As if

I started publishing everyday almost a year ago. I would have started earlier, but my fear of crickets held me back.

I started writing as if one person cared. One imaginary person is all it takes to overcome that first hurdle. Once you’re after that, writing everyday becomes a war of attrition.

Whatever step you’re putting off in light of a larger goal, do it as if it matters.

Write your first post as if you have an audience. As if a crowd of people are showing up to your door every morning to hear what you have to say. Record your first podcast as if what you think matters. Work out as if taking care of yourself matters.

Do everything as if it matters, and eventually you’ll see that it does.

*As of December 13, 2020

You fool!

I never know what I’m going to write about until I sit down to write.

But that’s the fun part.

Because the world is rich with opportunities for improv. Improv brings us spontaneity. But spontaneity also brings us the risk of looking like a fool. And so we choose to follow a script, do what the boss tells us, and nod our head as if we’re interested.

But what if instead of nodding our head because we don’t want to be rude, we leaned in and asked questions?

Instead of sticking to the script like a child clings to a parent, what if we made the leap and wrote the script on the way down?

What if the fool was the lead role?

I have good news. The fool is the lead role. And we’d like to cast you for the part.

The slowest writers write the quickest

Slowness gives the advantage of clairvoyance. Clairvoyance tricks the reader into thinking that the writer pulled a great sentence out of thin air. But behind the trick is a writer who took the time to look behind the curtains.

The slowest writers see what we don’t see. And we don’t see what the slowest writers see because we’re often sticking our head out the window of a speeding car.

Slow writers ask themselves what they think. What are the facts about my subjective experience? How do I feel about this? Is this how I think about this, or is someone else thinking this through me?

Slow writers also ask themselves why they think what they think. They delve into their personal history. They explore alternatives, weigh both sides of an argument, and consult with trusted friends for holes in the narrative.

Slow writers do all this extra work because the first inclination rarely provides a robust explanation.

Slow writers write the quickest.

“The sacrificial pancake”

The Rule of Suck: the first one is going to be very, very, embarrassingly not so good.

What to do?

Do the next one. And the next one after that. On and on, serving up hundreds of works to an audience who trusts that you’ll get it right — eventually.

Here’s Paul McGrath (great name), on pancakes and what they teach us about creativity. I told him on Thursday that this was my favorite read of the week. It’s now Saturday, and I’m still standing by that statement.

Let Them Disagree

My buddy Cullin is at the scariest time of any writer’s life.

He’s expressing a unique point of view.

With his name on it.

In public.

He’s detaching himself from mass thinking, even if the much of the mass is partly favor of the “good guy.”

To come alive as a writer, as a creator, is to accept the fact that people will disagree with you. What’s scary about this is that most people confuse disagreeing with dismantling a friendship. “I can’t disagree with you because your standpoint is so foreign to me, so instead I’m just going to cut you out of my life.”

Their loss.

It’s rare to find a writer brave enough to not only challenge collective assumptions, but to challenge them in public.

Cullin is one of those writers.

Here’s his newest piece about a young man trying to find his way through today’s chaotic world.

The Penguin Latte Podcast #20 – Uri Bram on Publishing a Newsletter with 50,000 Subscribers, How to Enjoy Writing, and Statistical Errors We Make Everyday

Listen on Spotify | Listen on Apple | Listen on YouTube

Warning: what follows is a communion of two souls in a chance encounter.

Uri Bram is the publisher of The Browser — a weekly newsletter curated by Uri and his team, read by over 50,000 subscribers. He’s written two books: Thinking Statistically and The Business of Big Data. Uri is also the designer of three games: Lettercat, Person Do Thing, and Days Old.

Uri and I had never spoken before we recorded this episode. And neither had I heard of The Browser prior to two weeks before this post. The morning I discovered their work was the morning I became brighter, smarter, more entertaining, or at the very least, half as much as the folks working hard to produce the world’s favorite curation newsletter.

I kept scrolling through their site.

I was floored.

Their website is topnotch. The giraffe mascot is cute as all hell.

Most important, they collect only the finest, most entertaining and thought provoking articles on the Internet. I’m incredibly impressed at their high bar for quality. I promise that any article chosen by their hard working team is worth the read. This isn’t your typical buzzfeed bullshit. And nor is it as high brow as The New Yorker. The content they collect is fun, interesting, hilarious, and full of humanity. Reading articles from The Browser is now a part of my evening reading routine. It’s making me less stupid, and it’ll make you less stupid, too.

In this conversation, we discuss Uri’s writing process at length. Uri’s a much more experienced writer than I am. And I learned so much about how difficult it is to organize hundreds, if not thousands of ideas in a book. We also discuss content curation (not creation), and why The Browser is world-class at it, game design, meditation, getting unstuck, going for walks and getting out in nature, how regular people can benefit from learning statistics, and much more.

So grab your favorite coffee and please enjoy our talk!

Listen on Spotify | Listen on Apple | Listen on YouTube

This episode is brought to you by my weekly newsletter, Hey Penguin. Hey Penguin includes tips for improving yourself through creativity, plus a bunch of extra goodies like drafts of blog posts, art I’m digging, letters from my audience, and previews of podcast episodes. Sounds good? Click here to subscribe and get the next issue delivered straight to your inbox on Sunday.

Waking up on purpose

You open your eyes as the alarm shrieks you out of your dream. Or maybe you’re one of those freaks who “rises with the sun,” as if your body is in a perfect cosmic alignment with the universe. Either way, you’re awake.

On a typical day, say, on a regular ol’ Tuesday, what does the first 15 minutes of your morning look like? Do you flood your psyche with information? Do you allow buzzers, bells, and airhorns to occupy your mind? Or do you employ silence as the canvas on which you will draw the roadmap of your day?

Whatever you choose, airhorns or canvases, you’re choosing intentionally. There’s no use blaming anyone but yourself for your muddy thinking and directionless days.

The smartest people I’ve ever met are those who intend to wake up on purpose.