Stop Waiting to Do That Thing Which Lights You Up: These Strategies Will Help You Turn Someday Into Today
There’s a great Japanese proverb: “The day you decide to do it is your lucky day.” But how do we make the decision to actually start and complete creative things? This is the question that author and nationally acclaimed storyteller Matthew Dicks explores in his new book, Someday Is Today.
Dicks is a best-selling novelist, nationally-recognized storyteller, and award-winning elementary schoolteacher. He teaches storytelling and communications at universities, corporate workplaces, and community organizations. The practical advice Dicks shares in this book has worked for him and countless other creative people he has consulted with—whether their goal is to sing, knit, draw, write, or teach.
“You’re reading this book for a reason,” writes Dicks. “Presumably you want to change or improve some aspect of your life. It’s not rocket science. I promise. It’s not complicated, nor is it difficult. Anyone can do it. Even you.”
Wondering how you might make today the day you decide to tap your creativity and start that thing you’ve been wanting to do? Read on!
A Conversation With Matthew Dicks
Tell us about Someday Is Today and what inspired you to write it.
I wear a lot of hats: Author. Elementary school teacher. Storyteller. Consultant. Speaking coach. Minister. Wedding DJ. Not to mention father, cat owner, husband, poker player, and mediocre golfer.
I do a lot of things. As a result, the question that I am asked most frequently is, “How do you do all the things that you do?” This book seeks to answer that question.
I have spent much of my life devising strategies that have allowed me to make my dreams come true while still finding plenty of time to be a normal human being, with plenty of time for friends, family, Netflix, and laundry.
Lots of people dream of doing something great someday – writing a book, building a business, making art, traveling the world, changing the fortunes of those less fortunate – but most people die having never fulfilled their dreams.
It’s an ongoing tragedy for so many people who believe that there is an endless supply of “somedays”. This book seeks to end the tragedy of someday by helping people turn someday into today.
How important is hope when it comes to the realization of our creative dreams?
Hope is critical to the success of the creator. Hopelessness leads to apathy and inaction. Unless you believe that today can be brighter and better than yesterday, there is little reason to move forward with purpose and no reason to be enthusiastic about the possibilities of the day and the future. Knowing and believing that things can get better, progress is possible, and dreams can come true is essential to anyone dreaming of doing anything worthwhile.
You say in the book that “someday” might be your least favorite word in the English dictionary. Why is that?
“Someday” is an insidious word that allows people to put off their dreams to another day. The problem is that our supply of somedays is finite, but by the time most people recognize this, it’s too late.
What is the One-Hundred-Year-Old Plan and how can it help us live without fear of regret?
The problem with decision-making is that, so often, we make decisions about how we spend our time and effort based upon the next hour, the next day, the next week, the next month, and even the next year. This may feel good in the moment, but if we extend our view across a lifetime, we discover that making decisions based upon short-term wants and needs often leads to a life filled with unfulfilled dreams and endless regret.
The One-Hundred-Year-Old Plan asks you to look to the future when making a decision about how to spend your time and effort. Rather than relying on the version of yourself existing in the moment, look ahead to the one-hundred-year-old version of yourself—the version who is looking back upon your life and judging the way you’ve spent your time—and ask that version of yourself how they would like you to spend the next hour. That version of yourself knows that friends and family come before Netflix. Working towards your dreams is more important than time spent on social media or videogames.
It's hard to make decisions based upon the here and the now. But when we ask our future self what we want from our current self, answers are often much more obvious and decisions are better made.
You have written eleven books and published eight over the past twelve years. What is the most important piece of advice you have to offer aspiring writers?
It’s obvious and annoying, but “ass in seat” is the secret to any writer’s success. Just like a basketball player stands at the foul line and shoots ball after ball until the free throw becomes nearly automatic, the writer must sit their ass down and write word after word until the construction of sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and ultimately books becomes something they can do with a certain level of expertise.
