The other day I was on the phone with a new coach.
"I'd really like to create a program like your Queen Sweep," she said.
"Something with essays, and exercises, and phone calls...but it seems so overwhelming. I don't think I could ever create something with so many moving parts! I mean the research, and the writing, and the recording, and hiring a designer..."
I stopped her.
"Hold up. The first time I ran The Queen Sweep, it had seven people in it. It was a beta group, so they knew it was rough material. I think they each paid maybe $25 to be there. And the essays were things I typed up in Word each week before our calls."
I could feel the wheels turning in her head. I waited for the question.
"Wait. You mean you SOLD it...before you'd even WRITTEN it?!?!?"
I chortled a little bit. The answer is so scandalous!!
Yes, darlings, I did.
That's because I, like so many of you, work best with deadlines. I like to have my back up against the wall. (Get your mind out of the gutter.) Left to my own meandering timelines, I can work on projects for weeks...YEARS...and never actually finish them.
This is why I believe in the power of:
Deadlines, and shitty first drafts.
Used together, they are ROCKET FUEL for dreamers and perfectionists.
The deadline is necessary because it pushes us off the cliff where we were deeply pondering the metaphor and physics of flight and height.
You create a deadline whenever you:
- Join a writing group where you have to read something each meeting
- Buy the ad for the class you want to teach
- Post on Facebook that you'll announce your big news on X date
- Give a friend an envelope with $500 in it for them to donate to your most loathed organization if you don't complete X by X day
These are benevolent, tough love deadlines that kick us into gear, nudge us out of resistance, and light a fire under our sweet, dreamy asses.
Whenever possible, you should use these deadlines to help you create a shitty first draft.
We want to set ourselves up, but not to fail.
The shitty first draft is a magical power phrase coined by Anne Lamott. She uses it in the context of writing things, where you just pour all sorts of terrible terrible writing onto the page even as you cringe with mortification as you do it. Because until you write the first shitty draft, you literally cannot write the next, better one.
But the concept applies in all sorts of areas.
A shitty first draft is when you:
- Run your presentation in front of your book club before you do it before the board of directors
- Do a dry run of your event with friends before you charge the big bucks
- Have a beta group test your material before you launch it to the whole world
- Go to interviews for jobs you'd never want so that you have lots of practice for the one you really really want
Most of us crash and burn when we try to do one without the other.
When we're overly gentle, we let ourselves wander around in the candyland of "playing around with material" or "working on this new idea" or "starting a side business one of these days" and then we wonder why we never get any traction.
But when our fierceness tilts over into desperation, we GO FOR IT! We are all IN! We book the expensive venue and hire the fancy launch coach and invite the person we want to impress and even quit our job!!! But then when our first attempt isn't quite perfect, (because how could it be, when it's our first try??) we are devastated...and we've already spent all our financial, emotional, and social capital.
You need BOTH, loves.
The fierceness is the line in the sand that says, I'm doing this. It will be done by this date.
But the tenderness says, We can do it one step at a time. We get lots of chances to get it right. It's the completion, not the perfection of the product, that is the big win.
And used together, those two things will get you to done faster than anything else I know.
They'll give you major forward movement AND the chance to still hone your material, tweak your message, craft your pitch... so that when the stakes are high, you're READY.
So think about where in your life you could use a deadline AND permission to create a shitty first draft. And then go grill something disgusting.
P.S. Last week I whispered something really big and personal into your ear....if you missed it, it's here. And if you swing by next Saturday, you can see for yourself.