(Never) Save It for Later
Here’s a simple, powerful tip for blogging, creating, storytelling, or whatever your art form may be:
Always share the best work you currently have. Never save it for later.
Earlier this year at SXSW I told a story about driving home late at night ten years ago and coming across a set of train tracks. It was a good story that I could have used for a few different purposes, and I wanted to save it for another talk happening two months later.
I couldn’t think of a better one that would work as well … so I told the story. Then I had the problem of needing a different story for the other talk, but that was a future problem—plenty of time to figure it out.
For my blog, I have several posts that are stored up for times when I get busy and aren’t sure what to publish on a particular day. These posts aren’t especially amazing, but they’ll do in a pinch. (The overriding rule is: NEVER break the schedule … the schedule is your friend.)
Once in a while I write something that I think is actually decent, such as this, this, or this. If I don’t need the post right away, I’m tempted to put it in the “desperate times, desperate measures” file, and sometimes I do for a while … but then I go back and think, what am I waiting for? If this thing is good—meaning that it has the potential to be valuable to someone—why save it?
The fun thing about creativity: the more you use, the more you get.
When trying to decide whether to use it or save it … use it.
When you’re trying to figure out what to share next … share the best thing you have.
Your best may not always be amazing or incredible … but whatever it is, use it.
Then move on and do it again.
Great advice. I do find it true that the more you use your writing and creative talents, the more you get. When I write regularly I am always thinking of things to write or talk about. In contrast, ideas are much scarcer during those times when I am floating through life.
It’s great advice to keep in mind when dealing with life in general. What’s your best idea for today? How can you live life fully today? If not one will live by default and living by default isn’t the key to happiness.
Excellent unsight. It’s a sense of generosity and giving that could apply to many aspects of one’s life, beyond art and writing.
Interesting point. I think you’re right, though – not everything we publish (or share, or do, etc) is going to be epically brilliant. It’d be cool if it was, but sometimes it takes a few mediocre attempts to get to that place of greatness.
For me, at least, there have been a few times when posting blog posts that I wasn’t super excited about have led me to uncover other topics or pick up on other reader interests that have allowed me to publish better work. If I hadn’t taken even those small steps forward, I never would have made it to that end result.
Thanks for sharing!
It never fails to happen… every time I write a blog post or newsletter article that falls into the “good enough for now” category – someone comments with something along the lines of: “Thank you, thank you, that was EXACTLY what I needed to hear today!”
I believe Ze Frank called these ideas not executed brain crack.
Don’t just think about it – do it!
You’re right, Chris. The schedule is your friend and you never know how something you write will strike people.
Thanks to your advice, I’ve been publishing on schedule. Sometimes they feel really good. Sometimes they just seem to fill space. It’s not unusual to get more compliments from the “space fillers” than from the “good ones.”
I’ve noticed the same thing as a speaker. When I think I hit a home run, there are very few compliments. When I think I struck out, people come to me saying, “That was just what I needed to hear.”
You just never know.
I’m just starting a website, and I sometimes find myself thinking, “I’ll save my best stuff for when I actually have a bunch of readers.”
…of course, if I don’t publish my best stuff now, how will I ever GET readers?! :-p
Thanks for the advice.
Your post couldn’t have come a better time! I was just looking at my “post ideas” folder and realized that it was difficult to remember what I had wanted to convey at the time the inspiration originally struck. Instead of “saving” the idea for later, I would have been better served to have fleshed out the idea right then and there. Thanks for the reminder, Chris!
Great point. Why do we treat creativity and innovation as if it is a finite quantity?! There’s more where that came from is a much better, and more accurate, attitude.
perfectly timed encouragement, Chris!
I’ll be using a sort-of inside out approach to putting this to practice. I haven’t been honoring my schedule because I’ve been holding back what I want to say for fear it’s not profound enough. Profound? Really?!?
Surely what I want to say is at least my best right now, right?
Getting the words out for people to read on a regular basis is an important and critical part of the practice of being heard.
The best I’ve got right now is the best I’ve got right now.
…and I’ve got to keep putting it out there regularly.
Thanks for this!
I am dealing with this right now. I have a lot of great posts marked “maybe later.” The problem is that *later* never feels like the right time, and I always wish I would have just posted. This is usually because the post always honors the point at which it was written. Once that time has passed, it rarely feels like the best thing to post.
Thanks for the reminder!
I am doing this very thing at this moment. Why am I saving all these photos and blog posts!? I guess there is always an excuse, especially when your travelling.
