A Few Thoughts On Writing

You have five seconds to get people’s attention. Books, blogs, emails, reports, it doesn’t matter – if you don’t sell them in five seconds you’ve exhausted most of their patience.

Good ideas are easy to write, bad ideas are hard. Difficulty is a quality signal, and writer’s block usually indicates more about your ideas than your writing.

Impatience has increased with social media. Someone reading a book 20 years ago had few other distractions. Today a phone offers infinite, nonstop competition for your dopamine. Writers of everything from emails to books have to accept that reality.

Whoever says the most stuff in the fewest words wins.

Delete without mercy. Jason Zweig says, “you can never create something worth reading unless you are committed to the total destruction of everything that isn’t.”

Most good writing is a byproduct of good reading. You’ll never meet a good writer who doesn’t spend most of their time reading.

Good ideas can’t be scheduled. They come randomly, usually after you read something that connects the dots to an unrelated thing. A lot of bad writing comes from scheduled writing.

If you have an idea but think “someone has already written that” just remember there are 1,010 published biographies of Winston Churchill.

A powerful trick is writing something people intuitively know but haven’t yet put into words. It works because readers learn something new without having to expend much energy questioning whether it’s true.

Writing looks like a soft skill, so it’s easy for people in technical fields to ignore. But in every field, the person with the best story wins. Not the best idea, or the right answer, or the most useful solution. Just whoever tells the most persuasive story. A lot of good ideas are killed with bad writing.

No one wants a lecture. Everyone wants a story, which is anything that subtly puts data into relatable terms. It makes everything easier to remember and contextualize.

Writing is an art, and art is subjective. Novelist William Maughan said there are three rules to good writing. “Unfortunately no one knows what they are.” I actually think there’s one: write the kind of stuff you like to read. Writing for yourself is fun, and it shows. Writing for others is work, and it shows.


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