A New York Times business journalist explains why it’s important for people to pursue big creative projects, and identifies both the obstacles and the productive habits that emerge on the path to completion—including her own experience writing this book.
Whether it’s the Great American Novel or a groundbreaking new app, many people want to create a Big Thing, but finding the motivation to get started, let alone complete the work, can be daunting. In The Big Thing, New York Times business writer and editor Phyllis Korkki combines real-life stories, science, and insights from her own experience to illuminate the factors that drive people to complete big creative projects—and the obstacles that threaten to derail success.
In the course of creating her own Big Thing—this book—Korkki explores the individual and collaborative projects of others: from memoirs, art installations, and musical works to theater productions, small businesses, and charities. She identifies the main aspects of a Big Thing, including meaningful goals, focus and effort, the difficulties posed by the demands of everyday life, and the high risk of failure and disappointment. Korkki also breaks down components of the creative process and the characteristics that define it, and offers her thoughts on avoiding procrastination, staying motivated, scheduling a routine, and overcoming self-doubt and the restrictions of a day job. Filled with inspiring stories, practical advice, and a refreshing dose of honesty, The Big Thing doesn’t minimize the negative side of such pursuits—including the fact that big projects are hard to complete and raise difficult questions about one’s self-worth.
Inspiring, wise, humorous, and good-natured, The Big Thing is a meditation on the importance of self-expression and purpose.
Crafted from both a philosophical and scientific approach of deconstructing and then reconstructing the common motivations and creative seeds behind The Big Thing projects we aim to complete in our lives. While I found this book extremely interesting from a analytical approach, I must confess that the author’s step-by-step process on how she completed this book (her Big Thing) was a tad bit distracting.
Instead of just a creative, self-help vibe, at times it felt like the author’s self-reflection dominated in certain areas of the book. However, Korkki does successfully raise several constructive questions that Big Thing dreamers seeking a starting point should ask themselves, such as:
1) Is your Big Thing something that truely means so much to you that you can’t see yourself not doing it?
2) Are you willing to put in the time, patience and perhaps money it will take to finish your Big Thing?
3) What are you hoping to get out of this Big Thing once it’s finished?
Moreover, she points out several superficial reasons (or artifices) that drive a lot of people to attempt to create a Big Thing, and how these damaging aspirations–to solely gain wealth, fame, recognition–will ultimately backfire, with negative effects on the individual and their Big Thing project. And while I did not agree with all of Korkki’s assessments, there were quite a few I found to be extremely important. Like:
1) Anchoring your Big Thing with deadlines, or personal mile markers, you set yourself as a way to keep you on track.
As Korkki explains she did for this book.
2) Enjoying the process and have fun. The journey to complete your Big Thing is one that once taken, will forever stay with you.
I remember the journey I took to complete my first feature screenplay. I learned so much about myself, the craft and my characters. As unfamiliar and intimidating as the entire process was, I loved every minute of it and I cannot wait to do it all over again.
3) Taking the time to mentally and physically prepare yourself for the project and know how much can do when and where depending on what stage you are at in your life.
I plan to work on a few book series project, but I know that I am not at stage in my life to tackle it or properly devote enough time to it as writing a book would be new territory for me.
4) Remember that there are no age caps or starting points for a person to begin working on their Big Thing, just as long as you do it.
Overall, I was able to take away from this book a new way of assessing my Big Thing projects and how I should go about them in the future. Happy to say that this book will have a long book shelf life for anyone who needs sparks of inspiration or guidance when it comes to creative road blocks. Additionally, I found this book to be authentically honest about what it takes to fully devote yourself to large projects, how it’s okay if some of us just aren’t built to follow through with our Big Things and the feeling of euphoria gained once we reach the other side of that seemingly peak-less mountain of our Big Thing.
So, what about you? Do you have a Big Thing you’ve always wanted to tackle?
About The Author:
Phyllis Korkki is an assignment editor and reporter for the New York Times Sunday Business section.
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As always, thanks so much for reading.
Until the next post,