Illustration of Derek Powazek by Adam Ellis

Do What You Suck At

In Merlin’s latest 43 Folders podcast, The Perfect Apostrophe, he tells the story of the book he almost wrote. You should go listen to it – Merlin’s a stitch, as always.

For the uninitiated, 43 Folders is a “Getting Things Done” blog about how to be more organized in business and life. When he and a colleague were invited to write a book about personal productivity, it was like a dream come true for Merlin. I’ll let him tell you the story about what happened next, but suffice to say, the book never happened. The productivity expert procrastinated himself out of his own book.

“The fact is, I don’t do this stuff because I’m good at it,” says Merlin of his obsession with productivity. “I do this stuff because I’m really, really shitty at it.”

First, to Merlin: Good for you. Blogging can be as self-aggrandizing as the worst rap music. It’s so refreshing to hear a personal story where the guy doesn’t get the girl (or in this case, the book) in the end. That takes guts.

But his post got me thinking. What do I do not because I’m good at it, but because I want to be good at it? And the first thing that sprung to mind was, well, what I’m doing right now. Writing.

My whole life, I’ve had two main creative outlets: Words and pictures. The pictures part has always come easily to me. Photography and design match the way I think so closely, I can’t help but arrange my world visually. Design, to me, is like breathing. It’s just something I do.

But words are hard for me. Words carry meanings that you can get wrong. Arrangements that influence how they’re perceived. Exactitude in spelling and grammar. Can you think of anything harder for someone who thinks in pictures than communicating with words?

And yet, I write. I write a lot. I’ve written and edited for newspapers, magazines, and websites. Probably the hardest thing I ever did was write Design for Community. A whole book, full of words. It took nine months.

As hard as writing is, I get far more pleasure from having done it than I get from taking a photo or designing a page. Maybe that’s because it’s harder so the payoff is greater, but I think there’s something more than that. I think it’s because I’m just not as good at it.

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Hi, I’m Derek. I used to make websites. Now I grow flowers and know things. I’m mostly harmless. More.