I don’t know about you, but I never, ever in my life wrote a paper ahead of time. I wrote it when it was due. Why would you spend six weeks writing a paper that you know you can write in six hours?
Our best work is a lot like us: It doesn’t get up and put its pants on until it absolutely has to.
Show me someone who’s sitting around their house in a belt and bra when they don’t have to be anywhere, and then please explain this person to me. Especially given that many of us haven’t put any of those things on in a very, very long time.
As a rule, I don’t believe in long, protracted engagements. (And no, I’m not married. Surprised? Me neither.) It’s the same reason hourly rates never made sense to me—as I get better and better at doing what I do, I can spend less time doing it. I’m not as interested in serving up mountains of coal as I am one blazingly bright diamond. And how do you get that? Pressure.
There’s power to limited time and laser focus.
You can’t strike a match slowly. You have to work swiftly. That’s how you get the fire.
To this day, I write things when they are due. I give myself tight windows, on purpose. I turn around entire brand content campaigns and copy in a matter of hours, sometimes overnight. I don’t like to work on a talk too far ahead of when I’m giving it, because that would feel like walking around in your prom dress a month before the prom.
Of course, not everyone agrees with me. I used to co-present with a woman who loved consistency. “Don’t change the deck. It’s fine,” she said. But I didn’t want fine. I wanted fantastic. I wanted something that felt like it was happening now. Which meant, it had to happen…now.
Once I was sitting in the audience at a conference, less than an hour before my presentation, and it occurred to me to change the entire opening. So I went right back upstairs to my room and changed it. I was not only rated the top speaker at that event—I built an entire leg of my business based on the momentum I got that day.
You can train to do this; I did. And it’s changed my life and my work. As a Gateless writer and instructor, I have become a master of the fast twitch writing muscles that fire when you say go. It’s not about being a better or smarter person; it’s learning how to outpace your critic.
We all say we don’t have a lot of time, that we need more time, but what we need is focused time.
In his book Deep Work, Cal Newport says that we’ve slowly replaced our ability to go deep with “shallow” work. And all that splashing and pinging has cost us.
He writes, “Spend enough time in a state of frenetic shallowness and you permanently reduce your capacity to perform deep work.”
Well, if we want to build stronger muscles, we have to lift heavier things.
And while our attention may feel like a flimsy and distractible thing, it requires real strength to keep it in one place.
That’s what we do during the program I started during lockdown last year, The Six Week Sprint, where we get together in a virtual hive, dive deep, and flow freely in short bouts.
In a year of indistinguishable days, those sessions were bright, hot points where we did some our most blazing work.
If you want to give your work reason to put its pants on, consider joining us for our seventh sprint which kicks off later this month.
(Or, sign up for all three (spring, summer, and fall) sprints, and you get one hell of a deal–you’ll save more than 25%.)
I mentioned the other day that the Pop Up Salon is happening Thurs May 13.
If you enroll in the Sprint now, the Pop Up is free for you and a guest (reg. $197).
So. What would YOU write if you had the time and focus?
P.S. Cindy Childress is one kickass writer—a poet, essayist, ghostwriter, business writer. And here’s what she had to say about her Sprint experience: