The Blank Screen
I was at dinner last night with some entrepreneurs and VCs in Berlin and we got talking about my ritual of blogging every day. I told them that many days I stare at the blank screen and think “ugh, what am I going to write about today.”
They asked if there was any correlation to knowing what I am going to write about and the quality of the post. I told them that I don’t think so. The best posts come out in real time and often they start with me staring at the blank screen. Same with the worst posts.
Posting every day isn’t easy for a host of reasons but for me the hardest is that much of what I work on every day is off limits. I wake up thinking about a drama unfolding in one of our portfolio companies and I can’t blog about that. I wake up thinking about a new product one of our portfolio companies is going to launch and I can’t blog about that. I wake up thinking about a neat company we just met and I mostly can’t blog about that.
So on a typical morning, I run through four or five ideas, tossing each out for a variety of reasons, before settling on something, and then I start writing and I go from there. I enjoy the real time nature of this approach to writing. I often don’t know what the gist of the post is going to be until I write that last line and hit publish.
Sometimes this process produces great insights for me and possibly others. Sometimes it produces garbage. But I’ve come to realize that the daily post, and its quality or lack thereof, is not really the thing. It is the ritual, the practice, the frequency, the habit, and the discipline that matters most to me. And, I would suspect, the same is true of the readers and commenters who frequent this blog.
Sounds exactly like song writing.Some composers must force themselves to write something, anything, on a scheduled basis. It’s the discipline that’s key (seems like you).Others (like me) do it when and if the mood strikes. They can write tons of great stuff in marathon chunks when they’re on a roll. And go quiet for periods.
I am in the school of emotion driving creativity at either extremes. Either extreme happiness or sadness.The best example I can give is how the Dixie Chicks wrote their best material after the fallout from the comments made in 2003 about George Bush:On March 10, 2003, during a London concert, 9 days before the March 19, 2003 invasion of Iraq, lead vocalist Maines told the audience: “We don’t want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States (George W. Bush) is from Texas”. The positive reaction to this statement from the British audience contrasted with the negative reaction including boycotts that ensued in the U.S., where the band was assaulted by talk-show conservatives, while their albums were discarded in public protest.In 2007 Dixie Chicks won a Grammy Award for Album of the year which was almost a total fuck you departure from the country music that had traditionally wrote in the past.https://www.youtube.com/wat…
that’s a great example of that direction.in the other direction, there’s Song-a-day-man. Guy is awesome, has literally written a song a day for 2000 days in a row or smthng, some great, many crap.Here’s a big hit of his:https://www.youtube.com/wat…
Always Sunny in Philadelphia “Dayman”:https://youtu.be/TzaVd6zl2b…https://youtu.be/XamDFWWKye…
Totally Tenacious D.
.They won everything that year — album, record, song. It was a complete sweep.The real fight was between the Nashville radio establishment, which essentially blackballed them and the artists (the Grammy’s are from the artists).Nashville gets pissed off when you don’t move to Nashville. Nashville has a hard on for Texas country. Guys like Pat Green and Cory Morrow know what that means. The only guy who ever really got away with it was Willie.There is a little joint on S Lamar called the Broken Spoke. It was rocking when I moved here in the late 1970s. You could walk in and Willie, Kris Kristofferson (who BTW was a Ranger), Waylon Jennings, Jerry Jeff Walker, etc would be playing. Still like that.You used to get a bumper sticker that said, “I dance country at the Broken Spoke.”One of Chicks lived around the corner from me and Perfect Daughter babysat for her. Very nice girl.Their music was good and great.Funny thing is that nobody in Texas really got too excited about the comments. If you live in Texas, you heard a lot of criticism about Bush.What I think got Nashville so pissed off was that it was done overseas. Like the convention that you don’t criticize the President when you are overseas or he is overseas.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…
One of Chicks lived around the corner from me and Perfect Daughter babysat for her. Very nice girl.Must have been Natalie? For some reason I thought perfect daughter was in her 20’s.Since Natalie is 41 your daughter must be at least in her 40’s. (My sister babysat for someone who is a district attorney now and she is only a few years older than the district attorney is.)Anyway the intel that I just uncovered points to a much younger age for your daughter … actually in her 20’s. Are there in fact two perfect daughters? Or do you mean that Natalie or another chick babysat for your daughter not vice versa?
.Return to reading comp class, now.PD is 26. She sat for Natalie’s daughter about ten years ago.Glad we were able to chat and clear up this matter.I wish I had two PDs.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…
.The Dixie Chicks had the funniest video. They made this video about a “Travelling Soldier” which was supposed to be about a soldier who had gone to Viet Nam.The video is great and the song is fabulous but they used airplane footage from WWII and the guy was a pilot, not a soldier.The male lead was wearing a WWII Army Air Corps uniform. He was flying fighters and bombers. That doesn’t happen.Somebody needed a military consultant. Wrong war. Wrong branch of the service.https://www.youtube.com/wat…
Probably not the case but I know that it’s almost an ongoing joke in medical tv shows to place the xrays both upside down and for the wrong body parts (on purpose) that they are talking about.Kind of what happened with Million Dollar Listing and the bitcoin episode.
“Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go”. E.L. DoctorowThanks for always sharing.
Discipline, primarily discipline with routine, allows you to better gauge and manage yourself through a day or week.
Sounds like it’s time for Dream Journal Thursdays
I loved this post because it so resonates with my personal experience. My reason for blogging is different from yours, Fred: I post short excerpts of the best things I’ve read (ie. best practices) about product, management, hiring etc. I don’t do it for influence, discussion or community, but to try to become a better manager. The daily commitment to post every day forces me to be in constant learning mode: I have to find a best practice every day, and having to choose a short excerpt forces me to read articles more closely.So even though the motivation might be different, “It is the ritual, the practice, the frequency, the habit, and the discipline that matters most to me.”Thank you for that insight!
David,I just posted this a few seconds after your comment:http://avc.com/2015/06/the-…Funnily, I subscribed to your blog after reading it on Fred’s post. See the screenshot on Mar 27th 2014. I get your email in my Inbox every time you publish and I think I have read 80% of them. Fantastic stuff!
Nick, your comment was really kind, and highlights how much I owe my blog readership to Fred. He was remarkably generous in devoting an entire post to my blog in March 2014: http://avc.com/2014/03/a-fo…It’s striking that the most followed people are often also the most generous, and don’t view attention as a zero sum game. This is the logical extension of the best blogging advice I ever heard (from Susan Mernit): “Don’t use your blog as a sledge-hammer.”
This is the blog I have been reading religiously- every day for the past 8 years. I don’t think I have missed a single post in the last 8 years. Just as it has become a habit / ritual for you to write, its become a habit/ritual for me to write.THANK YOU!
Yup. That’s basically what I was acknowledging at the end of the post. I appreciate your loyalty and everyone else’s too
Hi Fred, I’ve been doing something similar with music for a while now, and have found the ritual always hard but always tremendously fulfilling… Due to you and Seth Godin, I’ve also recently tried to start writing (as in blogging/journaling, etc.) on a daily basis. It is something foreign to me, but I’ve found that it helps tremendously for developing clarity of thought. I admire the fact you write everyday, and I also almost always greatly enjoy the content. Thanks for sharing, and for continuing to post!
ha- see my other posts here. and our similar avatars.
I’d also say that for some, it’s the tools that make a big difference.Not long ago, a writer would need to do almost all of their craft, bound to their office or home desk because that’s where their typewriter was. Now we can do all our stuff on portable computers, and even on phones, wherever we are. Although phones bring their own drawbacks. I wonder to what extent this influences your writings? That particular posting screen you show doesn’t feel particularly inspiring, so I wonder if there are other tools you might use.Back to my mention of song writing: the advent of phones, and killer apps such as Soundcloud are complete and utter game changers for me. I haven’t written music in years because I’m recently not usually in 1 place and around studio equipment. But these days, when inspiration hits, I can always at least hum a tune into my phone.I now find myself often holding my 2-month-old daughter, so can’t websurf and email. But a tune will spring to mind, I’ll entertain her with it, and I can hit the Soundcloud record button and get at least a raw rendition (that I could possibly polish later).
Here’s an example first-take sing-into-phone track (kid’s nickname is LeeLee) (how do i get rid of the huge embed graphic??):https://soundcloud.com/kenb…
So pumped you appreciated that, Fred.I forgot it, and left to travel. Then wife saw it on her soundcloud feed, played it for baby and now this track is the only thing that tranquilizes her. Killer use for soundcloud! Now I’m inspired to do that more from the road.That’s what I meant by it can be the tools that make a difference.
Did Michaelangelo know what he was going to paint before he picked up a brush?If every piece was a masterpiece none of them would be.
I have aspired to be a daily blogger for 4-5 years now and I have always found that I don’t really have topics. Though I blog at times its far too sporadic. This is a really good post and a real motivator. If you can share some references to help become the daily blogger ( or at least more regular) that would be really great! Perhaps its only just discipline? By the way my blog is here: http://www.shivjijha.com/
Shivji, my experience is that blogging for its own sake, or blogging only for personal attention isn’t sustainable. The key question is: What real value do you want to get out of it? If you can answer that question, you’ll have the discipline to blog every day.Sam Altman has interesting things to say about entrepreneurs wasting too much time blogging and tweeting: https://davidjaxon.wordpres…
Hey David, I must confess I am not very clear what exactly I want to blog on. I had started way back in college to write down my codes. I was an aspiring developer then. I then started to write things I read on web to express myself on those topics. It then got to books, sports etc.What do I want to get from blogging? 1) I derive a lot of pleasure when I hit on publish. It gives me a high.2) Writing for everyone to see forces me to learn things the best.3) I want to have conversations with my readers- this hasn’t happened yet.4) I wish to help those who followed in on doing something I was doing and be helpful to them. For example- programming, algorithms, books etc.5) I just want to be good at writing or presenting myself. I think that is a great asset to have for any profession.
