First line: "I've wanted to write a book since I was eleven."
New York Times writer and editor, Phyllis Korkki, has always aspired to write a book. She has a novel in progress, but with The Big Thing: How to Complete Your Creative Project Even if You're a Lazy, Self-Doubting Procrastinator Like Me, she decided to explore the world of creative projects as she completed her own--the book. The Big Thing isn't a self-help book in the traditional sense of self-help works, but it is inspiring and insightful.
Throughout the eleven chapters, she examines a wide range of "big things" from art to charities, even the idea of not having a big thing. And Korkki illustrates how there is no one set recipe for achieving this monumental goal, but there are proven guidelines that may help some to stay focused and motivated...or even know when it's time to set "the big thing" aside for awhile or permanently.
Korkki interviews various specialists and masters in areas such as physical health and mental health to enlighten herself for her end goal and to help the readers further their own. From posture and breathing to dealing with anxiety and depression, maintaining one's health is imperative. She looks at the value of sleep and, while acknowledging that there is a very small percentage of the population that can function normally on very little sleep, the vast majority need regular, structured sleep patterns for optimal health: "Nearly all the functions of the brain and body improve after sleep, and are impaired by a lack of sleep." In other words, the belief, "I'll sleep when I'm dead" only gets you to dead faster, while it impairs your ability to complete your "big thing."
Korkki also delves into the opposite end with illness--both mental and physical--and how it relates to major accomplishments. Through artist Frida Kahlo, author Laura Hillenbrand and Charles Darwin she looks at various ways successful individuals have worked with and around their illnesses. Korkki even includes a section devoted to addiction.
Fascinatingly, Korkki found that "external rewards often undermine people's intrinsic motivation." And those extrinsic motivations have been growing over the past four decades due in large part to the growing presence of advertising. While they can be powerful, "research shows that when people become more focused on them, the quality of the product declines and they are less happy."
Old and young alike, Korkki finds evidence of The Big Thing in all ages and in all shapes ans sizes. People who go after their big goal while working full time or happen upon it before their teenage years. Plus, it's never too late. She advises:
"No matter who you are and what you do, you probably have at least twenty minutes a day--and probably much more--to work on your project, and that adds up. You need to trust in the power of incrementalism."
Regardless of who you are, if you have aspirations of your own "big thing," you're likely to find valuable ideas and motivations in Phyllis Korkki's journey to her own goal. Written plainly and well-researched, The Big Thing is fascinating, thought-provoking, and eye-opening. I wanted to read this book because I have my own project and within the pages I found not only a lot to chew on (metaphorically speaking of course) but plenty to spark my own drive. She also provides a new perspective on a lot, like the idea of being lazy. It would be hard to finish this book and not feel ready to take on the world...or at least your "big thing."
Korkki advises asking yourself three main questions in relation to your creative goal:
- Do you have the talent/ability/skills to do this Big Thing, or the motivation to learn and practice them?
- Do you have the commitment and drive to work on the Big Thing at least somewhat steadily?
- Is it worth the sacrifice you will have to make, in time and money, to complete it? Maybe something else is more important.
If you have something in your life that you could answer yes to on these questions, The Big Thing may be just want you need.
The Big Thing releases today in hardcover from Harper (ISBN: 9780062384300)and as an unabridged audiobook (ISBN: 9781504735629), narrated by Sandy Rustin, from HarperCollins and Blackstone Audio.
My review today kicks off the TLC book tour for The Big Thing. Check the schedule to see how other bloggers are reacting to Korkki's insights into your big creative project.
Disclosure: I do some contractual work for one of the owners of TLC Blog Tours. My work with them does not obligate me to a specific kind of review. The reviews are still my own opinions and reflect only my thoughts on the novels. If you care to read more, you can find more information on my Disclosure page.