Been thinking of putting up a page here with book recommendations, and/or links to the things I mention all the time (Chris Fox, Pressfield, etc.)
But it also occurred to me: it’s dangerous to spend more time reading than writing. Or reading at the expense of writing. What if we agree to write a certain fixed amount as the “price” of making a recommendation? What if you wrote a page for every page of a book you recommended?
Pretty soon you’d be recommending your own books. Well, if politeness allowed such a thing.
The Learning Trap
I’ve bought a lot of “infoproducts” over the last few years. And some are excellent. Many feel oily, though: they teach you how to make money, quit your job, live the life of your dreams by…. creating infoproducts. This sort of self-referential loop, we’ve all been warned, will leave us with hair growing out of our palms.
But I want those outcomes so much, and you know what? I always think because I’ve spent my heard-earned money on a course, now I’m invested and now surely I’ll have the motivation to work!
Not for me, anyway. It turns out if I spend a couple hundred bucks on something it doesn’t really make me get out of bed in the morning to do that thing. That isn’t me being fancy, like a couple hundred bucks isn’t a lot of money, it’s just apparently not how my brain works. Okay.
You can consume information forever which would be fine except it feels like you’re doing work, and you’re not. I could teach you a couple things because I’ve read and watched videos for hours on end about writing… but it doesn’t mean I can sit down and grind out a half-decent novel1.
At some point you have to elevate implementation over information, and a mentor of mine suggested declaring the coming period an Implementation Season, where you pay less attention to incoming information and just create output.
Sounds great! But this is not easy, because information is
- Seductive, and
I don’t really want to shut off the input entirely, you know? Because, well… let’s be honest, because the reason you sign up for a course after reading the hypnotic sales page or you buy the book after reading the Amazon reviews is there’s a little nagging part of you full of hope, thinking, oh, this one will be what makes everything finally slide into place.
An offer emerged from my inbox for one of these joint-venture deals, where two dozen people throw their books and courses and videos about writing into a hat, and instead of the two grand it’d cost you to go buy each one individually2, you pay fifty bucks for the lot.
It’s so tempting, it might as well come slathered in maple syrup. 🍁
And I bought it! Because if you read ten books and nine of them aren’t great but one changes your life, you’re out maybe a hundred bucks and a few hours, which is a lot less than the cost of, oh, I don’t know, a university degree.
The problem isn’t really the money, it’s I could easily spend the next 300 hours poring over all this material instead of writing, which isn’t really going to help me be a writer.
What I really need to do is close my web browser and get to cranking, get to staring my inadequacies in the face long enough to actually produce these words.
A Modest Proposal
So I made myself the deal I suggested up top, and I recommend this to anyone who has to choose between consuming and producing (i.e. all of us): if you’re going to recommend a book, you’ve got to write, say, a thousand words first.
If you want to recommend another book, you’ve got to write another thousand.
As long as I bought all this material, I’ll be here to share whatever I learn. But the point is to keep writing even while I’m learning, instead of being the most-learned learner with no books to his name.
Let’s you and I adopt this rule: between every chapter of the latest book that will finally turn you into a writer, between every module of the course you’re still a little shell-shocked you spent so much money on, commit to writing those words.
At the end of all the courses and all the books that were supposed to turn us into writers, surprise! We’ll have done a bunch of writing. So we’ll end up writers after all.