Preciousness

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You could also title this post… “Why the heck haven’t you heard more from us?”

This is something Tony and I have been talking about internally. And the simple answer is we’ve fallen into a trap that kills any creative endeavor: preciousness.

Preciousness is when you have a perfect ideal in your head of what something should be. And this ideal takes on mythic proportions. You fantasize over it. You obsess about your amazing, flawless thing that you’re going to make. You dream about all the success it’s going to have.

In the process, you become paralyzed from actually taking action or making anything.

Because guess what?

Creativity is messy as hell.

It’s iterative.

It involves producing material that not only fails to rise up to your precious standard… but can’t. Because the nature of creativity is to make something new. (If you already knew exactly what it would be like when you started — if it was all perfect and complete already — then you wouldn’t be doing anything new.)

So rather than risk making anything that can’t meet your standard, you do nothing. You do the creative equivalent of Gollum going to hide alone in a dark cave.

Now, this preciousness does come out of a positive intention.

I mean, we want to hold ourselves to high standards. We want to create quality work. That’s the soul being a craftsman or craftswoman… the love of craft… the love of artistry.

But our ego hijacks this desire. It turns it into a fear about not achieving perfection from the start. This fear of losing our “precious” twists and distorts us (just like the ring did to Gollum). It sabotages our ability to make anything.

That brings me back to Cave of Monsters. And why we haven’t been creating much here.

We’ve made it too precious.

Yes, we do want to produce original, thought-provoking writing. Yes, we want to build something amazing and beautiful. But there’s this extra pressure we’ve put on ourselves. We’ve slipped into the trap of insisting that everything must be “flawless”, “world changing”, and have an “epic impact”.

And in the process… we kill any motivation for writing anything here.

The irony is though…

We actually have no desire to have a huge, earth-shattering impact where we alter the lives of BILLIONS. (Side note: I’m increasingly skeptical about people who always brag about having goals like that… *cough* *cough* Elizabeth Holmes.)

This kind of impact was never why we built The Cave.

Secretly, The Cave is a Grand Excuse. It’s an opportunity to explore and play. To read books (which we already do anyways) and write about them. To follow the rabbit-trails. To make art. And most importantly, to converse and interact with a small group of weirdos like us.1

This isn’t a mass market thing. It’s not for everyone. We don’t want to become gurus.

Yet that’s what we fell into chasing. No wonder we didn’t want to come here and write. It was too intimidating and stressful. And it wasn’t even the kind of writing we wanted to do in the first place.

So Tony and I are working to make things less precious again. To strip away the need to build something huge. And to even remove the pressure of it needing to be a business at all.

Practically, that means a couple things…

1) Sharing more just over email2 (riffs about what we’re pondering, answers to questions, a look behind the scenes, conversations Tony and I are having already). Some of that may end up on the main blog. But there’s something casual and informal about email. It’s less permanent. It’s more conversational.

2) For the blog, it means killing the expectation that we need to write the kind of content we’re supposed to write to build a “successful online business.” (Which I often hate reading anyways.) It’s allowing ourselves to explore the deep, rabbit-trail type topics that simply FASCINATE us. Stuff that make us procrastinate on our paying copywriting work.

That’s the vision.

Dealing with of the tendency to make things precious is an ongoing process. It’s something you have to keep working with. (It took Frodo an epic quest to destroy the ring after all.)

But it’s worth it. It’s the only way to move forward.

So for whatever endeavors you’re working on3

Throw away the precious.

Cast it into the mountain of fire.

Let it burn.

Open yourself again to the serendipity and magic of creation. Allow space for those random, crazy ideas that hit you in the shower… the tiny threads that pull you off into some new and marvelous direction. (Which is where many of the best ideas come from.)

Discover once more that any imperfect (but real) work in progress is far superior to the most “perfect masterpiece” that only exists in your head.

Then you’ll have the freedom to take action again.

And what used to be nothing more than a fantasy… may just come to life.

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