Once upon a time I fancied myself a writer, and later a filmmaker, but with every storytelling exercise I was crippled by my own need for excellence and strong awareness of my own shortcomings. At the start of a project I always felt the power of its potential and was excited to create some sort of major work around this new idea, but forcing yourself to create a major work from every good idea is not only intimidating, but downright foolish.
Then I jumped into online media, swimming in the waters of new storytelling methods and a newly democratized world of media. I went from spending three years on a documentary to spending hours on an episode. Then hours on another, and another, and another. Instead of feeling that a single piece of work had to be excellent, I realized that my work could be taken as an evolving collection.
Setting small goals that can be accomplished within a bigger long term vision is a key part to success in everything from dieting to sales to rock climbing. Yet somehow it never occurred to me that this would apply so well to my own work.
First I produced and hosted a series of long form interviews, American Microphone. Then, for an election news program called Political Lunch, my co-producer, Will Coghlan, and I put out over 400 episodes. I even help produce and edit a few dozen episodes of a great, snarky sports report called That Sport Show. Any one of those episodes might stink, but on the whole they are pretty good, fairly complex, and innovative because we could experiment a little bit with each one and not risk losing our audience.
After all of the stumbling and experimenting I can see past the mistakes and look back at a collection of interesting work that was exciting for me and contributed to the evolution of web video in its early days.
If you spend three years on a film and it stinks, you’re going to feel absolutely abysmal when those terrible reviews come in. If you spend a day working on something that stinks, you can always work to do better tomorrow. Every new attempt teaches you something that you can apply to the next attempt; the more you try, the more you learn.
So here I am, trying again. There will be a lot of poorly written posts and half-baked ideas, but I’m going to keep coming back and sharing what I like with you until I can’t stand it anymore. Hopefully we’ll all learn a little something along the way.
PS: Big thanks to Mark Suster for his excellent blog on startups and venture capital, Both Sides of the Table. It inspired me to get back to writing something every week and has often reminded me that business writing can indeed be interesting.