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Welcome to issue No. 30 of The Lever
Last week I shared Ray Bradbury's "Hygiene of Writing" program.
This week we'll update that for the modern digital writer.
Create better boundaries between work and home:
• Better relationships
• More personal time
• Better mental health
And more easily get into flow while working.
Ray Bradbury designed a simple system that helped him become one of the most prolific authors of his generation.
This allowed him to publish more than thirty novels, over six-hundred short stories, and countless poems and essays. He has won most every prize for writing that there is; from the Pulitzer to the National Medal of Arts. He even won an Emmy for his work in Hollywood.
He called this program The Hygiene of Writing, and was elegant in its simplicity:
Write every morning, and publish a short story every week.
Read the following every day:
• One poem
• One essay
• One short story
In this way he was assured to have a huge stockpile of ideas to pull from.
And he constantly strengthened the habit of finishing what he started.
But I don't want to write short stories!
Me neither. Not my deal. But I do want to write.
While Bradbury's advice is good for any writer, it is skewed towards those who aspire towards fiction.
But what about those of us who write digital non-fiction?
Online content and the way we take in media has changed dramatically since Bradbury's day. And so has the type of writing we do.
What does it look like if we stuck with the spirit of his program, but changed the content to reflect our needs today?
To meet the spirit of Bradbury's program I propose the following:
Writing Hygiene for Non-Fiction
Step 1. Write an article a week.
This fulfills Bradbury's requirement of finishing something on a weekly basis, with the added bonus of actually putting it in front of the public.
These days this might look like a newsletter on Substack, article on Medium, or blog post on your own website.
The goal is consistency and never missing a deadline.
And much like Bradbury's Martian Chronicles, eventually you may end up with a large enough word count to consider moving it into book form.
In fact, that's what I'm doing right now, using my Top Down Writing System.
Write. Publish. Repeat.
Step 2. The Reading Schedule.
The point of Bradbury's step 2 is to fill yourself so full of knowledge and ideas that, through the practice of your writing, you produce something unique.
Therefore, every day, read the following:
• One Article
• One Chapter
• One Essay
If you are writing online then you should read what others write online.
Study what they are saying, and how they are saying it. Get involved in their comments section and provide feedback.
Subscribe to 7 weekly newsletters and you'll have something to read every day.
When writing non-fiction you need info and idea's from others who write in your field(s) of interest.
Grab your kindle and download the classics for your field. Then read a chapter every day.
Keep this up and you'll easily finish a book every month.
Imagine what will be bouncing around in your head!
Bradbury's recommendations on essays stand.
You are looking for unique inputs, so read widely from the thought leaders of yesterday and today. Understand different points of view and read on different subjects.
Two personal recommendations:
First is the Breaking Smart series by Venkatesh Rao. (Read it free!)
These are described as a "bingeworthy collection of essays" and comprise 20 essays totaling over 30,000 words. They are based on Marc Andreessen’s observation that “software is eating the world.” Interesting stuff.
"Bit rot" is a term used in digital archiving to describe the way digital files can spontaneously and quickly decompose. The series explores the different ways in which twentieth-century notions of the future are being shredded.
Podcasts and video such as Ted Talks or documentaries.
There is so much interesting and actionable content being hosted online these days that you can quickly learn about anything, no matter how esoteric.
Make use of it.
Now Take Action
If you want to write, write a lot.
If you want to write well, read a lot.
Combine the two and become somebody that actually has something to say.
When you are ready, here are a few ways I can help:
1. Subscribe to my newsletter, The Lever
This covers a core time managment and productivity concept every week, in about five minutes.
Sign up at SeanHogue.com/thelever (or use the form below.)
2. Grab a copy of my book
Peaceful Productivity outlines the time-management system I've created over the years as a ship's Captain and business executive. It will help you plan, prioritize, and get more of the right things done.
Smart systems to make you productive, prolific, and profitable | Find me on Twitter @SeanPHogue | Sign up here for the weekly newsletter, The Lever, and create some leverage in your life.