On Side Projects & The Tipping Point

Avoiding burnout on a project is a very real issue that must be dealt with in a variety of ways. In the last three years of writing my blog Break the Twitch, I’ve hit burnout a few times but most recently, I have only been writing once or twice per month for the site in the early months of 2017.

It doesn’t feel good to produce such a small amount of stuff for a project I believe in so much. There is a lot of negative self-talk that goes along with that as well–it’s easy to beat ourselves up over a lack of production. But inspiration ebbs and flows–we’re not robots and we simply can’t do the same thing over and over without stopping.

That is a recipe for disaster, we’re just not built to operate that way.

After a few months of writing but not putting out much content, I started working on a side project with Amy called Minimalism Books–a simple little microsite that lists my favorite books about minimalism. I figured it could be helpful for people that are searching for that particular term.

Amy and I spent about 8 hours over two days building out the site and I felt a surge of inspiration and fulfillment with working on it. In a way, completing that little project helped jump-start me on writing again, as I’m doing here right now.

My daily writing requirement has jumped from 250 words per day up to 500, which is substantially harder. Not just 2x harder, but actually several times harder–not because of the word count, but because of the expectation when you start.

Resistance wise, it’s much easier to sit down with the expectation of only having to write 250 words. Typing starts more fluidly, knowing that it’s only about half as much as this article ended up being. It isn’t some big project, some instead a small step to accomplish your goal each day.

As I sit down to write 500 words for today, I feel a heavier weight on the first words as I begin. This article better not suck, as it has to make it to 500 words instead of just 250 today.

Going in with the expectation of having to hit a certain milestone, a certain quality mark, is exactly what prevents us from doing our best work to begin with. When we can simply let the words flow, unedited, we have much more to work with.

I often compare this to the idea of trying to sculpt a bust out of clay without taking the clay out of the container. The container of clay represents a blank page with no words on it–there’s nothing to work with, nothing to edit, to mold and shape into what will become your work of art.

Writing unedited, allowing the words to flow is like scooping the unformed clay out of the bucket and putting it onto the table. The unshapely ball that somewhat resembles a head and face slowly get worked into what looks slightly more like a human face.

We know where to take it if we have clay on the table–take what doesn’t look like a nose and shape it into what does. It turns all of that potential creative energy into kinetic creative energy.

So find the number that allows you to get past your tipping point, where the weight of an idea will carry itself once you lift it high enough into the air, and then do that almost every day.