engrained in us – they worked. Maybe in a few years of working hard, playing by the system, and keeping your head down, you’d become a manager, and then who knows? But it doesn’t work anymore. You think all those people who were made redundant yesterday are glad they didn’t question the rules? Making a living is harder than ever, and tradition is no longer safe. Unless you’re ambitious, have metaphorical balls or ovaries, and take initiative, there’s a high probability that soon a computer will build what you’re building, a robot will stack what you’re stacking, or an e-commerce site will sell what your selling. The only security that’s left is outside the old box, in your work.
If you’re worried about what happens when people see your work, don’t be. Critics are everywhere, and finding somebody to point out your mistakes is easy. There’ll always be someone telling you how to improve, and what you’re doing wrong. Everyone believes they can edit your work, offer feedback, and criticise, but a life of criticism and cynicism is dull and tired. A dedication to ideas, creation, design, and sharing your work is not.
It’s not the worlds fault if you’re not where you want to be, not doing the work you want to do and not passionate about what you do. Nobody says you have to live by the old system, of waiting to be selected. Actually, scrap that, maybe somebody is telling you to follow the old system, but you don’t have to listen. It’s an antique lottery of adherence that nobody wins anymore. Select yourself, stop waiting for somebody else to say “go”, and create your project. It’s scary, but is it as scary as living a life that doesn’t excite you?
No one’s going to teach you what to do, and there is no tested route to travel. There’s no rules written in a book, directing you down the right path. Everyone’s a learner in this, and a confirmation of ‘do this and this will happen’ doesn’t exist. Sack the framework, get it wrong repeatedly, get lost, try again, and aim big. Your work might not be accepted or embraced, and that’s fine. You gave it a shot, and you lived.