How to make stuff that matters to the world.
It’s a good conundrum, especially in a cluttered marketplace where everyone, everyone, everyone would like to have a sense of ownership in what they are doing. We are human beings who crave to say we are creators. We ooze this desire to create good things and worthy things and build with our hands and ignite with our spirits. So where do we begin?
The following are just a few basics that come with making stuff that actually matters to the world.
Make stuff with good intentions.
A year before More Love Letters was even born, I was working desperately to force an idea out into the world that never seemed to take flight.
There’d be spurts of progress, and people would tell me it was a great idea, but the execution wore me down. It exhausted me. It left me picking it up, putting it down, picking it up, and putting it down—like trying to haul a kayak to the starting line. (I just learned how terribly difficult it is to haul kayaks around this week.)
If I sat really still and got really quiet, I knew the issue at hand that made everything else fall off balance: the creation was for my glory. For my resume. For a boost in my career. For my ownership. I wanted to help people, sure, but I wanted to help myself even more.
Good ideas cannot operate that way. The fuel will run out. The plans will grow sour. And you’ll burn out quickly trying to build a temple for your sense of status.
Make stuff that you actually plan to take care of.
It’s common knowledge that I really dislike animals, so I must be trying to get somewhere good if I am even thinking to make this reference ahead. A puppy—if you’ve got one, then you know how much work goes into that dang four-legged creature—needs water. It needs attention. It needs to go outside. It needs walks. And you cannot abandon the puppy on one random Friday afternoon and not come back until next Thursday. That puppy will die!!! DIE, DIE, DIE!!!!
And now, you know exactly how I feel when individuals start robust projects and start blogging up a frenzy, and then they fall off the face of the planet. They never go back. They never give an update. And yet another abandoned website is floating around the internet, moaning and weeping for its creator. (You think it’s not that dramatic, but it might be that dramatic.)
You could sit with all my good, good friends, and they will tell you that we barely ever see each other (or at least not as much as we’d like). We each work ridiculous hours. And when inspiration strikes at 2:00 a.m., we stay up until 7:00 a.m. And I am the girl in Starbucks that the baristas have to check the pulse of every four hours because I often totter in wearing a man’s flannel shirt, looking like no one has ever loved me in my life. Welcome to start-up nation, baby.
But I work. Freaking. Hard. And I reap the goodness of it. And I occasionally remember what high heels look like and go out for a few drinks. It’s definitely less than it used to be, but I know the sacrifices and the sleepless nights and the insane workloads will pay off soon. No matter how turbulent, I feel this sense of something whispering on the inside: You have to stay. Stay, stay, stay in this thing you started. That’s how I eventually create something that really matters to the world. Something someone else will need.
Make stuff that other people actually need.
So the question then morphs into: How do I know what people actually need?
Simple. You show up. You listen. You look around. You get present, really present, in your surroundings. You stop thinking of the masses and start thinking of the individual. Whatever is burrowed deep in one broken soul is bound to be tethered to the hearts of many, many more.
When I have Brew Sessions, people are always clutching their heads with anxiety because they have yet to create something that catches on. It’s partly because they are busy creating things that they’ve lost passion for already, or they never found out if there was an actual need for what they thought to make. But honestly? It’s mostly because they’re no longer being present to the world around them.
More Love Letters was born out of a need that I was shocked to find existed. It was a need I never thought it could fill. But people proved me wrong again, and again, and again. I don’t do More Love Letters because of my own passion (surprise!) but because I realize it serves a deeper need than my own need for something “to own” could ever fill.
Once you’ve started on creating something, these questions should stay at the forefront (no matter what): Does the world actually need this? Is there something out there like this already? Am I actually, completely, definitely copying someone else by bringing this out into the world?
We often muddy up the process of creating something really beautiful. We complicate it. We get so stuck in wanting to create an empire before we ever lift our heads up to realize our human hands were made to fill the simplest needs.
Make stuff that fills your heart’s desire.
If I write anything that speaks to you in this whole darn blog post, let it be these final sentences: Whether you’ll admit it or not, there are dreams you’ve kept since childhood. There are things out there that make you come alive. There is a burden in your soul that feels like it’s been lit on fire, and it makes it difficult to speak, and you fumble for the words, and you ache to quench the thirst.
That’s not your heaping serving of cliché for the day. That’s just the truth. The truth, the truth, that we are often made for things so much bigger than we ever allow ourselves to have. We get small doses. We get little reminders. But, honey, honey, what could it look like if you just opened the flood gates and let the passion pour out?
Would you be yourself? Would you actually learn to like the person in the mirror with the fire in their eyes?
The burdens of your heart sit there for a reason. And out in the world exists the need that will tether you into creation of the stuff that really matters in this lifetime.
You, you, you were made to create stuff that matters to this world. Stuff that leaves people heaving and weeping and inspired and filled. You were made to create that sort of stuff. And that’s simply, simply because your heart mattered first in all of this.
Hannah Brencher is a writer, speaker, and creator pinning her passion to projects that bring the human touch back into the digital age. After spending a year writing and mailing over 400 love letters to strangers across the world, Hannah launched The World Needs More Love Letters in August 2011—a global organization fueled by volunteer “letter writers,” now in fifty states and forty-seven countries. She’s been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Oprah, Glamour, the White House Blog, and is currently a global finalist for the TED2013 Global Talent Search (watch the TED Talk). You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.