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About Damn Time
Writing inspiration from Lizzo and Emily Dickinson. Also when to write, to take breaks and to drink coffee - link roundup for the month.
I was recently asked what song I’d like played as I walked on stage to deliver a talk. After much overthinking, I chose Lizzo’s ‘About Damn Time’ - it was, after all, a talk about time and productivity, but there’s more to my choice than that.
Her disco-ish funky track is a rousing call to celebrate ourselves. Written during the global Covid-19 pandemic, Lizzo was feeling down and struggling to get through the traumas and challenges life had thrown at her. She describes it as a sort of therapy saying:
“I wanted to write a song that allowed us to take a moment and celebrate our survival, and celebrate how far we've come. And I think 'About Damn Time' does just that - it does it for me honey.”
It’s gone on to do it for many others too.
If sales are anything to go by her message landed with people the world over, topping the US Hot 100 Billboard charts and gaining chart positions in 19 countries. It went on to win record of the year at the 2023 Grammy Awards.
While ‘About Damn Time’ sounds like a now or never, just do it, rallying cry for action, the story about writing the album is not one of urgency but of patience.
Like many of us, Lizzo was stuck at home in 2020 trying to write. Following the breakout success of her previous album, the expectations were high and she was under pressure to get it right.
Over three years she wrote and rewrote her fourth studio album ‘Special’. In one interview she said she’d written the album three times over, in another she admitted to writing 170 different songs. She had no idea what was working and the album was constantly changing, Lizzo shared the experience, saying:
“I thought I had it every single time. I was like, ‘This is it! This is a hit!’ My label was like, ‘Keep going.’ You can’t rush greatness.”
You can’t rush greatness
She kept going.
Those 170 songs were whittled down to the final 12, the lead single ‘About Damn Time’ stormed the US charts and reached the top three in seven other countries, the album ‘Special’ was released to rave reviews, massive sales and award nominations. Her patience delivered. Persistence led to greatness.
There’s a message in this for us all; whatever you are writing and whatever stage you’re at, don’t wait for the perfect time. It’s about damn time. Start writing. Keep writing. Then write some more. You can’t rush greatness.
Now that is something to celebrate 🎉
⏰ Time for a recap
Over the past month we’ve been exploring the theme of time - Chapter 3 of our book Written. If you’ve been too busy to read, here’s the past posts:
🔗 Timely links
➡️ Emily Dickinson’s bad bitch o’clock. Researching Lizzo and her lyrics got me thinking about Emily Dickinson’s poem ‘Forever – is composed of Nows –’. I reckon Lizzo would hard agree with Emily that “Months dissolve in further Months – And Years – exhale in Years – Without Debate – or Pause – Or Celebrated Days”. Read the poem Forever – is composed of Nows – and the lyrics to About Damn Time. Or even better watch the official video on YouTube.
➡️ Tomato tips. Celebrating another OG - this time Fancesco Cirillo the inventor of the Pomodoro Technique - a tip every writer should have to hand.
➡️ When to best drink coffee - according the the master of timing, Dan Pink over on Instagram.
➡️ Schedule your breaks! A classic tip from The Harvard Business Review.
➡️ Get unstuck. Have you read Anatomy of a Breakthrough: How to Get Unstuck When It Matters Most? This new book by Adam Alter is getting a lot of coverage. It sounds like it is right up our street! Here's some great articles from Barking Up The Wrong Tree by Eric Barker, Angela Duckworth’s Character Lab, and Range Widely by David Epstein.
➡️ Married to a writer? This should make you squirm. OK, perhaps it’s just us. New film You Hurt My Feelings explores what happens when a parter is brutally honest about your writing. Read this article from The Guardian for other married writing relationships.