Getting to Your “Out”
I have a friend who is always the first to test new tech.
For example, when Google glasses were announced, she was tapped to give them a test run—and I got to hear the stories about strangers staring at her and random in-the-know techies asking if they could try on her glasses.
So, when she told me back in the 2006ish period that she was exploring alternative ways for colleagues around the world to meet, I wasn’t surprised to hear she was testing online conferencing.
The best bit of this story takes place after she chose the avatar to represent her, when the avatar was entering the conference room. Her mom chose that moment to walk by, glance over my friends shoulder, and then tell her, “Your avatar needs a better bra.”
Her mom’s a straight shooter, who has been in the tech world for decades, so what’s commonplace dialogue in their home, struck me as laugh-out-loud funny.
It’s also a story I was reminded of when I read Mark McGuinness’ new book 21 Insights for 21st Century Creatives (available for free via this link).
In the section titled “Stay Small, Go Global,” Mark tells the story of coming across an interview with Russell Davies.
He talked about launching a “global small business” with four partners, located in London, Amsterdam, Sydney, and New York. Every week, they held a weekly meeting inside World of Warcraft, where “we attack a castle or something, then chat about work.”
Mark thought that was “hilarious and inspiring in equal measure.” I thought the same, and wondered if my friend was hanging out in the same space—and if her mom was in there attacking castles, too.
The story also reminded me of why I like reading Mark’s work. He’s real. I relate to what he’s writing about. I take his words seriously, but find myself laughing and nodding my head in agreement, too.
If I was thinking in terms of the “ins and outs” Steve has been writing about these past three “Writing Wednesdays,” I’d say that Mark’s “out” is creating that connection with readers.
In his first “in and out” post, Steve wrote:
In the movie biz, there’s a question that studios and development companies often put to any screenplay they’re evaluating:
What’s the in? What’s the out?
What they mean is, “What is this script’s opening image and closing image? Do the two work together? Are they cohesive? Are they on-theme? Are they are far apart emotionally as possible?”
This is a really helpful series of questions for any creative person who’s trying to evaluate his or her own work. I use it all the time.
What’s the in? What’s the out?
These questions help if you’re designing a restaurant, writing a Ph.D. dissertation, crafting a speech for a corporate audience. They help for music, for dance, for art, for photography.
Toward the end of the same post, he wrote:
If you’re designing a restaurant, what’s the first impression people get when they enter? What’s the last thing they see when they leave?
What’s the first song on your album? What’s the last?
What’s the entry action in your videogame? What’s the exit?
In all of these examples, these “ins and outs” relate to one product—a movie, or a book, or a restaurant, or album, or videogame.
What if we apply that to a career?
Say Shane hasn’t been written yet, and I sit down and write the “ins and outs” Steve gave as examples in his first “ins and outs” post.
Well, okay, I have an extraordinary film, but . . . What if Shane was my first book or my first film, or whatever it is.
Why would anyone want to buy it?
What’s MY “in and out” in the bigger picture?
Maybe my “in” is writing a book and my “out” is becoming a New York Times Best-selling author.
Ok. Sounds good. Why not, right? Unknown to household name is a valid goal.
But what’s that look like? And why should anyone care?
Before people can care about Shane, they have to care enough to read something with my name on it. And, if I’m being honest, not even my parents care if my goal is being a best-selling author. They’ll love me no matter what. So if I can’t get my parents to care whether I achieve such a goal, how can I get complete strangers to get on board and read something by an unknown? How does it happen?
It happens by creating value over a long period of time.
I found out about Mark’s new book Wednesday afternoon. I read it, wrote this post, and had the post lined up by Thursday night. Why? Because Mark created value. Now I don’t care about Mark the same way that some people cared about Shane, but I connected with his work and with him, and will drop what I’m doing to help anytime. Mark isn’t the author who shows up whenever he needs help and he isn’t the guy making a million requests when he does show up. He’s the individual who creates value in his work and who is the real deal as an individual, too—and who gives back.
So how’d he do that? Didn’t happen overnight.
Mark’s been coaching creatives for 21 years. In his book he talks about some of the pitfalls creatives fall into. You might recognize many of them yourself—and if you don’t . . . Watch out for them.
When I look back on the almost ten years of “Writing Wednesdays,” I remember the days before Steve had an email list or even a blog, and the stumbling that occurred when the blog was first launched, and then everything that’s happened since then.
I wish I could tell you that your “out” will be easy to achieve, but it won’t. I honestly don’t even know what my own “out” is. I thought I knew at one point, but then life happened, and . . . Mom? Wife? Author? Entrepreneur? All of the above?
The only thing I can think of is a much-told story about Picasso, which might or might not be true, and which many of you have already heard. Supposedly, someone asked Picasso to draw on a napkin. Picasso did so, and then asked the person for a large amount of money to pay for the work. The shocked individual balked, and stated that it had only taken Picasso a few minutes to draw on the napkin. Picasso corrected him. It took him decades.
He had an extraordinary “in and out,” to the point that I’m sitting here retelling a story that I want to be true about him because it’s a good story and it’s how I want to finish this post.
The “out” takes a long time.
Check out Mark’s new book. It’s two decades of helping artists get to their “out.”
A 1-Day Event With Steven Pressfield
Join an exclusive gathering for writers who are in the ring.