This is such an encouraging post and definitely food for thought. Thank you.
3 reasons to start:
The psychological impact of an unmade decision is huge. It clouds my memory (“Did I do that yet?”), it spreads my focus, (“I know she’s talking about X, but I think we should be talking about Y”), and it stresses my memory (“I have so many things to think of already, how can I add any more?”).
The sociological impacts are significant as well. Not making a decision can:
– Force other people to put off THEIR decisions, waiting for me to make mine.
– Create ambiguity on team-worked projects, spreading a virus of, “I-think-someone-is-doing-something.”
– Foster mistrust (and this is huge). When I do NOT make a decision, the person who NEEDS that information must then spend precious time and “thinking power” figuring out how to “ring the bell.”
(Right now I’m thinking of HOW many conversations I have had with Jodi over dinner about how to bring something up next week with someone I’m waiting for…)
And, finally, the technological drain of an UNmade decision is thick. I know I’ve spent way too much time scrolling through email, re-writing to-do lists and re-reviewing the same action list written on the white board every day.
There’s a saying when you’re playing cards, ‘Beat the Falling Card’ which basically means always play your best card even if it seems that the player coming after you may have a better one and take the whole suit!
I have found that so many times I try to hold on to that ‘great idea’ for a rainy day and then (for whatever reason) I don’t get to use it — or by the time I use it, it’s obsolete! This post was a great reminder for me to ‘play my best hand’ now… without delay!
I especially like the thought that creativity breeds more creativity. So true!
Thank you for sharing this great piece of thought, Chris
In recent days I’ve got reminded over and over, how limited our time is…
As Steve Jobs said:
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice, heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
We are here on earth to share…let us remember, that there will may just ONE person’s life we touch, with what we share, while showing, that we care.
I find when I don’t post things right away, they lose their potency. If I don’t write them right away, I lose the details/desire to post the concept at all.
Chris – one of my sixth grade students told me today that he wants to visit every country in the world. I thought of you immediately, and told him that if he really pursues this goal, he can do it someday.
Thanks for the inspiration!
I am finding this to be the case with me as well. For me writing is like oxygen, I have to have it in my life. And now that I am blogging on a regular basis, I thought I would be writing some posts to “stick in the freezer like a casserole” for when I can’t get to my blog. But I have found so far that I haven’t been willing to do this. When I write something I am writing it for a reason and I gotta publish it as soon as it’s written.
A friend and I had just a conversation about storing blog posts for later (I’m not against it, it just isn’t working for me yet), so your blog post was “exactly what I needed to read today”.
Arthur Ashe said “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can” … I have that quote on my wall to remind my start-when-you’re-perfect ego that it’s wrong!
Great post Chris, as always! Thanks.
I just finished deciding on which post I am going to put up tomorrow and had this entire conversation with myself. “I shouldn’t use this one, I’ll wait until I have more readers, when I need my best stuff.”
Your advice is correct, using the good stuff now is a self imposed challenge to continue creating good (better) stuff.
Thanks for the kick in the butt!
I was ignoring all these beautiful lines of writing that would come to me late into the night or early morning. I believed I would remember these flashes of brilliance but they had vanished by the time the sun rose in the sky. They got louder and so now I listen and keep a handy journal by my bed…Thanks for reminding me to keep the creative love flowing
The creative muse is very elusive at times yet so available most of the time. I guess it all boils down to one thing: one must decide whether creativity will be a regular part of one’s life. That done, the muse will certainly come and one will not run out of blog posts.
To piggyback on this – often I have the basic idea, but I only fully explore it when I’m putting it into words. (I do my best thinking “out loud.”) And likely as not, as I fully explore it, another idea will spark.
For example, just the other day I was writing a blog post and realized I’d been given two pieces of information that didn’t make sense together. This was a major realization for me. I learned the first piece of info in February 2009 and the second in March 2009… and only now am I noticing how badly they clash. And once I finished my blog post, I had to write another one to capture this epiphany.
So for me: thought begets thought, ideas beget ideas, and the more you use your thoughts and ideas, the more you’ve got.
Really love this post, Chris. I couldn’t agree more that today is the day and now is the time. Great ideas need the opportunity to spread, and it is somewhat selfish of us to save them for the day we deem to be ‘the time.’
I once read another post on a similar topic – can’t remember where – that talked about the things we buy in anticipation of an ambiguous later date. The package of undershirts in the closet, a new pair of shoes still in the box, a special stack of notebooks for when we finally write that book.
