Habits | Philosophy | Writing

The Cumulative Force

Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another, you have only an extemporaneous, half possession. That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him. No man yet knows what it is, nor can, till that person has exhibited it.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

Re-reading Self-Reliance is always a pep talk with the Master. Sometimes I wonder at (and have written before about) the conversations Emerson and Thoreau must have had taking a walk about Concord, Massachusetts back in the day. Emerson, a dozen years older than Thoreau, might have offered more insight early on, but Thoreau measured up over time, diving deep into Transcendentalism and immersion in Nature (with a capital N). Thoreau was undoubtedly influenced by Emerson, and Emerson by Thoreau, yet each brought their own gift to the world.

I’ve wondered at the writing lately. The content is a collection of many topics jumbled together, and much of that is by design. The scattered thoughts of one person marching through time. I’ve debated a shift to a once a week newsletter, which inherently would be more refined, more substantial and less clutter in the inbox of those who follow. But changing to a weekly post would change my habit loop in ways I wish to avoid. No, I subscribe to the Seth Godin school of daily blogging.

So what then? Narrowing the focus to specific topics? Specializing for the pursuit of 1000 true fans? Instead of the trivial many blog posts, focus on the vital few, as Joseph M. Juran would say? If I were to monetize this site, I’d surely do that. But the goal of Alexandersmap is to seek adventure, to understand the place I find myself in (both physically and mentally) and write about it. And so it will continue as it always has been. The rest of the writing necessarily will evolve into a more focused pursuit of those vital few. But there’s something to be said for habit loops and cadence and Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours theory. Just write, often, on a diversity of topics, and the process will necessarily change you and improve the writing.

And so here we are, one day at a time, building the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation, and seeing where it takes me. Is it a talent to write every day? Or accumulated skill? It would be brash to declare the former, and modest the latter. There’s a mix in there somewhere, but I do believe in sweat equity and making the most of the time we’re given. I’m a writer as long as I’m writing. There are plenty in this world doing the same. Whether the writing is that which I can do best? That will have to sort itself out. But I’m better for cultivating it.

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