Homework. VII.

Please excuse my tardiness. This homework assignment was provided by Joshua Millburn, my friend who runs The Minimalists.

I think everyone has, at one point, wanted to create work they were really proud of.

Some have tried in the past. But the way it usually works is that you start writing a book, recording an album, sculpting that piece of work, planning that special creation. Planning, planning. More planning. One day you’ll release it into the world. You’ll be remembered for it. At least, that’s how the story goes while you’re telling it to yourself.

Or, maybe there never was a great plan. Maybe you didn’t start anything. You knew you wanted to do something big, but never knew quite what it was. You kept looking, but somewhere along the way, you took a wrong turn, which felt like a right turn at the time. Maybe life got in the way, so you never resumed the quest. You never found that thing. Hell, maybe you never really started.

There’s a third type of person, too. They’ve done things before, maybe really big things. But they want bigger and better. They want more, for them and for their people. That’s cool, this is for you too.


Today’s homework assignment is simple. Write out the vision for what your great work was going to be.

What did it look like, sound like, smell like? How did it make you feel? Then, and maybe most important, why did you deviate away from it? Why did you stop? Did you settle? Did life get in the way? What actually happened? Do you even care anymore?

The way I do this is by writing out in 750 word freewriting sessions. You can do the same.

Get out a piece of paper, or write it in a text file. Don’t stop until you hit 750 words.

Good luck with your assignment. Report back in the comments when you are done.

P.S.: You can also check out Josh’s most recent book, Days After the Crash.





17 responses to “Homework. VII.”

  1. Danny Cook Avatar
    Danny Cook

    I’ve determined that my projects fail because I try to tackle too large projects with not enough planning. I’ve decided to start on simpler projects and then work my way up.

  2. Nina Amir Avatar

    Great assignment, but why focus on the past? Why not create it in the future? Turn the assignment around in a part II. Now write it out in as much detail as you want in the past tense AS IF you’d already achieved your goal, your dream–created your creation. Write it as if it were a novel, so you get carried away with the feeling of what it what REALLY be like to have created that thing you want to create. Then, read that bit of writing every morning and every night to inspire you to create it. Not only that, here’s part III: Create action steps to get you there. 5-10 things you can do to bring that vision into reality. And put them on your calendar. One a day or one a week. Commit to doing them. Viola. Your vision, your creation, will become a reality.

  3. Cindy La Ferle Avatar

    This is an excellent assignment for writers who tend to get blocked or stuck periodically. (Myself included!) I plan to share it with a link to your blog in my workshops.

    On another note, I just posted something on the dilemma that haunts all of us in creative fields: How much should we charge for our work? Should we write for free? I’d love your thoughts on this topic.

    1. Julien Avatar

      I wrote about this years ago but maybe a refresher is due. In the meantime, seek out “How to price your services” and “How to get paid for what others do for free”.

  4. OrganisedPauper Avatar

    So how does this….Write out the vision for what your great work was going to be.

    Apply to this…. Or, maybe there never was a great plan. Maybe you didn’t start anything. You knew you wanted to do something big, but never knew quite what it was.

    or this….You never found that thing.

    You can’t write about a vision for a great work if you never had a vision.

  5. ruaa Avatar

    My biggest project was making great music! I sort of postponed it because I wanted to get a Master’s degree and get a secure job. Now, I am almost done with shcool, and I am hoping to find a decent job to live off!
    I guess, the reason why I postponed this dream is that in my country (Tunisia) opportunities are scarce, especially when it comes to art. I am not giving up though, this dream is still in my mind!

  6. richard Avatar

    After reading what i wrote i figured out that i’m afraid of taking risks, even if the potential payout could be much bigger than the potential disaster. Hopefully i can improve my mistakes because my project is still alive, i recently started working on it again.

