Much as I read, it’s rare I feel compelled to contact the author. But Phyllis Korkki’s voice with its flecks of sparkling wit and wisdom wasn’t one I was ready to end the conversation with. So, I emailed her. Thankfully she was gracious enough to answer a few lingering questions about her book The Big Thing: How to Complete Your Creative Project Even If You’re a Lazy, Self-Doubting Procrastinator Like Me.
Korkki is an assignment editor and journalist for the New York Times Sunday Business section. Yet even in a deadline-driven, structured job, she explains in real time as she pens the book how difficult maintaining discipline and passion through the process of accomplishing “Big Things” is. We all have a Big Thing, don’t we? Something we dream of creating. Something that transcends us. Something to leave as a sort of legacy. For Korkki it was finishing her book. For others, it’s launching a new business or building their dream house. We all have dreams, aspirations, things we wish for . . . someday.
But unless we pull ourselves together and take actionable steps, someday will never come. The book, which is part memoir, part case study, part scientific exploration, and wholly amusing, serves as a practical and inspirational guide to navigating the long arc of turning creative ideas into reality. She’s a sympathetic companion, Korkki, admitting her own insecurities and counterproductive proclivities along the way. But more than that, she equips readers with the tools for avoiding those pitfalls.
Korkki touches on the motivating factor of faith in the book by including a story of a Muslim woman whose Big Thing involved completing her hajj and using that experience to inspire her in accomplishing other Big Things. The prompts and disciplines shared are just as applicable to pursuits of faith as to projects. For Christians, let’s not lose sight of how practicing creativity reflects God’s very nature. Maybe your Big Thing is the divine purpose for your life.
From the insight of a posture therapist, a morning phone call from a cattle barn across the country, debunking of excuses, or just a simple reminder that you’re not alone, there is certainly something you can take away from Korkki’s story. In the meantime, she had a few insights to share with me.
M: Your Big Thing was writing this book. Having completed it, do you feel a sense of satisfaction, or is there another Big Thing you're working toward now?
K: I do have a sense of satisfaction from having written the book. It was one of the major goals of my life, and I accomplished it! For a while I didn't think that would ever happen.
That said, there IS another Big Thing I am working on. It's one of the novels I wrote for National Novel Writing Month more than 10 years ago. I am in the process of revising it, and my goal is to have it ready for my literary agent by the end of the year.
M: What was the most surprising or perhaps thought-provoking thing you learned during the process of writing the book?
K: One of the most surprising, and yet most simple, things that I learned is that getting started is truly the hardest part of working on a Big Thing. And you need to start day after day after day, without regard for what you'd rather be doing or the quality of work that you produce. That really is the secret. All that work adds up over time, if only you just START.
M: The subtitle, "How to Complete Your Creative Project Even If You're a Lazy, Self-Doubting Procrastinator Like Me," highlights three of the most difficult obstacles to completing creative work. Out of laziness, self-doubt, and procrastination, would you say one is more detrimental to Big Things or more difficult to overcome than the others?
K: The most detrimental one is definitely self-doubt, because it feeds into the other two. We are lazy (or call ourselves lazy) and procrastinate because we doubt or own abilities, and this can lead to creative paralysis. We need to accept that our project will not be perfect and enjoy the experience of working on it for its own sake. With that attitude, there is no need for self-doubt.
Whatever your Big Thing is, wherever you are in the process (or leading up to the process) of manifesting it, here’s wishing you inspiration, and even more so, the grit to follow through.
Learn more and Phyllis Korkki and her work here.
Korkki, Phyllis. The Big Thing: How to Complete Your Creative Project Even If You’re a Lazy, Self-Doubting Procrastinator Like Me. New York: HarperCollins, 2016.