Oh, hi friends!
Why does it have to be that long?
Why is the newsletter 2,000 words instead of 1,000? Could it be 200?
Why is that musical two and a half hours instead of 90 minutes?
Why is the podcast that length, or the album, or even that email response?
So often we adhere to these lengths because we think we should. It's what other people are doing. It's the way it's always been done.
But what happens if you let the idea lead, rather than the format?
Maybe this is a little abstract…
As you move through the day, think about the tasks, events, or work you're creating.
What can you adjust? What can you transform? How can you change your perspective?
Maybe it's cutting a meeting in half, or sending a one-sentence email reply, or chopping down the podcast, or condensing four pages down to two.
Whatever feels right to you. Maybe even a little dangerous.
The idea — the hope, the goal — is that changing the boundaries might actually help you do the thing instead of being overwhelmed by the scope of the thing.
This came to mind while reading Oliver Burkeman's latest newsletter about how to stop mentally living a few days into the future (you know, after "things calm down” which is something I’ve been saying since 2008).
I appreciated his perspective.
"Likewise, striving toward sanity means ‘clearing the decks’ before getting down to business on a project you care about, or reading another how-to book about it, while operating from sanity means ‘paying yourself first’, making a start even though the decks aren’t clear – because you understand that even five minutes spent Actually Doing The Thing are more valuable than hundreds of purely hypothetical hours at some point in future."
Even five minutes, he says. That feels doable.
(Also, I've found a lot of value from his newsletter, which I didn't know existed until Liz Callaway recommended it on my podcast, which reminds me of the necessity of talking to new people, which reminds me of the importance of reaching out to people, which reminds me of the origin of this newsletter, which is that…putting energy into work that’s meaningful to you doesn't have to be so hard.)
You can send the note. You can ask for what you need even if you’re not sure what that is yet. You can wrap up your short story today, even if conventional wisdom says it "should" be 8,500 words and yours is only 3,000.
Let yourself off the hook, gently. And don't worry about doing things the way everyone else does them. Everyone else is not you.
By the way, did you hear about Mr. Pickles? He's a 90-year-old radiated tortoise who lives at the Houston Zoo. Somewhat miraculously, he just became a dad to three hatchlings. (Thanks, Mrs. Pickles, for doing the hard work.) The babies are named Dill, Gherkin, and Jalapeño. I am a very big fan.
On a completely unrelated note to zoo tortoises, I'm taking next week off from writing this newsletter. I'm going to be traveling and even though I spent all week working myself into analysis paralysis about what to do (should I schedule issues in advance? should I send excerpts of my book? should I comb the archives?), ultimately I thought: What would I tell my newsletter friends to do?
And while I'm very happy with the nice recent groove of these newsletters and am frankly nervous about getting off my rhythm, I think it's important to remember: Nothing will break if you take a break.
Louder, for those in the back, including me:
Nothing will break if you take a break!
I will be back on April 3, refreshed and full of carbohydrates (we are going to Rome!).
Meanwhile, thank you for reading. In the weird bounciness of a week, it is nice to have this steadiness.
If you miss me (as I will miss you) I do have 1,200 issues in the archive (lol wow that’s obscene), or there's always my podcast (Season Two coming soon!), or the journals, Do It Today and Do It For Yourself.
But you’ve already got plenty to do, plenty of meaningful work to move forward, and in the interim, know that I'm cheering you on.
Because that, to me, is some of my most meaningful work.
Why am I having a hard time ending this?
Wow, this edition is long!!!
(But did it have to be? ;)
Have a great weekend, friends.
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I'm glad you are enjoying Oliver Burkeman's newsletter. I had the same reaction you had when I read that quote yesterday! And thanks for sharing the link to our podcast interview. I so enjoyed our conversation. Have a great trip!
I'm also wishing the Pickles family well.
Have an amazing trip to Rome!!