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Dreaming bigger


Creative work is full of balancing acts. Do what’s fun, or earn more money? Be your own boss, or have job security with a company? Dedicate yourself to art, or sell out? Unavoidable questions.

Lately I’ve been thinking about one work conflict in particular. Whether to get stuff done or dream big. Or can you do both? The person who does both is rare, and doing both requires other tradeoffs. But I think it’s possible.

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I have always fallen proudly into the get stuff done camp. Nothing irks me like a project on indefinite hold, or a deadline that keeps getting blown. I subscribe to the aphorism, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

Here’s the thinking: It’s better to be close enough than irrelevant. What good is challenging, excellent work that nobody sees?

Put another way: It’s better to have “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” on your resume than “Pushing Daisies.” Those TV shows debuted 2 weeks apart. “Pushing Daisies,” a superior show in every way, was cancelled. The Kardashians, a cheap, fluffy show, has been renewed through 9 seasons.

Under this way of thinking, you produce light, cheap, fast projects that sail out the door.

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Lately I am coming around to the dream big way of thinking. “Do fewer things better” is another aphorism. It feels right to me right now. It’s the only way to build a project of lasting value.

So how can I concentrate on lofty, long-term projects—some of which will fail!—when the demands of the day require me to shovel fast and necessary work out the door? How will I find the time?

The answer is to work smarter—to change the nature of my job and my workday so that all the chores get done to satisfaction, and I still have time and space to build shit. This is a career management skill I’m still trying to master. It takes a slow, sustained effort to create something visionary. But even before that it takes a slow, sustained effort to make space in your life to do it!

It’s hard. But it beats the alternatives. If all I ever did was get the work done, shovel it out the door, and keep the money flowing, I’d probably stay happy. But who wants to live in a world where every project is “Keeping Up with the Kardashians?”

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Copywriting, Marketing

One comment

  1. I’ve been turning this one over in my head a bit. I don’t know if you were equating “Dream Big” with “Big Idea” but for purposes of not making me look any dumber than is necessary, let’s assume you were.

    The Internet has changed copywriting. I think big ideas aren’t less valuable, but in the kind of realtime environment we find ourselves adrift in, it’s often harder to make them happen.

    I’m managing the online presence for a nonprofit; my ten hours a week seems increasingly filled managing everyday stuff (including writing “small” blog posts), and my list of Potentially Big Ideas (projects, articles, etc) sees a lot more ideas added than completed.

    We’re getting excellent results from the ‘everyday’ work and it’s not as if I fear some kind of failure, but I share your apparent frustration — and desire to somehow reorient the work to offer up more — and bigger — opportunities.

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