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The Big Thing: How to Complete Your Creative Project Even if You're a Lazy, Self-Doubting Procrastinator Like Me

August 01, 2016

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Phyllis Korkki offers lessons on how to complete your Big Thing by walking you through how she completed hers, which is the book itself.

Phyllis Korkki is an assignment editor for The New York Times Sunday Business section. It was in the Times, in 2013, that she wrote a "meta" Workstation column about deadlines:

 

At a meeting last Tuesday, I told my colleagues that I would finish this column—which is about deadlines—by noon on Thursday. I spent part of Tuesday afternoon searching the word “deadlines” on Google, but didn’t make much progress. By late afternoon, I felt a tiny knot of fear in my stomach. What if I let my co-workers down? So I wrote something silly just to get started. This paragraph.

 

That paragraph was the beginning of something much bigger. It was the beginning of her "Big Thing," which is being released to the world next week. It is a book entitled The Big Thing: How to Complete Your Creative Project Even If You're a Lazy, Self-Doubting Procrastinator Like Me, and it is similar to the column in theme.

 

Like that column on deadlines, this is a "meta" book. It is a big creative project about the desire and struggle to complete big creative projects.

 

So, as she writes about finding her own process, she drills into the nature of the creative process itself, weaving an intricate and interesting blend of stories of others' creativity, scientific research on the best way to tackle creative projects, and her own ongoing series of insecurities and hang-ups, and how she overcame them all to write the book you're holding in your hands.

It all begins with the value of working on big, personal projects in our era of divided attention, and the nature of ego in both imagining your big thing and setting out to achieve it (when your ego can take a big hit). She then discusses the relationship of the body to the mind—and, therefore, the creative process—telling us how relearning to breathe and eat properly contributed to her process. Then it's onto the role sleep and dreams, physical and mental illness, how your age may affect the process, and how sometimes advanced age helps us find and advance our Big Thing. She discusses how to accomplish your Big Thing while holding down your day job (as she did), and how to leverage those around you, and use their support and collaborate with them to achieve your goals. She looks at how children affect the pursuit of your Big Thing, or become it, and how accomplishing your Big Thing is a lot like a romantic relationship—even how to use the work ethic and process you develop for your Big Thing to find a romantic partner if you haven't found one already, a process she begins herself in the book. And, unlike most books on creativity, she discusses the importance of not trying too hard and the benefit of giving up, either "for now or forever" on some of your dreams.

And that speaks to one of the qualities I love most about this book. It is about doing something big, something personal, about what we each have as individuals to offer the world and how to accomplish it. And that is not easy, nor does she pretend it is. Korkki acknowledges the difficulties and pain in the process, even that we may have to sacrifice some happiness along the way for more meaningfulness in our lives. It is less about the power of positive thinking, and more about the power of deadlines and personal process:

 

I believe in the power of negative thinking. Once I decided to proceed with my own project I came to realize I have terrible habits. I procrastinate, I'm lazy (although others would disagree), and I have low energy unless I'm under the gun. I put myself down and discount what I have accomplished. You will be right there as I deal with—and laugh over—all these flaws on the way to finishing my own Big Thing, this book.

 

It is easy to "fall prey to the great enemy of completion: perfection," she tells us. Whatever we set out to create—whether it be on a series of paintings or a business plan—it is unlikely to be perfect the first time out. It is unlikely to be perfect any time out. It is important to be able to give yourself a break both in the process and with regards to the final product, to forgive yourself for not being perfect while still striving to honor your vision as best you can while bringing your creation into the world.

In addition to a fascinating array of artists, entrepreneurs, psychiatrists, psychologists, and scientists, you'll hear from many authors you'd find meandering through the pages of this site, including Robert Sutton, Teresa Amabile, Howard Gardner, Dan Ariely, and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. That mix of those voices, of science and individual stories, including her own, not only makes for compelling reading, it turns into a instruction manual for the creative life.

So, whether you want to put out an album, create the next big thing in software, write a novel, or start a business, Phyllis Korkki's book will help you through the process.

We have 20 copies available.

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