I have been writing online for about a year and a half now. During this time, I have learned a lot about creative work and success. Creative work refers to making anything that takes effort, like painting, writing, filmmaking, music production, etc.
For me, creative work is writing online. I write on different platforms about different topics. However, I am yet to achieve big success with writing. But I can say that I have understood what it takes to achieve success doing creative work.
I read the work of many successful writers online. Almost everyone has a similar story of how they became successful at what they do. But, it is not just with writers. Successful YouTubers, artists, musicians—it’s the same with them too.
So what does it take to be successful doing creative work? It is not skill or hard work, although these are important too. But these are things you learn along the way. Instead, creative success is about the ability to produce work in high quantity.
Want to be a successful writer? Publish at least 100 articles first, even if you do not have a lot of readers. Want to be a successful YouTuber? Upload at least 50 videos first, even if you get few views and have fewer subscribers. It is the ability to keep producing more content that matters rather than the size of your audience, especially if you have not worked for long.
The work you produce does not have to be good in the beginning. Just keep putting out new work. Show up every day. Work. And publish consistently.
Producing more work in high quantity allows you to learn, creating more chances of producing something great. For example, musicians do not compose songs thinking they will make hits. Instead, they focus on creating more songs and putting them out there for their fans. Then, the fans decide which songs make it to the hits list.
When Kurt Cobain wrote the song Smells Like Teen Spirit, he hated it. But look how big the song became. Ask any successful YouTuber what the secret to success is. They will tell you to keep creating new videos. Most YouTubers suggest publishing at least 50 videos before even thinking about getting big or making money off the platform.
Jack Conte, the CEO of Patreon, says, “Work to publish.” Don’t work to create great stuff. Don’t think about writing the best article, composing the best song, or painting a masterpiece. Instead, do what you can and show your work. Great work is produced when you know when to stop working. Jack also says, “You can’t choose what you’re famous for.” I love it.
Tell me, who do you think has a better chance of producing a hit song—the musician who wrote 10 songs or the one who wrote 100 songs? The answer is pretty clear.
When doing creative work, don’t think of the rewards—like subscribers, views, or money. Just do your work, publish it, and repeat. Do it so much so that people will have to find you. Comedian Steve Martin said, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” Austin Kleon said in his book Show Your Work, “You don’t really find an audience for your work; they find you. ” Further, he says,
“We don’t always know what’s good and what sucks. That’s why it’s important to get things in front of others and see how they react.”
I love Casey Neistat’s motivational videos. In one of his videos, he said that in the first 5 years of starting his YouTube channel, he had reached 500K subscribers. Then, he started uploading daily. In the next 5 months, he got another 500K subscribers. He kept uploading. Again, in the next 2 months, he got another 500K subscribers. The lesson here is that you have to keep doing what you are doing and never give up. The results will come if you are consistent. You can’t upload 5 videos and expect 100K subscribers.
When people see good work by creative people, they think of talent and hard work. “That musician must be really talented.” “That book is really good. The author must be great at writing.” Mark Manson, the author of the book The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck, was a blogger for eight years before he wrote the best-selling book. He had consistently been writing and publishing online for all those years. He says that his book is the product of putting together his old blogposts.
This concept is applicable in business too. For example, if you want to sell 100 products, you must reach out to at least 10,000 potential customers.
I have written over a hundred articles online. But only a few were responsible for driving traffic to my blog. Surprisingly, I have not even used SEO strategies in most of my articles. Yet, a few of my articles have made it to the first page of Google Search. I had nothing to do with it except writing and publishing articles consistently.
So that is the secret to achieving success doing creative work: quantity. Work more. Publish more. Don’t strive for perfection because you will never be able to satisfy yourself. Being a perfectionist can be a success killer. You might be missing out on opportunities. Remember: You can’t choose what you are famous for.
Do the work. Create!