I loved this when I first read it, put it to one side to consider more deeply, then lost it.
Back in February, Patrick Rhone shared some thoughts about writing, not least the secret of his success:
As someone who has found a way to make a modest amount of money from my writing, I’m often asked by others what the secret is. So, let me get straight to the point as to not waste your time…
Show up. Be yourself. Write. Put it out there for people to read.”
It’s beautifully simple, and painfully hard.
Patrick’s post also contains a link to his e-book, Some Thoughts About Writing – A Minimal Guide.
We all know the form. And it’s tempting, isn’t it?
“(Stupid) People say this…
… but the truth is this…”
The problem is that your audience are more likely to remember the myth that you’ve restated as being true and not the myth-busting evidence that you’ve laid before them.
In his book Language Intelligence, Joseph Romm gives a classic example:
“When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put out a flier to debunk myths about the flu vaccine, it repeated several of the myths … and labelled them as false. A study of people give the flier found that ‘within 30 minutes, older people misremembered 28 per cent of the false statements as true.’ Worse, ‘three days later, they remembered 40 per cent of the myths as factual.”
Be careful. Adopting a myth-busting approach can a serious mythtake.
“one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one’s own personality. Good prose is like a window pane.”
George Orwell (1946), Why I Write
07:15 – Queuing outside local Waterstones bookshop so that James could try and find one of the hidden, limited editions of Derek Landy’s new, and final, Skullduggery Pleasant novel The Dying of the Light.
08:15 – Second queuee arrives.
09:15 – Success!! Found the second of only five copies in the store (from a print-run of just 1,000).
Now in a race to finish the last 40 pages of the previous instalment.
Happy boy. Sleepy dad.
Everyone, especially freelancers and other sovereign professionals, wants to be on the shortlist; to be the top-of-mind, go-to person for whatever your particular skill happens to be.
Seth reminds us how.
“After all, once you’re on the shortlist, not only do your fees double, but the amount of work increases to the point where you can’t possibly do it all.
It’s easy to seduce yourself into thinking it’s a straight up meritocracy…”
The whole story, here.
“Your mind will be like its habitual thoughts; for the soul becomes dyed with the colour of its thoughts.”
Marcus Aurelius (AD120 – 180), Meditations
Sometimes, when it hard to measure the change you’re trying to achieve, it’s tempting to use a proxy.
Sadly, that only works when you don’t measure the proxy.
Like Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, once you pay attention to it, people start chasing the proxy instead of the original goal and the proxy no longer means what it did.