#30: Woop, woop!
This is my 30th newsletter. Woop woop!
Keeping up with this newsletter is hard work.
It’s a little easier some weeks than others, but still - it almost always requires that I dust off some mental cobwebs. Who is reading this? Is what I’m writing interesting? Is there something else more valuable that I could be doing with my time? Should I put this off another day? Is my grammar correct?
The thoughts never really go away, but I have gotten better at not listening to them.
It wasn’t always like this. For a very long time, I listened to my perfectionist thoughts because I had no way of realizing that they were simply thoughts - not me. This me, the person I truly am when my thoughts are stripped away, is something way more real and more true than some measly thoughts.
I know what you may be thinking: what is this craziness I am talking about? How can my thoughts not really be me? After all, they’re in my head. My head is mine, so rationally, I am my thoughts.
Let me explain with an example.
One thing that used to really block my writing was the thought that I had to research more. If I was blocked in my writing, I turned to my Zettelkasten, the place where I would store interesting articles and book notes and inspirational quotes. I would try to stitch ideas together, and I wanted the stitchings to be novel and interesting and unique.
But, I was fooling myself. Let’s be honest: this is a newsletter. This is not a book that is iterated dozens of times by the author and revised by a team of editors. This is Substack, the purpose of which is to help anyone, literally anyone, with an Internet connection and a computer: write.
Thinking about that is actually mind blowing. Now, in 2021, we have a tool, available at our fingertips, to help us share thoughts and spread ideas - to make anyone, anywhere in the world, in even the most remote of cities (pending an Internet connection): a writer.
Holy moly. Are you going to let that opportunity just slide by you?
Okay, sorry - I got a little excited thinking about that.
Back to what I was saying about not fooling myself with perfectionist thoughts. This newsletter: Sharing is Caring, is alive on a platform that makes sharing thoughts and ideas super easy. The intent is to share, and share, and share some more. If I give into my inner critic, into my filter, I am doing everyone, including myself, a big disservice. I would literally be doing the opposite of what this platform, Substack, is intended to help writers do: write consistently and share thoughts publicly, find like-minded people, and inspire and support through community.
Let’s talk about another unhelpful thought pattern: not writing because you feel you are not an expert on a topic.
Many new writers are afraid to be judged for their writing, afraid to say the wrong thing. I definitely felt that as well. I imagined, in my head, vivid scenarios where my critics would say mean things and question my qualifications. In hindsight, this is absolutely hilarious. I don’t have any critics. I am my own worst critic!
I have learned from George Saunders, a professor of literature at Syracuse University, who I have written about before, that good writing is just one simple thing: truth telling. As long as you speak your truth, it’s all good. Things will shake out.
As I now read Saunder’s book A Swim in the Pond in the Rain, for the second time, I am reminded again about writing’s core purpose: truth-telling. But, ah, the good writers, the great writers, like the Russian authors in George’s books: Chekhov, Turgenev, Gogol, and Tolstoy - they are masters of truth telling.
How do these greats do it?
If I were to sit here and lecture you - telling you various truths about the world, i.e, “dropping my wisdom,” you would probably bounce pretty fast. But, if I share a story with you, even if it seems like a super simple story about super simple people in a really simple place (literally every short story written by the great Russian authors), now that’s potentially interesting! And if I develop the plot by writing certain things, and choosing to omit other things, and if I am careful with the order in which I write, well that could be really interesting. And if I don’t tell you what to think and to believe and what the moral of the story is, but instead I act like your guide along the way, helping you to understand what is going on, helping you to go deeper on your own, now we’re really cooking with fire!
What I’m trying to say in my rambling sort of way is that good writing is about sharing truth and great writing is about arranging truth in just the right order. Great writing takes a very long time.
Substack and blog writing is not for great writing. I mean, it can be, if you spend dozens of hours writing and iterating on a newsletter post, and arranging all of the pieces in just the right order, but if you’re spending that much time in Substack, you might as well be writing a book.
This week, I wanted to share two really cool things that I came across. I don’t get anything for sharing what I’m about to share - these aren’t affiliate links or anything like that.
The first: My friend Davin showed me Feedly, a tool to help you de-clutter your email inbox and still keep up with newsletters. Feedly allows you to create a newsletter feed and then all you have to do is schedule some time to regularly review your feed. If you’re anything like me, you get anxiety when you open your email inbox and see a bunch of unread newsletters. With Feedly, you can be less reactive about reading newsletters.
The second: Spotify featured the Flow State podcast, a podcast intended to help you get into flow and do deep work. It’s 30 minutes of really good low-key electronic music, from smaller artists, followed by a 5 minute break where the host, Bobby Lyte, talks about deep work and flow. Sooo good for getting in the zone, especially if you already like to listen to electronic music while you work.
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“But if you’re spending that much time in Substack, you might as well be writing a book.”So true!
Have you seen George Saunders’ Substack? It’s so good!