3 min read

Only the Work Remains :: thoughts on creative work & getting it done

Doing the work doesn’t just come first. There is nothing without the work. This is why ‘growth hacks’ and ‘life hacks’ bore me. There is no hack. There is just the work.
Only the Work Remains :: thoughts on creative work & getting it done

The most interesting thing about our era where technical barriers have been wiped away for so many things, is that the focus is exclusively on the work. When you can make websites without knowing how to code the question is not “how do I make a website?”, the question is “what should my website say?”.

I saw this when I was making Promogogo where we made it easy for people to build campaigns that work really well on social. What used to be a treacherous nightmare zone is now as basic as writing a Facebook post. So our conversations with our users pause briefly on the technical question, but move straight into strategy, branding and how to run campaigns well.

How to reach people.

How to build an audience.

With services like teespring and more where anyone can create a t-shirt business without any logistical considerations. The question becomes “what kinda of t-shirts do people want to buy?”.

My three youngest siblings are all of the ‘Gen Z’ generation. They were talking about some cool new fashion brand, as teenagers do, that someone from the local community had started and completely exploded in trendiness. I asked them: “what do you think is the hardest thing about running a business in fashion?” and all of them, in unison, without question answered the same thing: “the branding”.

Hailley and I had this with the podcast, MakeWorkWork. We bought $80 mikes on Amazon, we call using Skype and some call recorder, and I edit it in Garage Band (more if you're interested here). It still took us over a year to get it out the door; because it wasn’t right. We threw out the first two or three episodes, before we found our groove.

We hadn’t done the work yet.
We had to develop our tone, our brand, our story, our work first.

The barrier to making and launching a podcast is do you set aside the time to record and edit? That's the only one. There are no other ones. There are not financial ones, there are no gatekeepers, the level of technical skills you need are so basic if you're reading this right now on the internet, you already have all the skills you need.

Doing the work doesn’t just come first. There is nothing without the work.

This is why ‘growth hacks’ and ‘life hacks’ bore me. There is no hack. There is just the work. Musicians ask me how to get on Spotify Playlists, how to get a million views on YouTube, how to build their Twitter followers.

You wanna know how? Write a good fucking song. Go play it somewhere. Make sure those who listen know your name. Keep doing it until something sticks.

Every success story in the music industry starts with either a YouTube video, or "came across them playing some stinky basement" (unless it's one of the Disney kids of course).

In the publishing industry you have to have written the whole book before you can get a booking agent. And you can't get a book deal without a booking agent. You need to write the whole book first. That seriously blows my mind. Like I thought you'd be signed and then like get some payments up front, and an editor you can be like "hey, which version is better??" you could back and forth with.

Nah. Doesn't work that way. Gotta write the whole thing first.

The work builds a following, it’s not the other way around.

[Q&A With Grey for 500,000 Subscribers - YouTube]

In the words of someone much smarter than me:

What's the best way to be successful on YouTube? Make videos people want to watch. I’m not trying to be glib here but when asked this question I see many YouTubers talk about the importance of upload schedules and managing your social media and collaborations and my experience says that's completely backwards. If your videos aren't interesting no one will care if you upload them regularly and Twitter followers don't get you views, views gets you Twitter followers and people who want to collaborate with you.I know it's not very helpful advice but it's the most truthful advice I can give.

Write, Publish, Repeat

Communicate clearly who you are. What you are about. Post it where people can find it.

How do you start a blog? Write. Write stories people care about. Keep writing. Keep sharing. Keep doing it. Do the work.

There is no hack. There is just the work.