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The Importance of Being Small

CJ Chilvers
CJ Chilvers
2 min read

I've received hundreds of suggestions about how to grow my list (my primary publishing outlet).

Dozens of people approach me about doing podcasts on everything from music to photography to self-help, so I can boost my "visibility" to the creative community.

A few online course creators promise sure-fire ways to turn my books into six-figure classes.


I don’t want massive growth of my list. My stuff isn’t for everyone and that’s fine. In fact, it’s by design. It would be boring if everyone liked it. I couldn’t afford the maintenance of a big, disinterested list. I like to greet everyone who joins my list personally and hold actual conversations with them. If I can keep doing that, it’s a success.

I've talked seriously with networks and hosts about creating podcasts, but popularity on the podcast circuit doesn’t much interest me either. It seems exhausting. I started recording a new podcast two months ago. I hated the way it turned out and scrapped it. I may resurrect it in a different form, but not for money, popularity, or "visibility." Success for me in podcasting would be meeting interesting people and learning new things. If a podcast doesn't get me closer to that goal, why bother?

As for courses…well, very few are done well. And the ones that are done well involve a level of work and attention that would be horrible for my health. A third full time job would kill me right now. I do have a great idea for a course that would anger every photography guru out there (which I find too hilarious not to pursue in some way), but maybe a course isn't the way. Maybe a print book? Maybe a podcast series?

The best advice I've received lately, however, is from my old self, when I stumble across notes made years ago and long forgotten. When you document what you learn, you often find the best discoveries are re-discoveries. That's why I take a lot of notes.

The advice I re-discovered recently was about the importance of smallness. What triggered it was this quote:

"[T]he man who works so moderately as to be able to work constantly, not only preserves his health the longest, but in the course of the year, executes the greatest quantity of works.” - Adam Smith

I realized I was no longer working small. I was planning for a year in the future, instead of today. I was trying to write 10,000 words a week, when 200 a day could produce something more interesting with greater clarity. I was wondering how to build my first photo book, instead of implementing a daily photo habit that could lead to 100 photo books.

I've written before about my love of small books, but these past few days I've re-discovered a love of small blogs, small newsletters, and small products in general. Small could mean brief. There's bravery in brevity. Small could also mean minimal, a first step towards something larger.

Small is habit-inducing, life changing, and within reach every day.

This post originally appeared in my personal newsletter.