Sneaky peek of the Best Bits

Every tenth episode of The Extraordinary Business Book Club is a chance to look back at the previous 9 episodes and pick out not just the ‘best bits’, the stories or tips that partiuclarly struck me and/or listeners as funny or useful or inspirational, but to look at the big picture, the common themes and ways of looking at things. 

Here’s a sneaky peek of Monday’s episode, with clips from both Cory Doctorow and John Hall on the importance of forming and sticking to your writing habit: 

‘[Cory Doctorow] I think that the two best pieces of advice about writing that I didn’t pay attention to until far too late and then kicked myself for not paying attention to are really banal and simple. Just like so many pieces of great advice, they are easy to say and hard to do.

The first one is to write every day, that when you write every day it becomes a habit, and habits are things that you get for free. I think when we start writing we tend to write because we’ve been struck by inspiration, and when you’re inspired by something it feels good and it’s easy to keep doing, but inspiration is a very harsh mistress. It’s very unpredictable. To be honest, the words you write when you’re inspired and the words that you write when you feel like you’re writing very badly, those words are in all likelihood indistinguishable from one another from the distance of cold reason once you’ve given it enough time for you to cool down and see and forget which words you wrote when. Certainly that was my experience. I think that the way you feel about the words that you’re writing is more endocrinological than artistic, that it’s about your blood sugar and your stress levels and your sleep levels and the amount of caffeine you’ve had, not any objective metric.

With that in mind, you are well situated to write a small amount every day. Rather than writing when inspiration strikes and writing heroically, writing 10,000 words in a white hot fury, which is I think the thing we valorize and romanticise when we talk about writing, that laying one brick at a time is how you build a wall. Maybe not a 1,000-mile long border wall, but a modest wall, a wall you can be proud of. For the record, building 1,000-mile long border walls is a thing that is basically impossible, but building a wall that you can be proud of, a wall you can use and rely on and come back to and that is solid, you can do that one brick at a time. If you write 250 words a day, two-and-a-half paragraphs, one page, you are writing a novel a year, and if you do it every day it becomes a habit that happens automatically.’

And the same theme was picked up by John Hall, CEO of content marketing firm Influence & Co –Anne Archer particularly liked this and asked to hear it again:

‘The advice that I would say is you’ve got to form habits.  When you’re doing a book, there has to be habits and a system set up. When you’re doing this, this when you’re dumping, this is when you’re researching, this is when you’re doing this, and you’ve got to stick to it. One of my good friends, Paul Roetzer, who wrote The Marketing Blueprint, we were out one year, and it was 7:00, and we were just about to have a lot of fun, and he goes, “All right, man. See you later.” I go, “I thought we were going to go out?” He goes, “Oh, no, no, no. 7:30, I have to write a two o’clocker. Can’t do it.” I was like, “You’re kidding me, Paul.” It takes that self control. You’ve got to set up a system. It takes, at least for people who finish in a reasonable amount of time, it definitely takes some self control…. I was kind of mad at Paul, but he turned out a good book.’

Challenging stuff, no?