Four years ago, I was gathered around a campfire with a few friends, and I told my buddy Alex that I wanted to be a writer someday.
He asked what I had written lately, and I (shamefully) said, “Well, I haven’t really been writing anything, but I want to at some point.”
I’ll never forget Alex’s reply: “I don’t know much about writing, but what I do know is that writers write.” That was the kick in the pants I needed, and I’m forever grateful for my friend’s candid words that pushed me out of the nest.
Have you ever run into a situation where you want to locate a specific idea or quote from a book you’ve read, but you can’t find it anywhere?
I used to run into that problem constantly. I’d read an awesome quote or story, but when I tried to find it later, I’d give up after fruitlessly searching for 20 minutes.
Then I realized that I could solve this problem by breaking a convention I had always held sacred: not writing in my books.
Background: I grew up as a straight-laced, book-respecting kid who believed that taking a pencil or pen…
I’ve found a number of mistakes in articles written by my favorite authors — Ryan Holiday, Tim Denning, Shaunta Grimes, Tom Kuegler, you name it.
For years, every time I found a grammatical error or misspelled word, I was shocked. I couldn’t believe someone of that caliber would publish a piece that contained an obvious mistake.
But then I realized that I wasn’t following those people for their perfect grammar. I was following them because they helped me understand the world in a fresh way. They offered unique insights I couldn’t find elsewhere.
You may know her from her essays in the New York Times and Salon, her memoir Hunger, or her countless other books and publications.
Roxane Gay is a social commentator, author, and professor who has developed a reputation for being candid, vulnerable, and courageous. She recently shared her top tips in a MasterClass on writing for social change.
If you haven’t yet spent the $180/year for a MasterClass subscription, you can find Gay’s top 13 writing tips below. (All quotes are from her MasterClass.)
There’s a common writing myth that you need to choose one or two topics and only…
“I wouldn’t be writing the way I write now if I hadn’t read Lewis Carroll. And I wouldn’t be writing the way I write now if I hadn’t read James Joyce…All writers have mentors.” -Joyce Carol Oates
Books are portals into the minds of the most creative and thoughtful people throughout history.
You may not be able to ask Charles Dickens how to portray the differences between social classes, but you can crack open Oliver Twist or A Christmas Carol and pull up a chair at a dining table bereft of meat. …
I used to marvel when I met authors. I thought to myself, “That person had a story so interesting they could fill an entire book.”
I don’t marvel about writers anymore. It’s not that I’ve lost any respect for the craft. On the contrary, I respect authors more now than ever before. Anyone who has sat down at a desk and tried to write a poem, article, or book cannot help but have a profound appreciation for those who have made a living out of the painstaking process of stringing words together.
It’s just that I now know the secret…
For years, I looked down on people who preferred fiction over nonfiction. As an avid reader of business, personal development, psychology, history, and leadership books, I thought reading too much fiction was a waste of time.
My bookish snobbery led me to judge people who talked about the latest fiction bestsellers and “beach reads.”
I finally came to my senses and realized my grinchy nonfiction heart was two sizes too small. After all, many of the best life lessons come from fiction:
In high school, I hated reading. The idea of picking up a nonfiction book for fun sounded preposterous. Thankfully, during my senior year of college, someone recommended Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink, which lit a literary fire inside me that has only grown with time.
Now, reading is my favorite hobby. I read a lot of business, leadership, and personal development books, but I’ve also fallen in love with fiction and I’m slowly trying to work my way through the top 200 books of all time.
“Once you know something, it’s hard to imagine not knowing it. And that, in turn, makes it harder for you to communicate clearly to a novice.”
— Chip and Dan Heath
The curse of knowledge is the bane of every teacher, salesperson, subject matter expert, public speaker, and writer.
It’s the idea that all of us forget what it was like to first learn something. As our knowledge grows and we become more familiar with the nuances of a topic, it becomes harder to communicate the concept in a simple way.
If you’re an Excel wizard, it’s tough to explain…
Many things in life come with instructions or operating manuals, even products that don’t seem to need them:
And even though many ridiculous things come with instructions, we’re not given an operating manual for the most important aspects of life — things like getting a job, finding love, saving for retirement, or becoming a decent human.
About six years ago, after repeating…