I started listening to Dan Harmon’s Harmontown podcast this week (I know, I know … I’m late to the party, whatever) and was lucky enough to hear a jewel of knowledge from the episode titled “Huh huh huh huh.” I may have missed some “huhs.”
He talked about “Want” vs. “Willing.” What we want versus what we’re willing to do about it.
A lot of us have wants—most of us have wants … OK … maybe all of us have wants. Are our wants realistic, are they too big—too vague? Are they so big and so vague that they keep us from doing anything about them?
“I want world peace.”
Not many people are in a position to change the world as individuals. If you evaluate this want on its face versus what you can do to affect change, you may end up doing nothing. The attitude being, “I want world peace, but there’s nothing I can really do about it, so I’ll just go take a nap.”
However, you might be able to put a dent in that want based on what you’re willing to do about it. “I want world peace, so I’m willing to be nice to people this morning.”
There. Now we’re managing the want. Breaking it down into a bite size morsel that we can do something about. I’m not willing to be nice to people all day—I don’t even know if I can do that. But I can probably handle the morning.
That’s great, Brian, be nice to people—cool takeaway.
OK OK, fair enough (but I’m quoting the podcast, so get off my back, OK).
Maybe if you’re on this blog, you’re a writer, or some other type of creative.
“I want to write a perfect novel.”
OK, good want. Unrealistic, but it’s a natural want. It’s a want that can keep you from doing anything, though. You can’t think of that perfect sentence to start your article, short story, or novel—so you go take a nap … or check Twitter … or go watch TV (you know what you do when you’re distracted, fill in the blank here).
“I want to write a perfect novel, but I’m willing to sit down and write for an hour this morning. Regardless of quality.”
You’re on your way. You won’t write the perfect novel, let alone chapter in that hour, but you’ll write. You may even fall into a perfect concept. You may construct a perfect sentence. You may create a perfect character.
You may create a good character—maybe even a great one. You may write a very good chapter.
The point is, you will have written something. Something you can revise and make better, rather than do nothing because you psyched yourself out.
It’s a great methodology to keep the great from being the enemy of the good.
Anyway, that’s my bit this week. I listened to a podcast and learned something. I did some other stuff too that maybe you’ll hear about some other time, but for right now, the lesson I learned above wins the space for this week’s blog.
PS: Also enjoyed John August’s Launch podcast about his experience of writing, selling, and launching a book as well as Song Exploder. A podcast that has musicians come on and break down songs from how they wrote it, to how it was recorded.
Highly recommend both.