Annie Dillard is a brilliant writer. Each one of her words is mot juste for its sentence. Her book is actually called “The Writing Life” – which I highly recommend in its entirety – and isn’t directed at startup founders, but should be. In addition to identifying various creativity and confidence struggles that writers suffer, and entrepreneurs share, Annie posits:

Writing every book, the writer must solve two problems: Can it be done? and, Can I do it?

If you’ve watched the fantastic “How to Start a Startup” lectures from Stanford, you will recognize similar sentiment in Dustin Moskovitz’s talk about the “why” of doing a startup:

[One] way to interpret this is the world needs you to do it. This is validation that the idea is important, that it’s going to make the world better, so the world needs it. If it’s not something the world needs, go do something the world needs. Your time is really valuable, there are plenty of good ideas out there, maybe it’s not your own, maybe it’s at an existing company, but you may as well work on something that’s going to be good.

The second way to interpret this is that the world needs you to do it. You’re actually well suited for this problem in some way. If this isn’t true, it may be a sign that your time is better spent somewhere else.

The subtle but crucial difference is that Annie asks, “Can it be done?” where Dustin asks, “Should it be done?”. If the answer to the latter isn’t positive (through market validation via potential customer feedback), it’s tough to justify spending time investigating the former to yourself – let alone investors. Choose wisely!