Get more interested in what you’re creating than the outcome.
Worrying about results weighs you down.
Worrying about desired results is distracting at best — a creativity-killer at worst. When I start paying too much attention to my Medium stats, for example, the quality of my writing goes down. I feel low, I have a harder time coming up with topics, and I start pandering (often unconsciously) to ideas about what I think people will want to read. Of course, usually my read ratios go down after the pandering begins.
We shan’t stop thinking about outcomes altogether, though. For one thing, our big beautiful human brains can’t help but project into imagined futures from time to time. More importantly, it’s sensible to reflect on how what we’re doing in the present aligns with what we hope to gain in the future. The ability to analyze cause-and-effect is a gift we’d be crazy not to use to our benefit.
How do we know when we’re reflecting and when we’re worrying, though? How do we balance our focus between what we’re creating and what we hope to achieve?
Not to cop out of this conversation too hard, but… when you know, you just know.
When you’re truly reflecting on how to get more readers, where to pitch your stories, or when to send out your newsletter, you’re feeling productive. You may even be having fun with it. You feel curious, open, focused, and clear.
Then the scales seem to tip, and suddenly you’re feeling more panicked about your new website copy. Consideration suddenly crosses over into concern before you can catch it. When you’ve left the land of gently reflecting about your audience (or your bills…) and crossed into angsty territory, your identity, sense of worth, and feeling of security become wrapped up in the outcome of your work. You’ve taken what was really just a logistical question and made it existential.
As long as you’re in this state, you’re no longer effective at answering logistical questions. And you’re certainly not feeling very creative. The content of your thinking might be the same, but the quality of it has changed. You might be performing the same activity, but now you feel like crap.
And that crap feeling, my friends, that’s the greatest gift of all. It’s telling you to stop worrying about outcomes. It’s your inner compass cueing you to go back to what you’re creating. (That’s why you got into this thing in the first place after all. Oh, yeah, remember that?)
Create, build, make, come back to the present.
You might be humbled to discover you’re not such a good fortune teller after all. Every time I think I know which Medium story will be a hit (like this one or this one), the post I’d least expect to be successful (like this one) is the one that gets attention.
When it’s time to stop thinking about the future, you’ll know. Take a break from all that and do what you came here for.
Then, when it’s time to start making stuff up about the future again, you’ll know that, too.