The Eighty Percent Solution

Steve Barnhill had a typewriter collection. This one is behind bars. Tidy metaphor, hmm?

Steve Barnhill had a typewriter collection. This one is behind bars. Tidy metaphor, hmm?

Ok, stick with me for a minute. 

  1. I, minutes ago, restrained myself from tweeting "I think writing is actually more terrifying than acting. WHY DO I KEEP DOING THIS TO MYSELF?" And then I adulted, and I realized that the blog post I have been mulling over in my head for you is exactly the blog post I need to read. Right now.
  2. Background 1: I am currently working on two projects that are kicking my butt. 
  3. Background 2: I am currently reading Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson, and I think her style may creep into this blog post because I AM LOVING THIS BOOK.
  4. Background 3: I was telling my husband about Furiously Happy, and it went like this. Me: "I am reading this book about this woman with mental illness--" and he immediately broke in "You do not have mental illness." Because he knows me. And if I read something, I assume I have it. That is neither here nor there, but it's the kind of honesty that good acting and writing requires...and THAT IS WHY IT IS SO TERRIFYING.

OK. Now for the solution.

From Middle Finger to Master Class

My first copy job was hard won. I was ready to give a big middle finger to the entire advertising industry. I made a list of all the jobs I'd ever considered doing and started conducting interviews with people in those professions to see if I wanted to do them. I got a couple of offers and realized I wasn't ready to give up on advertising - if I was a copywriter. I'd always wanted to be a 'creative', and I'd never been ballsy enough to insist on it. 

I pulled together a portfolio and went on interviews. I volunteered at the Addy's so I could network. I met a woman dancing at the after party who ended up working at an agency and making sure my future boss saw my portfolio. Long story longer - he saw it, he brought me in, he took a chance on me. And he ended up being my master class in copywriting. 

Calling All Perfectionists

There's a million different things Steve Barnhill taught me, and I'm sure I'll share more in time, but for now - the 80% rule.

He recognized that I was a perfectionist. And that the quality that could lead to really excellent work could also stall it before it ever got started. So this is what he told me:

Concentrate on getting it 80% there.
— Steve Barnhill

You might have read this far and be thinking, that's it? That's it. And it's changed my life. When I start to shut down, to get so frustrated with my own inability to do what needs to be done (you know, absolutely perfectly on the first try), the 80% rule gets me out of my own way. 

It helps me let go enough to get started. 

And often, that's enough.



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