But in all reality, that day, having not been named, may never come. So why not make the most of today and enjoy the things we have and the ideas we create. There is always more where that came from, just as you say.
As always, thanks for a thought-provoking post!
I have titles of posts that I’ve saved as emergencies, but never actually written them in full. Then time goes by and they no longer spark the same interest.
Yet another great post to what I deem at the moment as my favorite blog!
You always seem to nail something I am thinking or is in line with whats happening in my life. Now that my blog community is growing, I tend not to hold back much. If I feel something is worthy I will write about it. If not I’ll begin to write it and come back to it.
much like you last three pointers my current motto is : “stop thinking and start doing” its been working out so far !
Keep inspiring !
– I Heart Travel –
Never save the best till later.
When we fall in/love we don’t save our best love for later. An athlete doesn’t run slower in practice in order to run faster in the Games. Withholding energy is mean-spirited and smacks of disdain for our ‘audience’ who always deserve the best available because the best begets the best and that’s how we get better!
Chris, I always use my Dubrovnik dilema story for the never save it for later. I once had the opportunity to take a ferry to pre-bombed Dubrovnik (fmr Yugoslavia) and “saved it for later.” As a result, Dubrovnik was later bombed- the direct ferries stopped running there and though restored, it will never ever be the same place again. I lost out on experiencing old Dubrovnik, even though it was literally at my finger tips- never again am I saving the best for later- do it, say it, be it now, for tomorrow you or it may be gone. Keeping Changinging the World, Chris!
This is so true. It’s really tempting to save your best for another day – or even hang onto something while you wait until it’s “perfect” before you reveal it to the world.
Funny I was reflecting on the same topic no more than last week, for my blog.
I agree with you as a general rule, but not always.
Like when you prepare a tiramisu, it is already so yummy as soon as you mix the ingredients, but taste much better after you put it in the fridge for few hours, the same apply to me with writings.
I like to sleep on it at least a night when I think I’ve finished writing something. But for some topics I prefer weeks, since I feel I am still missing a piece or two, or I just need more time to let things blending better.
When I worked for an outdoor adventure company, in which I lead high school kids in the backcountry for several weeks at a time, I coached my students to “Always eat your best food. That way, you’re always eating your best.” This is true with creativity. If you always use the best material you have, instead of choosing the second best and saving the other for later, you’re performing at your highest level. This feeds into my philosophy about “enough”. Not having “enough” is a myth perpetuated by fear and advertising. If we tell ourselves that we do have “enough”, then we will.
I am the worst about this with product ideas. I’ve learned that when the idea is hot, go with it!
Top advice Chris, and one I’ve struggled with from blogging to sport. The thought: save your best for when it matters. But it always matter and your best can get better if you don’t keep it in but let it out and begin perfecting it. What we consider our best is always less than the reality because thought unexplores, activity instigates. It’s only ever the start of things…..
I keep some posts as drafts and wait for the right time to publish them. Those posts are always of two kinds, one that waits for the right occasion and time… for example, winter vacations or Halloween etc. Can’t publish them in summer.
But the other type of posts that wait for me in the drafts section are the one’s that i save for later, usually for a better visibility. Though, i always publish them when ever i see an opportunity… any link from a big blogger or social sites… i publish the best content the next day or for the next few days…
You used your best story for a good occasion, and you had more time to figure out something for the next one… that can’t be a bad choice.
PS. Please share the story, driving late and train tracks… sounds good.
Creativity is just like a muscle. The more you use it the strong it gets. I know that when I’m consistently cranking out content for our blog and other resources in a focused way, my creativity progressively increases. Helpful stories and other great ideas will pop into my mind out of nowhere to add to the project at hand. Gotta capture all that stuff when it happens, otherwise it might be gone forever.
I feel like I’m taking a class on how to build a blogging business that helps people as I go through these archives. Thank you for posting such practical clear thoughts. I am learning a lot and trying to apply it right way.
Love your approach to creativity. Totally agree!
I used to think that I would run out of things to write about.
It really nagged at me. A dark cloud of doubt or ominous overhead barrier.
Then it dawned on me…..
I never run out of things to think about. I don’t and can’t stop having thoughts. (genius, I know!)
But really, if I can’t stop having thoughts, I always have something to write about.
Back to a sun shinny day!
Ahhhh, thank you for sharing! This is simple, but definitely very useful. I fall into the “save it for later” trap too often!
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