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The Practice

published 2024-01-18

I've begun reading The Practice by Seth Godin, which my wife gave me as a "stocking book" at Christmas. It's very good, very Seth Godin: The content can be summarized in one short sentence:

If you want to create, do the practice every day.

--Sean's summary of The Practice by Seth Godin

Seems simple, but there's a lot to it.

What are you going to create? This book isn't about that. That you have to know already, at least in its broad shape. (A recent essay by Paul Graham, "How to Do Great Work,, looks useful for thinking through that, and I'm working through it.)

What do you practice? The creative work that you want to do. How do you practice? That depends on the work -- every kind of work has its own practice, and a part of the practice is figuring out how to do it.

The Practice is not a how-to book: The only concrete recommendation so far throug the first 1/3 is "write a blog every day." Seth says that writing is the core of all creative work. So says a writer! But that's not a lot of concrete advice for a full book. That's not the purpose of the book. The Practice is a kick in the pants, a book-length encouragement to do the thing you need to do. I am finding it to be valuable.

One of things he says is that you cannot do the work just for yourself, and you cannot do it for money or fame. Those motivations are not enough to sustain professional creative work. Instead, it is important to have an audience of people who are interested in your work. That's probably why blogging is important: It is one of the best ways to develop an audience that is customized around the creative work that you yourself are doing. Your work, if it's original, is not like anyone else's, and so your audience is also unique.

I have been trying to put at least some of The Practice into practice the past few days: I have been spending the last 30~60 minutes of the day writing. As a result I've written at least 300 words each day, and I've published three short blog posts over the past three days (including this one). I am a writer (another recommendation of the practice: If your creative work is to write, you are a writer; so call yourself that). I haven't yet found a strong rhythm in the writing in terms of what I am writing about -- no really clear sense of what the writing projects are. But I am starting to get into this rhythm of sitting down at my computer at the end of the day, staring at a blank screen, scribbling a sentence or two, and then eventually taking off. (Tonight: I started at 10 pm, it took about 10 minutes to start writing about something, anything. Now it's 11 pm and I just passed 1000 words.)

The practice works.