We tend to picture the world’s great thinkers and artists toiling alone in laboratories and garrets, waiting for a spark of divine inspiration. But great ideas are not hatched in a vacuum. Mozart didn’t construct entire symphonies alone at the piano. Einstein’s theory of relativity was dependent on the work of friends and colleagues.
Best-selling author Jeff Goins debunks this lone genius mythology by reminding us that innovation is derived from thoughtful collaboration alongside an ecology of talent he dubs, “tribes” — the “unique group of fans, friends, and followers who resonate with your worldview.”
We recently chatted with Jeff about advice on writing and building your tribe. Jeff is is a full-time writer who lives just outside of Nashville, Tennessee, with his wife, son, and a border collie. He is the author of four books, including the national best-seller The Art of Work. His website, Goinswriter.com, has been visited by more than four million people from all over the world.
How did you make the leap and find success as an author?
I didn’t make the leap. I built a bridge. There are no big breaks, only tiny drips of effort that lead to waves of momentum. Success takes time.
What is the best advice you can provide a writer when they first start out?
Write every day. Take your time. Don’t quit. You’ll get there eventually.
What’s your process for taking an early idea and evolving it into something more?
I follow what I call the “3-bucket system.” Writing isn’t one thing. It’s three things: ideating, drafting, and editing. I break those activities into three separate actions. All throughout the day, I capture ideas using an app called Drafts that syncs with Evernote. That’s the first bucket: ideas. I have a whole folder full of them for when I’m feeling dry in the creativity department
Then, when it’s writing time (usually morning), I’ll pull an idea out from that first bucket and start writing, usually around 500 words in one session. This process makes it easier to just start writing without having to think about what I’m going to write, because I already have a prompt. Once I’ve written about 500 words on the piece, I save it as a draft in Scrivener (if I’m working on a book) or in Byword (if it’s a blog post). This is the second bucket: drafts. I have a whole bunch of half-finished chapters and blog posts on my computer begging to be edited and completed.
Finally, I will pull out one of those half-completed drafts and edit it. I’ll polish up the flow and sentence structure and of course check for grammar and spelling. At this point, the piece isn’t perfect but it’s at least 90% done. I’ll either schedule it for a blog post or tuck it away in another folder called “Finished pieces.” This is the third bucket: edits. These are works that are more or less ready for the world to see. The next step is to share them with an editor or publisher or post to my blog.