This is publication is reader supported. All members get my book notes, and course supporters get all my courses and published books. Plus, members get a fairly regular extra instalment of my writing.

Everyone Thinks They Can Write

In an interview with Steven Pressfield some interesting ideas came up. First was Pressfield’s assertion that everyone thinks they can write. He goes on to say that no one would think they could become a concern pianist with no practice but I think that misses the mark a bit. See we all write emails and other miscellaneous stuff all the time. We figure we trade in words at work in project management systems, so thus we must be able to write. This seems more akin to the fact that we walk all the time and confusing the ability to walk with the ability to be able to get up and run a marathon without training.

Pressfield talks much about the training required to become a writer. You need to put in the time writing, and writing bad, and working hard to come up with something bad, to eventually after 10-years maybe becoming a good writer that people will notice. As I’ve said many times, I encounter this all the time. I talk to people about their note and writing process who have no time to write and work their ideas.

People want to have written and be popular, they don’t want to do the work to get their. They want an easy path without suffering and self-doubt. But that shit don’t work.

A second related item Pressfield brought up was that discipline is better than talent. He see writers that have discipline, who get up and write regularly and work their craft succeed at a far greater rate than those that have natural talent but expect that talent alone to carry them to success.

The whole interview had many interesting parts, but those two stood out to me as areas that note-takers and writers need to remember. There is no easy path, you have to sit down and work your notes and write if you want to be good at forming ideas and sharing them with the world.

Should You Write in Books?

Earlier this week I did a quiet stream working on my notes. After the hour of work Phillip asked if I felt that writing my notes down in a notebook as I was reading was a limiting factor in my note-taking process.

No I don’t think it is. I think handwritten notes in this form is a good forcing function. If the idea feels like too much work to write down by hand then you’re telling yourself that the idea isn’t high enough value to spend time on. If you get back to your notes later and find that they don’t make sense you either didn’t understand what you were writing about, or it wasn’t high enough value to write down well. Either way, you need to go back to the book and spend time digging into it again to understand the idea and decide on it.

I also regularly filter again as I type out my notes on a book. I’ll look at something I wrote down and decide that the idea isn’t strong and shouldn’t get into my long term note vault.

Notes will get expanded on as I type them out too. While typing I’ll realise that there is more to an idea and it relates to other ideas so I’ll expand on it.

The final reason that I don’t write in books, or highlight, is that if you ever read the book again you’re going to be stuck in the mindset of your first read. I’ve read Cal Newport’s Deep Work at least 3 times. My first read was on Kindle, which is where my second read started. For my second read I decided to highlight in a secondary colour, but after reading 1/2 the book I looked back to find that I had barely highlighted anything new so I got a physical copy of the book and wrote down my thoughts on the book.

Once I removed the influence of knowing there were old highlights and notes on the book I started to find new ideas in the book that were worth my time. For some reason my old notes got me stuck in my old mindset and by getting a copy of the book in a format that was unmarked, I was no longer bound to that old mindset.

If you write in books and find that helpful, keep doing what you’re doing because it works for you. I’m not advocating that my ideas are the best, but at least sit down and think about it. Maybe grab a notebook and write down the notes from a single book to see how it feels.

Richard also wrote a post about why he doesn’t write in books.

Amazon is Killing Authors

This feels like a dystopian tale about authors writing till they bleed to fill the pockets of Amazon. In the case of the article the way author are bleeding is giving up their creativity to AI tools simply so they can stay ahead of their readers stated speed of publication preference.

She once surveyed her mailing list to ask how long readers would wait between books before abandoning her for another writer. The average was four months.

I wonder how true this is? I go back to authors all the time waiting for their next book. I just finished Quill and Still and there is not another instalment, but I have at least 100 books in my library that I haven’t read, and there is the public library in town which has 2 books waiting for me. Why do I want Aaron to produce a book in 4 months just to fill a reading void? I want Aaron’s authentic story and voice in there and if it takes a few years for them to get the time to write the next instalment while they work their regular job and write in the off hours, I’m here for the wait.

Another sad part of this story is the statement that authors are writing multiple stories at the same time just to stay in place financially. This is attributed to the increasing amount of money the authors have to give to Amazon by way of advertising to get their books noticed. Cory Doctorow calls this the enshitification cycle, where a platform starts out doing things to make life better for its users. Then it captures enough users that it start taking that value back for shareholders at the expense of users.

In almost ever way the story about writers is the exact opposite of Cal Newport’s school of thought. He recently wrote about the Acquired podcast which takes around 100 hours of research for an episode. Just like Hardcore History, where you’re lucky to get 2 episodes in a year, Acquired has gone in on the deep research and slower publishing schedule.

In the future how strong will the selling feature be that an author didn’t use AI to generate prose? Will we have scandals when an author claims no AI was used, but it was used?

I want to read people’s ideas and explore genres I’m not normally into. My current best source of new fiction recommendations has been Mastodon, where I watch for people talking about their books and wondering where to go to let people know about the writing they do. It’s how I found Aaron Sofaer, and how I found Between Starfalls, which I’m 1/2 way through and finding excellent.

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