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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the quantity-over-quality controversy

Last week’s essay stoked a bit of an uproar. This reaction surprised me. For once, I didn’t intend to piss anyone off.

The gist, if you’re new: quantity is the key contributing factor in commercial success for writers. Not quality, i.e. “talent,” whatever that is.

People took offense, in a social media kind of way.

Guys.
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the trick is to write more—much, much, much more

I’ve come to terms with it: commercial success for authors boils down to quantity. That’s it. I wish I could say that talent plays a part, but it doesn’t, guys. It just doesn’t. The writer who wins is the writer who just kept writing.

Here’s the truth: if you figure out how to establish and maintain a heavy, relentless routine for writing, you will find an audience. Maybe not right away, but eventually. (You have to share what you write, of course.)

As you increase your productivity, you will increase your audience. Again, eventually.

Explosive growth comes down to luck, but when you write and share regularly, you make your own luck.

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in 2017 quit everything that annoys you—except this

(A quick note: The inimitable C.C. Chapman interviewed me about writing and editing for his new podcast, Why I Write—check it out.)

I’m bummed, guys. Bummed about blogs. Blogs are dead. “RIP blogging,” for the umpteen millionth time.

To be clear, I don’t mean company blogs or magazine blogs. I mean real blogs by real people where they write about what they’re really interested in. Like Boing Boing and Kottke.org. (Both are still around, but they’re the exceptions that prove the rule.)

We all know it and we’ve known it for years: Twitter and Facebook killed blogs. Meanwhile, Twitter and Facebook suck.

In fact, I’ve been off Twitter and Facebook for weeks now, ever since Cal Newport told me to in Deep Work. (Good book, by the way.) Many other authors have told me to get off Facebook and Twitter for various practical, ethical, or psychological reasons—people have been saying it for more than a decade—but Newport’s the first one to have actually made the advice stick.

Partially, this is a factor of timing. I’m mad at social media. I blame it—especially Twitter and Facebook—for What Just Happened in America. Newport happened to hit me with his iteration of the advice at just the right time.

Timing is everything. For example, my wife said “did you hear about the delete Uber thing?” and I said “what’s the deal?” and she said “something about Trump” and I didn’t even hesitate. Goodbye, Uber.

You might say I should have looked into the reasons more closely before taking out my rage on Uber. Uber itself asked me to read some informative links before officially quitting the service—if I happened to be deleting my account because of Trump. I’d remind Kalanick and crew that you sow what you reap. As a customer happy with the service itself, I shouldn’t have been so pleased to have a “reason” to go. If they’d racked up a little karma and good will prior to this point, they wouldn’t have been so vulnerable to one bad piece of press.

Remember when Google reminded itself not to be evil? Boy, have things changed.

The fact is I was thrilled to have a reason—any reason—to get rid of Uber. I’d wanted out for years, but I needed that one, additional justification because, let’s be honest, cabs suck and Lyft sucks. Without a good reason, I’ll just regret deleting Uber every time my transportation options disappoint me in the days to come. And they will.

Same goes for Facebook and Twitter. I’d wanted off because I hate almost everything about them, but I knew that getting off of them would be, at the least, annoying. I needed a justification to cushion me against that annoyance. Cal gave me that.

This year, I’m all about looking for a way out of relationships with brands that don’t align with my values. Voting with my dollars. That means I’m looking at you, Apple. If I so much as hear another squeak about you this month, I’m buying a Surface and never looking back. Consider yourself warned.

To be fair, dropping social media has been shockingly…fine. It’s freed up a ton of time, attention, and emotional energy. When I’m curious what someone is up to, I email them. It works.

I’d suspected for years that the amount of value I was getting out of social media had dropped since the early days, but I hadn’t realized quite how precipitously. For me, they’ve been worse than useless for a very long time.

I won’t try to convince you. An author recently dropped Twitter and shared a bunch of good reasons.

What I really miss is blogging. I’d start one myself, but what would be the point? Talk about speaking into the void. RSS, blogrolls, trackbacks—that era is over. We had a great thing going, but commerce and convenience won out.

Here’s one thing I’ve learned since quitting the blue stuff: social media does not help the isolation of sitting at home and writing all day. It does, however, distract you from realizing how isolated you feel. It’s connection methadone. When you look up from social media, you suddenly realize you’ve been feeling isolated the whole time.

That’s a good thing. You should know you’re feeling isolated long before you start talking to Lloyd the Invisible Bartender.

Anyway, get off Facebook and Twitter. YMMV, of course.

(That’s an acronym for Your Mileage May Vary, AFAIK.)

(AFAIK is an acronym for As Far As I Know. SCNR.)