Let’s do a review of the components thus far. This time, the goal is to think about the various components in non-fiction writing.
The following is by Seth Godin, a well-respected marketing guru. Look at his blog post and ask why he begins the way he does (how does that set your expectations?), ask who is involved (who are the characters under discussion here?), ask what makes up the conflict, and ask what’s the story (how did you know that?).
Write an essay about the answers to the above questions. Analyze what Godin has to say but also add your own thinking. There are several ways to do that. Tell a story that reinforces his point. Provide facts that disprove him. Give another point to consider, either from the text itself but not yet mentioned, or from your deeper thinking. Pick one or more of these based on how you want to respond to the post. In other words, in this essay, you will think about both Mr. Godin’s writing in light of the components, but also discuss his message and how it applies to more than the business people who read his blog.
Starting at the age of nine, I played the clarinet for eight years.
Actually, that’s not true. I took clarinet lessons for eight years when I was a kid, but I’m not sure I ever actually played it.
Eventually, I heard a symphony orchestra member play a clarinet solo. It began with a sustained middle C, and I am 100% certain that never once did I play a note that sounded even close to the way his sounded.
And yet the lessons I was given were all about fingerings and songs and techniques. They were about playing higher or lower or longer notes, or playing more complex rhythms. At no point did someone sit me down and say, “wait, none of this matters if you can’t play a single note that actually sounds good.”
Instead, the restaurant makes the menu longer instead of figuring out how to make even one dish worth traveling across town for. We add many slides to our presentation before figuring out how to utter a single sentence that will give the people in the room chills or make them think. We confuse variety and range with quality.
Practice is not the answer here. Practice, the 10,000 hours thing, practice alone doesn’t produce work that matters. No, that only comes from caring. From caring enough to leap, to bleed for the art, to go out on the ledge, where it’s dangerous. When we care enough, we raise the bar, not just for ourselves, but for our customer, our audience and our partners.
It’s obvious, then, why I don’t play the clarinet any more. I don’t care enough, can’t work hard enough, don’t have the guts to put that work into the world. This is the best reason to stop playing, and it opens the door to go find an art you care enough to make matter instead. Find and make your own music.
The cop-out would be to play the clarinet just a little, to add one more thing to my list of mediocre.
As Jony Ive said, “We did it because we cared, because when you realize how well you can make something, falling short, whether seen or not, feels like failure.”
It’s much easier to add some features, increase your network, get some itemized tasks done. Who wants to feel failure?
We opt for more instead of better.
Better is better than more.
(The text above was originally published here.)
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