Even if writing is a thank you note, a letter to the editor, a poem, or an angry screed about the last night’s trout soufflé, it’s all about applying words to a page until those words sing.
It’s work. Not hard labor, but hard enough.
Please talk about the importance of maximizing task efficiency and give us a few examples of how you do this in your own life.
Our lives are filled with things that we need to do but don’t want to do. In order to ensure that our lives are filled with the things that matter, we must minimize the things that are required but undesirable. The goal when completing these necessary tasks should be to find the quickest way of completing this goal and never waver from this method.
This can be as simple as minimizing the amount of time you spend commuting to work by including proximity to home as a factor when choosing employment. It means minimizing the number of trips you make to the grocery store by settling on one grocery store instead of attaining marginal improvements in quality at the expense of time. It means timing yourself on tasks that you complete regularly, seeking the fastest means by which you can complete the task. For me, this meant identifying the fastest way to empty a dishwasher, fold laundry, make dinner.
It may seem somewhat insane to turn emptying a dishwasher into an Olympic sport, but if I can save two minutes every time I empty that dishwasher, and I empty it nearly every morning, that means I’ve saved myself more than 12 hours—or half a day—of chores over the course of a year.
I can do a lot with 12 hours.
You say that “Curiosity Kills Productivity” and encourage your readers to “Cultivate Deliberate Incuriosity.” Please tell us more.
Time is our most valuable commodity, so in order to preserve our time and our bandwidth, we must ensure that we are focusing our attention on the things we can control and ignoring anything that we cannot change or influence in any way. We must learn to be incurious about that which does not advance our cause.
For example, I don’t read sales statements from my foreign publishers because the number of books that I have sold in South Korea is meaningless to me. I have absolutely no control over the sales of my books half a world away in a country where I don’t speak the language, so I choose to be incurious about that data.
While some might argue that the number of books sold in a foreign country would be interesting to know, I have sentences to write, businesses to build, children to wrestle, and a wife to kiss. These are my priorities. Every minute I spend examining a meaningless sales statement keeps me from the things that matter most, so when it ultimately means nothing, I refuse to allow curiosity to steal my time.
What advice do you have to offer those whose inner perfectionist is preventing them from starting a creative project?
Understand that creative people make terrible things all the time. In order to do something good or even great, you must make mistakes. You must produce poor results. You must accept the fact that every single person on this planet who has ever made something great has also made many, many bad things. Perfection almost always equates to inaction.
You encourage your readers to preserve their compliments. Tell us more about this.
The world is filled with negativity. As a creator of things and a builder of dreams, naysayers are waiting for you around every corner. Tragically, the human mind is built to remember the negative more than the positive, which was fine when we needed to remember which berry was poisonous and which river contains the crocodile that ate your uncle Fred. But in a world where existential threats have been eliminated, we would be better off remembering the positive comments offered to us.
This is not, however, how we are wired.
That’s why I encourage people to preserve the compliments offered to us in a variety of ways, so that the positive words offered to us are not forgotten and are available to us when we need a pick-me-up. Science tells us that we need to hear six positive statements to counteract the effects of one negative statement. Most of us do not live in a world of that 6:1 ratio, so we must manufacture it for ourselves by holding onto the words that fill our souls.
Matthew Dicks is the author of Someday Is Today and nine other books. A bestselling novelist, nationally recognized storyteller, and award-winning elementary schoolteacher, he teaches storytelling and communications at universities, corporate workplaces, and community organizations. Dicks has won multiple Moth GrandSLAM story competitions and, together with his wife, created the organization Speak Up to help others share their stories. They also cohost the Speak Up Storytelling podcast. He lives in Connecticut with his family. Visit him online at MatthewDicks.com.
In addition to being a Senior Publicist at the book publisher New World Library, Kim ‘Skipper' Corbin has been the world’s most vocal advocate for the body, mind, spirit benefits of adult skipping since 1999. Her skipping efforts have been featured in USA Today, Time, People, and Newsweek Magazines. Visit her online at http://www.iskip.com