Do you have a passion? Do you know everything there is to know about that thing? Here’s why that might be a big mistake.
Knowing EVERYTHING there is to know about writing, building a platform, and the publishing industry does not make you a writer. Writing makes you a writer.
Don’t let getting help stop you from doing the work. Continuing education should be extra, only done after your work is done for the day. As Ramit Sethi says, “Don’t keep paying other people as a way of delegating decisions.”
Knowledge procrastination feels productive because you are learning skills that may eventually help you in your craft. The problem is that often we never get around to actually practicing the craft itself. If your goal was to make a million dollars, but you just read personal finance books and never actually sold or bought anything, you will never reach that goal. But, if after reading a book you implement just one idea, you will have learned something much more valuable about how to get closer to that million dollar goal.
The same thing is true with writing or any art form. You can get that MFA. You can take another course. You can hire another coach. But unless you sit down, face your fear, and do the work, you are just paying for someone to help you procrastinate.
That’s right. Getting an MFA might be a valuable experience. But it also might be a three-year-put-off-the-terror project. If you should be writing, but you use your MFA to get a teaching job so you can teach other people how to write instead, you are indulging in a shadow career. Shadow careers, as defined by Steven Pressfield, are careers that are close to what you want, but not IT.
Sometimes, when we’re terrified of embracing our true calling, we’ll pursue a shadow calling instead. The shadow career is a metaphor for our real career. Its shape is similar, its contours feel tantalizingly the same. But a shadow career entails no real risk. If we fail at a shadow career, the consequences are meaningless to us.
Are you pursuing a shadow career?
Are you getting your Ph.D. in Elizabethan Studies because you’re afraid to write the tragedies and comedies you know you have inside you? Are you living the drugs-and-booze half of the musician’s life, without actually writing the music? Are you working in a support capacity for an innovator because you’re afraid to risk being an innovator yourself?
An actor who just does set design. An artist who does advertising. A writer who does marketing. A poet who teaches poetry, but never gets around to writing her own.
Don’t let GETTING CLOSE TO THE THING stop you from doing the thing.
Similarly, don’t let paying for knowledge about the thing make you believe that you are actually doing the thing.
Just do the thing.