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The Creator's Curse

The work you just completed is never your best possible work.

I had a wonderful evening tonight - a reader of the site visiting Saigon reached out to me, and we spent five hours having coffee and discussing philosophy, writing, history, traveling, government, business... amazing guy. Great conversation. Really enjoyed it, the time flew.

Now, I tell you - this is a guy with amazing creative ability and insights. He's spent a lot of time thinking about and researching and learning interesting things. He has a lot to share with the world.

Yet, he hasn't released most of the writing he's done. He's a writer, and I'm guessing quite a solid writer - he reads a lot, writes a fair bit, and is a clear thinker, and that combination lends itself to solid writing. I'm almost certain he can at least write well enough that the writing doesn't get in the way of the good insights, and he definitely has good insights.

But, he said to me - he's looking to create timeless, masterpiece-level work, like the literature he really admires most.

The trouble with writing daily...

...is that some days, you don't have any ideas that would produce a piece beyond your average quality. Thus, by writing that day, your average quality of writing goes down, not up. 

What's the alternative? It's to write more selectively, and publish only your best and most worthy work. It's the approach Paul Graham takes with his essays, for instance. You get around a dozen a year, and they're all amazing.

However, I think the greatest danger in writing is in not doing writing enough. Being able to do a decent piece when you're off or completely uninspired has value, and you'll bring your "skill at writing when uninspired" up (and such a skill certainly exists).

But how about your readership?

That's tricky. You always want to write good things for your readers, so that their lives or enriched. It's tough when the gears are grinding and the output isn't that great. If you find yourself in that scenario and you're uninspired, I'd give you one piece of advice -- keep it short.

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