  7. Jacob Avatar

    Well, you certainly put me to work on my thoughts. Wrote up a blog and dissected a bad memory of mine. The more I think on it, the more I realize there are plenty of other things I’ve let slide, relationships included. Makes for sadness, for there’s plenty inside me that says I can still salvage things, but… *shrug*

  8. Michael Avatar

    While at UCLA, I studied Japanese poetry and philosophy under Michael Marra. He passed away last February, but passed on to me the last few things he was working on and unable to complete. I’m now reviewing those writings, adding my own thoughts and creating my first book – on understanding Japan through ancient and modern concepts of place/space and form/content. Hopefully making it interesting, accessible and practical.

    1. Julien Avatar

      I’d love to chat with you about this!

  9. Christine Avatar

    Great homework! I found that I tend to get involved in other people’s projects when mine fail – what I perceive as failure. The problem is that my level of integrity is high and when others are irresponsible I try to make up for their shortcomings, leading me to burnout. Not something I’m proud to admit but good to finally see. My great work is film (or leading inspirationally) and I’ve gotten close with my children’s DVD. Life got in the way but not for long! Just need to let go of others projects and focus on my own, understanding that I’m not a failure and neither are they.

  10. James Avatar

    I was going to start a school, combining a k-8 charter school with a head-start grant, in order to provide low-income parents with a seamless experience. Unlike many other public schools, the students’ success was not going to depend on who the parents were, if they cared, or even if they were around. It was going to adopt curricula and pedagogical approaches that did not discriminate between low- and high-SES students. It was going to provide the background and content knowledge the students needed to really learn to write, understand and use math, and read for enjoyment and understanding. It was going to prepare students so that when they went to high schools where their teachers wanted to use group projects, inquiry learning, and other approaches that often leave low-SES kids behind, they would have the knowledge, logic and rhetorical tools to actually make maximal use of that time, and thrive in it, rather than falling further behind.

    It was going to include a sequenced, spelled out curriculum, in order that (1) teachers could build on what they knew had been taught the year before, and (2) transfer students (way more common in low-SES schools) could be integrated by testing for what they hadn’t learned that we expected someone in their grade to have learned, and doing focused remediation in those areas.

    The model was going to be so successful that it would spread to other schools and other communities, providing low-income kids with a far better education than their richer peers were getting in other communities. It would produce capable, informed, persuasive citizens, who, through their sheer numbers, would be a better force for positive change in the world than I could ever be acting alone or with a group.

    It would look busy as hell, and it would give me chills.

    I got discouraged along the road to finding a way to implement. First, I never came up with a cost-effective way to pursue this and still support my family. I became convinced that I’d never have any credibility with anyone if I hadn’t taught. Then I did the math and realized it would require me to work for 2-3 years at $39,000 per year, with no guarantee of anything coming of it. I have since sunk back down into the slippery hole of not having any plan at all.

    I still care, very much, but now I’m plagued with doubt. I can’t figure out another approach that would work to make my vision a reality while still supporting my kids, and in the meantime it means continuing the slog in a career I don’t care about, and which uses up most of my time.

  11. Kat Avatar

    I’m writing a book. I’ve always wanted to, but didn’t have a plan or inspiration for it until January of this year. It’s slow-going as I find ways to fit it into my otherwise busy life, but I will do it. And today, I will make space to write 750 words in a row.

  12. Kari Avatar

    I had to dig deep in to the past, and in to things I have never discussed with anyone to complete the assignment. It was uncomfortable but had to be done. Thank you.

  13. Mads Phikamphon Avatar

    Done. Writing 886 words in free writing made my vision a bit more structured, so it will be easier for me to spread my message.

    (I’m also a minimalist, my vision is to help other people think out of the box and become minimalists too)

    PS: Excellent idea with these homework assignments.

  14. George D Avatar
    George D

    This was a hard one, and I didn’t get as far as 750 words; perhaps half that. I did however clarify my goals a little: to work towards being the best in my field (public health and tropical communicable diseases). With that a little clearer, what’s required is also more obvious. It’s going to take a lot of work over a lot of time, but I’m fine with that. It’s what I want.

  15. Dennis Avatar

    Nice! In fact I am halfway inside a project (master thesis for school) and this writing got me motivated again, getting back in touch why I feel the project is important to me.
    Thanks for the inspiration!

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