hit the sustain pedal

Jane Friedman admitted something wonderful in yesterday's Electric Speed newsletter:

I don’t send as frequently as most, I don’t study my metrics, and I don’t follow best practices on email length or subscriber retention. Could I be doing better if I modified my practices? Maybe. Probably. (OK, certainly.) But what’s more important to me is sustainability. I’m only willing to do what I can reasonably sustain for years.

True of newsletters, true of all writing, true of any creative practice. This is a marathon, not a sprint. You need to stick with it to get anywhere good.

Tips and techniques can lead to a better product—emphasis on "can"—but you won't improve any process you don't follow. Quantity first. If doing everything the "right" way means you won't do it nearly as much, ignore best practices. Look at the writing advice—and the marketing advice, and the publishing advice, and all the advice—through Jane's lens of sustainability.

(If you read the Maven Game, you probably read Electric Speed, but if you're the exception, rectify that.)

I know for a fact that Jane actually has a sizeable audience that she could better measure, optimize, and monetize through various dark arts. Personally, I lose nothing by ignoring metrics. But a similar guilt comes up around the "shoulds" of planning and outlining. If you've subscribed to this newsletter for any length of time, for example, you already know this could be seen as a weak spot. (Emphasis on "could.") But I never feel like writing what I've planned here.

Maven Game mascot David Lynch isn't immune from planning FOMO either:

I admire people who have an idea and then paint that idea. That could never, ever happen to me. And I don't know why that is. As soon as I start, it immediately becomes something else.

For my client work, we plan. It's their book, after all. When it comes to my own stuff, however, I rebel. Yesterday Dave might have been excited to write this or that idea as outlined, but color Today Dave unimpressed. (What can I say? I contain multitudes.) Better to write what I feel like writing than not write at all.

Post Malone writes his songs on the toilet. He spends hours in the bathroom this way. The toilet is his creative "oasis," the one place where friends and family won't bother him.

"Post," you might say. "You're a wealthy man.  You've spent $800,000 on a single Magic: The Gathering card. Do something about this setup now that you're a charts-dominating artist. Deck a nice office out with an Aeron chair, do some noise-proofing, buy Bose headphones. Get your ergonomics sorted out and you'll get much better results."

This advice might save Malone's spine, but it would miss the point as well. Malone likes spending two hours on the toilet writing a song. As a result, he writes lots and lots of songs. The toilet has gotten him where he is today. For his colon's sake alone, I hope he makes his way to a desk at some point, but I respect the fact that he prioritizes the music. As discussed in last week's essay, you can't create a body of work without the work.

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