“Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it. The more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That’s why we feel so much resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no resistance.”The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield
They say write to be understood. But what’s the point in spelling it all out?
Said author William Faulkner in an interview with the Paris Review:
Some people say they can’t understand your writing, even after they read it two or three times. What approach would you suggest for them?
Read it four times.
Write to be misunderstood?
It doesn’t hurt to make an arcane reference here and there to keep the reader guessing. Obscurity is luminosity.
Said author Jonathan Franzen in lunch with the Financial Times:
“I think you have to have a few things that you have to kind of chew on to get.”
When you first listen to a new Radiohead song, something about it sounds off. But after a few listens, the sounds in between appear and ameliorate Thom Yorke’s mystical voice. Nothing makes sense, but the emotional tug works, the same way laughter doesn’t need thought.
It shouldn’t be the author or musician’s goal to demystify everything. The maker is often still figuring it out himself, recasting their own interpretation.
Build a board of long-distance advocates. These can be authors, leaders or personal heroes of yours you might never meet. You’ll never share coffee, perhaps, but their books and ideas can impact your career. I’ve never met him, but author Steven Pressfield greatly impacted the hustle investment of my Career Savings Account. I never would have been able to finish my first book without the encouragement of his book The War of Art. If advocates or a table of strangers feels like too big of a stretch, begin with a bookshelf.Jon Acuff, Do Over
Reading not only creates a theater inside your head — it can also inspire you to do the work you’ve always wanted.
If you want to instantly feel better, step into a hospital. The placebo works every time.
Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. Hospitals can make the healthy feel a bit ill.
Does anyone like hanging out in hospitals?
Placebo is a mere expectation. It helps only because we think it helps. But that psychological boon could be the difference in making things better or worse. Brain modulation is pain modulation.
It turns that out managing your own internal wiring whether through expectation, habits, or lucky charms may just be the oldest medicine in the world.
Our online identities have become our real-life identities, one where the rapidity of instant communication breaks down the slow pace of life. Tech makes us impulsive and drains our patience–we demand things with a click of a button and expect a drone to deliver them the same day.
So it’s no surprise that some people want to feel what it’s like to slow down again. The record store may be dead–selling CDs at least–but the bookstores continue to fight against the frenzied activity.
Amazon just opened its second bookstore on the West Coast. The Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris is thriving, offering “an antidote to commercialism.” Some readers prefer personal recommendations over algorithmic ones.
For some, there will always be an allergic reaction to the rapidity, convergence, and intangibility of digital life, and a nostalgic desire to visit places that encourage us to think, browse, and chat. We will not salvage or recreate everything pre-digital, but we will prop up those spaces that give us an escape from the velocity of ourselves.
“Every sentence is a wispy net, capturing a few flecks of meaning. The sun shines without vocabulary. The salmon has no name for the urge that drives it upstream. The newborn groping for the nipple knows hunger long before it knows a single word. Even with an entire dictionary in one’s head, one eventually comes to the end of words. Then what? Then drink deep like the baby, swim like the salmon, burn like any brief star.”Scott Russell Sanders, Staying Put: Making a Home in a Restless World
Ziming Liu from San Jose State University has conducted a series of studies which indicate that the “new norm” in reading is skimming, with word-spotting and browsing through the text. Many readers now use an F or Z pattern when reading in which they sample the first line and then word-spot through the rest of the text. When the reading brain skims like this, it reduces time allocated to deep reading processes. In other words, we don’t have time to grasp complexity, to understand another’s feelings, to perceive beauty, and to create thoughts of the reader’s own.
We are cultivating impatience, begetting callousness and ignorance. We need to go deeper. Huxley forewarned us.
“In coming to New Mexico, I had unexpectedly felt myself an alien—an immigrant—in my own country, and this lithic scatter reinforced this feeling. I was reminded that we Americans are interlopers on this continent; that we have built our great and towering civilization on the wreckage of a past that we know almost nothing about and can scarcely comprehend.”
— Douglas Preston, Cities of Gold
The glut of information means that we need to review things more than ever.
And one of the most useful tools I’ve come across is Readwise.
Each day or weekly (up to you), it emails you a dose of your Kindle and Instapaper highlights.
Rereading through them not only reminds you of the interesting passages you once discovered, but also how that “old” information connects to your existing thinking.
According to Professor Kenneth Goldsmith at the University of Pennsylvania, “an educated person in the future will be a curious person who collects better artifacts. The ability to call up and use facts is the new education. How to tap them, how to use them.”
The pennies of Instapaper or Pocket articles you collect add up over time but their meaning is in their extraction. The simple act of reviewing allows one to remix and convert previously found artifacts into forward-thinking idea-generating value.
How often do you print something out just so you can take the time to read it with more focus?
In an interview with The Verge, UCLA neuroscientist and author of the forthcoming book Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World, Maryanne Wolf explains what tech does to the reading brain.
This is a question that requires a very careful attempt at explanation. It’s not zero-sum, but we have grown used to skimming. People like you and me who spend six to 12 hours a day on a screen are led to use the skimming mode even when we know we should use a more concentrated, focused mode of reading.
It’s an idea I call “cognitive patience.” I believe we are all becoming unable to take the time to be patient because skimming has bled over into most of our reading.
The consequences of skimming:
Skimming has led, I believe, to a tendency to go to the sources that seem the simplest, most reduced, most familiar, and least cognitively challenging. I think that leads people to accept truly false news without examining it, without being analytical. One of my major worries is that when you lose the novel, you lose the ability to go into another person’s perspective. My biggest worry now is that a lot of what we’re seeing in society today — this vulnerability to demagoguery in all its forms — of one unanticipated and never intended consequence of a mode of reading that doesn’t allow critical analysis and empathy.
There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil. The triumph of anything is a matter of organization. If there are such things as angels, I hope that they are organized along the lines of the Mafia.
— Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens Of Titan