Permission, Uncertainty & Solitude

My first message today was from Paul Jarvis. You'd be wise to subscribe to his weekly essays which are brief and useful for creative and independent people. His latest is about doing things on our own without seeking permission. The key line is this:

We've traded gatekeepers for gurus, and continue to seek permission and guidance to do what we want to do with our work.

Instead, we should ask the following questions:

  • Did we create something that other people want to buy from us?
  • Do those same people want to keep buying or can we find new people to also buy from us?

I replace "buy" with "read" but it's the same thing and gets at an idea I have about Twitter.

I got off Twitter last summer but went back on in January to promote my writing. The account hasn't taken off. I don't take the time to curate and promote it. I've been advised to build an audience. Twitter seemed one way to do that, but I'm unwilling to devote the effort to it.

I need to put the effort into learning how to write better. I don't have enough energy to do both.

The second message, from Leo Babauta, entitled The Deep Uncertainty Of Meaningful Work tells of a man wanting to embark on a big project, "But he kept putting off starting." Hmm. "He was like a million others who want to do meaningful work: write a book, fight for those who are powerless, create a startup.... We put off doing this work because of deep uncertainty" (emphasis mine). Yeah, that sounds familiar. Babauta says, "The key is to open up to the deep uncertainty of meaningful work."

The third message, from Cal Newport's Digital Minimalism, is about solitude, which he defines as "a subjective state in which your mind is free from input from other minds." Solitude, it turns out, is necessary for creativity. No surprise.

Though not surprising, it's helpful to hear the following:

  • "all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone,"
  • "conversation enriches the understanding, but solitude is the school of genius"
  • "solitude is a prerequisite for original and creative thought" (Newport, 95-97).

The permission to create is ours to give. We can choose to open up to uncertainty rather than close down. And we need solitude, time away from the input of other minds, in order to be creative. Not a bad trinity of messages to received. They're worth keeping in mind and even more worth to act upon.

Mostly here, I'm writing to remind myself.