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.
Spurred by an impending deadline for a column, New York Times assignment editor and reporter Korkki turned her difficulty writing the piece into the subject of this book. In it, she asks why so many creative people stall out. Moreover, how do the ones who make it keep their drive? Korkki sets out to help people approach their long-term projects with an eye toward actually getting the work done. These projects can be traditionally creative (books, paintings) or organizational (start-ups, charities). In any case, making progress on them requires tuning out the distractions of everyday life, committing wholeheartedly, and doing what one loves out of love, not for wealth and fame. In order to get to work on one's "big thing" and keep working, she recommends breathing and relaxation, concentration even through illness, taking necessary breaks, managing day jobs while working, and maintaining relationships with loved ones. More of a meditation than a prescriptive lesson, this is a helpful if not particularly fresh guide to getting one's heart's project moving.