HomePostsSep 09, 2008

I learned something today

There’s usually five hard ways to do something without any kind of guarantee of an available easy way. Sometimes there is an easy way, sometimes there’s just an easIER way, and sometimes there’s just hard ways. Realizing that some things just take hard work is an important step towards growing up (regardless of your numerical age) but it’s also the kind of thinking that can get you stuck. I’m a fan of hard work and, as such, sometimes I work a lot harder at something than I should. Case in point, the story I’m going to share with you.

I’m new to all of this… how can this article help me?

Approaching your technology problems can be daunting – especially if you know only one way to do things and that way is a P.I.T.A. When it comes to computers and the internet, it’s important to always keep in mind that there are probably 5 pieces of software that you never knew existed that do exactly what you need, 5 pieces of hardware that could solve one nagging problem, and a 100 people out there who are better trained than you are and are chomping at the bit to help you out (that’s me). All you have to do is keep your eyes open, your mind working, and your homepage on Google and you’re a step ahead of the rest.

Sometimes, there’s no need to swim uphill

So I know a guy with a blog. I built the blog for this guy. Blood, sweat, tears, and love went into putting together this blog. Then, even more bodily fluids went into typing and editing his blog posts to post on his blog on a regular basis. In the meantime, exponentially more effort went into editing, designing, copyrighting, and publishing his book. I was paid for most of it but, because the project was close to me, many hours flew by sans compensation (willingly of course).

He wrote a lot of material all at once and sent it over to keep me busy and have a “buffer.” This buffer was the only thing he would write for months despite my gentle insistence and cajoling. He said he liked to write but, in the end, if we actually like to do things, don’t we just do them? I like to write and, coincidentally enough, I end up writing a lot (here, at work, emails, etc). It occurred to me that maybe he wasn’t into this writing thing after all.

Still, I was working for him and if he wanted to write, well, dammit, I would do everything I could to make him write. So I bought him books about writing, wrote him blog posts about writing blog posts, and came up with a massive list of every possible industry topic he could write about. I kept (and keep) editing his buffer posts, every week posting less and getting closer to the finale of all of his earlier efforts. I made him buy cards to promote his blog and his book, despite having very little left to post. I even added my own posts as the “administrator” of the blog talking about what I’ve learned and what to expect. In the end, I was working several hours a week on a blog that wasn’t mine for a purpose that I wasn’t clear on. I had stopped taking payments but kept trying to edit and post what was left. The idea started out so exciting and I was watching it peter out like a match in the rain.

New approach

This client had done radio work back in the day and, every now and then, reminisced about his days behind the mic. His voice is very calming. You can always hear his smile because he’s always smiling. On the phone or in person, he’s always wearing that big, friendly grin and telling you something to which you ought to be listening.

The idea of a podcast floated into my consciousness a few months ago but, in my head, it sounded like an expansion plan and I was not interested in expanding something that wasn’t going anywhere. The podcast idea wouldn’t leave my head, however, and today, after a rousing conversation about the matter, I just blurted it out.

“This blog thing just isn’t working. He should just do a podcast.”

And, with that, this blog thing was solved.

Despite what he says, at least for the time being, this client just doesn’t want to write. There’s no point in forcing something that isn’t happening. He has, however, had his ears open for a broadcasting gig hosting his own show on the radio without much luck.

A book and a blog, if it takes off and starts gaining attention, is just going to get more audience members for the blog and, at best, a great offer for a new book. For someone that finds it difficult to make the time and energy to write, this is a punishment in disguise.

If, however, he took this great wisdom he has, spoke it into a digital recorder, and emailed the final product to me, he’d never have to write another word in his life. The audio can be posted and hosted on the blog, submitted to iTunes, compiled and sold on a CD, or even be a spring-board to videos if he wanted. Not only that, if the audio broadcasts take off, there is the possibility of a book, sure, but it’s more likely that someone who knows what they are doing will want to keep him in the same format, the one that he’s succeeding at.

Exciting stuff

In the end, the solution to the problem was actually the expansion plan for the original idea. The middle point actually should have been the starting point. I kept trying to make something work that just simply wasn’t going to happen.

The way forward could be the one in your head, it could be the one in your friend’s head, or it could be the one that has not materialized yet. There’s no point pushing against a brick wall if, at the other side of that wall, there’s nothing you want. My mistake was not thinking down the road with the blog idea. I thought that, with a blog, he could go anywhere. But the blog was not only the barrier to entry, it wasn’t going to lead to anything better.

In the end, if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing and there’s not a big risk in taking your time, maybe it’s better to explore as many options as possible and see which one fits the best. If it sucks and sucks and sucks and you’re not getting anything out of it, chances are that you’re not going to continue doing it indefinitely (and that’s a good thing). Save your tenacity for the IDEA itself, not the execution. If you know what you’ve got is gold and it’s not going anywhere then you’re probably barking up the wrong tree. If I decided it was my calling to make hip hop beats, a blog about it probably isn’t the best way to go (though it might be). If I wanted to make money off graffiti art, it’s not likely that handing out fliers at the hot club downtown would get me anywhere (though it might).

There’s nothing wrong with trying something out… in fact, if you’re NOT trying out new things and exploring new markets, you’re definitely doing something wrong and probably selling yourself short. But you have to know when to bag it, when to try something else, when to stay true to your idea and just bark up a new tree. Staying true to yourself and staying true to your ideas means doing whatever is necessary. Plugging away over and over at something that isn’t going anywhere is doing a disservice to your talent and your product.

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