“If it comes too easy, dig into it, find something else in it, go into a tangent, punch through the false bottom of your writing,” urged Nadine Davidoff in the recent manuscript masterclass I attended with her.
Nadine challenged everything I’ve ever believed about writing and my approach to it. I was way out of my comfort zone and it resulted in a temporary crisis of confidence. “You need to be out of the comfort zone to be in the learning zone,” said my friend Matt when I shared what was going on. So, so true.
Here are some of the challenging questions Nadine posed. What is the one question my book is answering for readers? Why would my reader care? What am I assuming about my reader? What is the tone and voice of this book? Do I mostly write what comes easy to me? If so, how can I challenge myself and consistently punch through the false bottom in my writing?
Till now, I’ve always considered my job was to just get the work done, to focus on the quantity before the quality, to get the words out on the page no matter how common. It was an idea proposed in Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way, which I read in 2010 while living briefly in France. This book was the essential partner that enabled me to write a 68,000-word manuscript for Unstuck in Provence in just four months.
I’ve always written in the trust that the quality of the words would come later – in the first, second, third revisions and edits. For 10 years, this theory has served me well. It’s enabled me to write an estimated one million words and publish three books.
Now here I am, questioning everything. How am I punching through the false bottom, not just in the words I write, but my whole approach to my work? How might I focus on both quality and quantity in equal measures? Perhaps the more one writes and practices, the greater the quality becomes? And perhaps not.
I wonder if these questions are relevant for all creators? Artists, film-makers, designers, business owners, magicians? How do you bring the sweet balance between quality and quantity together? How are you punching through the false bottom of your work? I really want to know.
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About me: I’m a Purpose Educator and author of The Purpose Project. I help leaders attract and retain the best people by harnessing the power of deep purpose and storytelling. I do this through The Purpose Project for Companies, a customised consultative process for co-creating a new purpose statement and The Purpose Project Course, a 7-step online course to help employees bring their own why to work.