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I love this essay and have noticed similar things. In the past, I too had no routine, I’d wait for the magic of inspiration to strike me and try to craft something decent while the iron was hot. But that meant I didn’t publish often enough. So I didn’t improve quickly enough.

More recently - I’ve felt what you said- my mind is constantly panning for little snippets or stories from daily life that I can note down and use in future essays. Like an app running in the background. The challenge now is keeping track of them and organising them in a good way which is a work in progress!

Currently toying with different formats - alternating between a “notes from my travels” post one week and an essay-style, deeper, more introspective post the other week. The hope is that the structure and commitment make it easier to keep the rhythm

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I love how you describe it, "like an app running in the background." Wish I had thought of that line lol

I alway say the best note-taking tool you can use is whatever's closest to you when an idea comes to you. Now, keeping track of them and organizing them is a whole different beast that I haven't quite figured out either

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So true. When you make a habit of writing, you write all the time even when you don't :). You also manage to crank out way more than you think possible. I do 1 substack post every 2 weeks, clockwork, and I usually don't know what I'll talk about until 3 days before the deadline (I worked as a freelance journalist for a while and deadlines are great!). I also do the "1 story a week" Bradbury thing and that also seems to be flowing better - as long as I don't let one week slip by. Last year, I started slipping in May and I lost the rhythm. To make things even more hair-rising, I'm reworking a book... that will probably push the short stories to the side. Eventually!

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I've talked to a few people who were journalists in the past and every single one of them said it was great training for quickly shipping something that's somewhat coherent.

What you said about slipping resonates with how I've felt in the past. A skipped day here becomes a week. A skipped week there becomes a month. The next thing you know, you're looking at the better part of a year without publishing anything.

Best of luck with the book!

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Thanks! I can't let more than a day or two slip these days, even if all I write is a few lines in a travelogue. It just doesn't feel right... but yeah, I let years slip by in the past.

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The flash/micro writer in me is fully onboard with 200 words a day! I find that when I set daily writing goals in microbursts (write 3 “morning pages” in longhand, or write for 15 mins, say), I usually go well beyond the goal. Just one more way to trick The Resistance.

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Yes, whatever we can do to keep The Resistance at bay, we should do that

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Mar 25, 2023Liked by Lyle McKeany

Lyle, that was fantastic! I ran a workshop a few weeks ago and one of the participants asked me "how did you learn to write well?" The question caught me off guard, and my answer sounded something like "Learn? I never thought of it as something you "learn". I just did it often".

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Yep, that tracks. It’s part of why going through an MFA program isn’t the answer either. Not that they’re bad, but they won’t magically make you a good writer.

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This is good advice, Lyle! The only thing I’d add is that sometimes when I a new writer asks me about routine and getting started, what they’re also saying, below the surface, is that there’s something, usually fear, that’s talking them out of starting. I’m not a mental health pro (obviously), but when I see new writers struggling with this, I often ask them what they’re afraid of, then I encourage them to write about that fear. This can be a two-for-one exercise because you’re building that writing practice (habit, muscle, tools, etc.), plus you’re confronting that voice of doubt inside you. Years ago, a friend gave me a simple prompt: “I’m afraid to write about X because...” I turn to that prompt whenever I feel stuck on a project. And when I do the prompt I usually do it in a sprint of 20 minutes because as the same friend said, you can do anything for 20 minutes. Those writings usually end up like journals entries. Free form stuff I wouldn’t publish. But they are clarifying about the project I’m stuck on, and they can also be clarifying about the angst that often comes with a writing practice. Plus, you’re writing!

One other thing. You got great advice about the whole thought leader thing. Ghosting thought leadership pieces for tech execs is my day job. It suits me just fine because it pays the bills and I find it challenging and interesting and the schedule is great for working on my own stuff. But man alive, if you still wanted to be a thought leader I’d drive up to your place and stage an intervention. Glad a real one talked you out of it.

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You're spot on about fear, Michael. That's definitely part of the coaching work—finding the thing behind the thing, if you will. Writing about the fear is great advice too!

I hesitated for a sec about including that thought leader anecdote. Vulnerability is part of my whole deal, though, so I thought I almost had to include it. But man, it was embarrassing then in front of a group of like 30 people and still embarrassing now sending it out to nearly 2K people. The ironic thing is that the less you try to be a thought leader, the more you can actually relate to people and influence them—kind of like a thought leader.

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I’m glad you included the thought leadership anecdote and this added context. In a way you demonstrated leadership by vocalizing your dream because let’s be honest, many of the people in that room were thinking along similar lines. But, and this is important, you spoke up, suffered the embarrassment, and lived to write about it. That vulnerability led to an insight and that’s basically all thought leadership is. Alternatively, you could build a PowerPoint deck, get funded, and hire a PR firm to make you a thought leader. But I recommend the first approach.

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I would be ecstatic if I never ever had to build another PowerPoint deck in my life

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Beautiful and actionable advice. The everyday thing is one I've taken a long time to get accustomed to but it really is the answer I think. Now if I could just apply that to my guitar playing...

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Oh man, I'm sitting here typing this while my guitars longingly stare at me from their spot on the wall across the room.

Let me see if I can help you with your guitar playing:

PICK UP YOUR DAMN GUITAR AND START JAMMING RIGHT NOW, SCOTT

Hope that helps!

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I do happen to respond well to this type of motivation, so thank you!

Yes, my guitar is judging me as we write. But it'll get some love later this afternoon. It's on the schedule :-)

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That’s what I’m talking about!!

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deletedMar 26, 2023Liked by Lyle McKeany
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Love the idea of a weekly five. I might have to borrow that idea one of these weeks. That quote is so simple, but so profound. I especially like the word rarest in it. Attention is hard to come by these days.

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