Creating a Body of Work

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 2 min read

Woody Allen famously said that he doesn't think he's an amazing filmmaker, but if he makes enough movies, the law of averages inlies that at least some of them will be good. I think he's underselling himself, but he does have a point and it's an important lesson for anyone starting up a new creative endevor.

All new tech bloggers want to be John Gruber. All new podcasters want to be Chris Hardwick or Adam Carolla. All new filmakers want to be Steven Spielberg. But you know what, you're not going to be them, at least not right away. And why should you, you have no credibility. Maybe you'll get linked to by someone internet-famous and have a few good days, but that's not enough to sustain your next big thing.

Only recently have I felt like this site has "made it." As of writing this post, there are just over 700 posts here, mostly about technology. I've written a lot over the past 4 years and in doing so have gotten better at writing about technology. I'm pretty good about knowing what stories I can write about and what ones aren't worth the effort. I can also generally find a unique take on something.

I have also learned that not every post needs to be amazing. Further, I can't really tell what posts are going to connect with people the hardest. You hear it all the time from bloggers, but some of my most successful pieces were ones went from concept to "Publish" in less than 30 minutes. Over time, I have written enough that I don't have to shout out into the void every time I post something. My work is reasonably well-ranked on Google, and I get a good number of new readers every day. Going though my Mint stats, here are my most-read pages this month:

  1. Finish the Job (Because Nobody Cares What You’re “Going to Do”) March 2013
  2. So You Want to be a Dummy and Install OS X Yosemite… June 2014
  3. Should you switch to ART on your HTC One M8? August 2014
  4. Some Classy Smartphone Wallpapers (1080p) August 2014
  5. Why Are People Leaving the iPhone? May 2014

Notice that none of those posts are from the same month. I haven't had anything blow up this month, but these are the things that people are looking for and finding me. Nothing has blown up in October, but I'm it's on pace to be my best month of the year. Slow and steady can win the race. It can also pay the bills.

The takeaway here is clear: if you want to make something and be the X of Y, you should just get going now. Don't wait for inspiration to find you, you have to find it. Start a blog if you want to write, buy some paint and canvas if you want to be a painter, use your smartphone's camera to make a movie if you want to be a filmmaker, or just start talking into a mic if you want to be a podcaster. Start building that body of work and with a lot of hard work and a little bit of luck, you'll get where you want to be.