immolate yourself in your writing

When you do something, you should do it with your whole body and mind; you should be concentrated on what you do. You should do it completely, like a good bonfire. You should not be a smoky fire. You should burn yourself completely. If you do not burn yourself completely, a trace of yourself will be left in what you do.

—Shunryu Suzuki

I’m not a highlighter per se, but when I read the above quote in Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, I wanted to score it deep into my brain. Yes, I thought. I want to be a good bonfire. I want to burn myself completely in my work.

It’s wonderful training for this, helping others write books as a ghostwriter. Nobody wants a smoky ghostwriter leaving traces of themselves behind in what they do. Ghostwriting brings clarity to the writing process I’ve grown to appreciate. For example, you never would have guessed that I was the one who wrote the last four Harry Potter novels. Right? Those read exactly as though J.K. Rowling wrote them all by herself. As, in fact, she did. But if she hadn’t, and I had, you never would have guessed—because there was no smoke.


I continue to find it paralyzing when I’m writing “my thing”—if you’ve figured out what my thing is, you’re way ahead of me—which may be one reason these things are written so infrequently. Tell me to write someone else’s thing and, well, things suddenly open up.

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you are cool and important

I know I don’t write these very often. It’s not that I don’t have fascinating things to share all the time. Rather, I employ a deliberate content strategy based on artificial scarcity. Like DeBeers does with diamonds. Is it working? …hello?

I gave the site a quick design refresh. If you’re recommending this to a friend, you know what to do.

(That was a trap. We never recommend the Maven Game, remember?)

Also, rocket scientist and law professor Ozan Varol interviewed me for his new Famous Failures project. (I didn’t have the heart to tell him about the famous part.)

Creativity isn’t about keeping your nose clean; it’s about getting into trouble.

—Jeffrey Tambor

My son and I went to see Wonder Woman this weekend. (My wife was too busy taking care of our daughter. Men, amirite?)

There’s a moment in the film—no spoilers—when our heroes are pinned down in a British trench along the Western Front. Diana wants to go help some innocent people in the distance. Her “guy-Lois” Steve mansplains to her that the ground between trenches is known as “No Man’s Land” for a reason.

No man can cross it!” (Emphasis Chris Pine’s, bless him.)

Can you imagine a better setup for Wonder Woman to pop on her Amazonian tiara and charge a machine gun nest? You can’t, don’t bother.

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I don’t like anything

I like Repo Man. I’ve seen it a million times. Repo Man is what we used to call a “cult film.” Remember those?

Cult films were very good in some ways, weird or flawed in pretty much every other. Cult films were “not for everybody” even though, by definition as expensive feature films, they were intended to be. However intensely they pleased a few, they failed because they alienated the many…

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everything you believe about talent and quality is wrong

Oh, the strange notions we hold about talent and quality.

As a kid—if you were lucky—you were encouraged to read a lot of junk. Every week, your parents would take you to the library to fetch a pile of slim paperbacks with shiny, eye-popping covers and curling, thumb-worn pages.

There were nights I’d get in bed and happily read two Piers Anthony books in a row, falling asleep an hour before dawn. I’d spend the following day nodding off in class without the faintest memory of what I’d enjoyed reading so much the night before.

(I didn’t have a bedtime, per se.)

As a parent, I understand it much more clearly now. At first, you’re worried that your children will never learn to read. You read to them every night and get them phonics workbooks and just do everything you can to get them over that hump.

Once they learn to read, you worry that they’ll never like books, and thus never climb the corporate ladder by speed-reading Peter Drucker on the commuter train in from Greenwich. So you try to get them hooked on the process of reading. You think like a drug dealer: how do I get them so addicted to reading that they can never stop? After all, I don’t want them spending every evening of their adult lives trawling Netflix for obscure reality shows. (“I learned it from watching you, Dad!”)

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