Invite the awful – The 200 words project

When Louis C.K. first attempted comedy, he was, like most new comedians, terrible. But, thanks to an early burst of effort, he created an hour of reasonable material that helped him become a professional.

But, it was here that he stalled – for fifteen years… until he heard an interview with legendary comedian George Carlin. Carlin said his method was to record one comedy special each year. The day after he was done recording, he’d throw out his old material and start over.

C.K. was incredulous. It had taken him 15 years to build his current hour worth of material. But, he soon realized something – Carlin’s sets got better each year. Writing material from scratch was a brutally effective form of deliberate practice. It is that process that makes you a better comedian and C. K. had been avoiding it.

Feeling desperate, he adopted Carlin’s strategy, threw out his material and started afresh – a process which he latter dubbed – “invite the awful.”

The results were astounding. Within four years of applying “invite the awful,” Comedy Central named him one of the 100 funniest stand-ups of all time.

This is a lesson I need to remind myself of on a regular basis. Getting started on the path to craftsmanship is hard. But it’s equally important (and hard) that you keep inviting the awful by pushing yourself to new places and new levels of ability. If it’s easy to do, you’re not getting better. – Cal Newport

Source and thanks to: Cal Newport’s blog