Each of those questions/points could be answered by you in a blog, personally and not generally. Try not to put too much of what you learned in Rhetoric 101 into it-and just free flow write. Let it come like ocean waves.
That sounds like a real good idea and perhaps a couple of posts are awaiting now. Thanks!
Blank screen but not a blank mind. Just the fact that you regularly have four or five ideas that you toss out is pretty amazing. That’s a lot different than having a blank screen with nothing to say or ideas that are not yet well enough developed to write them down for public consumption. What you describe suggests a wealth of knowledge, experience and depth of insight to draw from. Which explains why a lot of us are here.But I’ll say again that the reason a lot of us are here is not just what you say, but also the way you say it that creates the space for engagement. I might beg to differ on your statement about some of your posts being garbage. But let’s say you are right. That’s the beauty of the community you’ve created. Someone will pick up the slack in the comments. Which goes back to what you’ve often said about the value of posting everyday and how this is conducive to creating a community.Although a lot of us — most of us — could post every single day and still not have nearly the same result you experience. So we become commenters.
So true Donna
BTW I love when you travel and actually post at a DECENT hour.
Blank Screen=Canvass Full of thoughts=Enlightenment
Brevity and Consistency is why I haven’t unsubscribed.
That’s pretty much my formula
That’s pretty much my formula
For me, the ritual and the grit and perseverance you put yourself through with blogging every day is pretty much the same process founders who stick with their vision and companies do – day in day out, year on year out. People ask you , like they ask founders “how do you do it ” . And I think something interesting happens along the way – with all the ups & downs and challenges faced (like not being able to blog about the things going on around you ) , there comes a day when the thing you do becomes a routine. It becomes part of what you do and who you are. Other people see it as your “commitment” or “passion”. But you dont see it that way. Because once you have embodied it as a routine , you just do it . You don’t question it . You can’t just stop . Its simply what you do. Period.
All I can say Fred is Thank You!
Thank you too Arnold
Early this year I joined a site called 750words.com which is a simple but brilliant way to help aspiring writers begin the discipline necessary to write a book. I wish I could say that I was able to go every day since January 19 when I first started. I wasn’t. But I did do it for a 35-day streak, a 14 day streak, and a few 10-day streaks… I got a small glimpse of the discipline and the habit you describe. It seemed to help every other part of my day. I’m going to start again – not 750 words perhaps, just writing. Starting and finishing a thought.
I also joined 750words in January and it’s been quite a positive change. One day I hope to convert to writing public posts in a regular blog but for now it’s just about writing down what’s on my mind.On the topic of the streak and discipline, I think it’s important to recognise that at some point you need to get beyond writing for the sake of writing. You’re really in control when you can look at your schedule, how you’re feeling, or whatever, and be able to skip a day and then pick it back up the next day without losing momentum.
which is a simple but brilliant way to help aspiring writers begin the discipline necessary to write a bookWell we can start with “why is it even necessary for people to write a book?”.I don’t mean that in terms of “books are dead” or anything like that. I just mean isn’t that the cart leading the horse?If you are intrinsically motivated and creative enough to write a book then write a book. If you aren’t then pick something to spend your time on that you are driven organically to do that you don’t need a hack in order to accomplish or a cattle prod.We aren’t talking about health or weight loss or even getting through high school here.We are talking about writing a book. Why are people so obsessed with being authors?
Your confession is not surprising me, and as someone who aspires to write daily and keeps failing at it, I’m getting some more motivation to just do it.I need to get over the fear of writing stuff that’s not always great. Maybe I’ll give myself a 30-day daily writing challenge and just effing do it.
absolutely. habit tip: they say on average, for smokers that eventually quit, it takes them seven failures… but the failures are actually victories, because each time they fail they find out a new trigger that re-activates their habit and they build defenses and preparations for dealing with those triggers in other ways as they try again… and eventaully quit
I like that 7 failures analogy a lot. it’s so true that every time you fail at the same thing, it triggers a different kind of learning. I need to remember these:”It takes 21 days to make or break a habit.” “We first make our habits, then our habits make us.”
I am curious what you think is “great” in terms of writing blog material William?
For me, I tend to like original, thought provoking, analytical writing; but I’m realizing that it doesn’t have to be always that way. An opinion could be a simple idea, and it can be explained in 400-500 words or less. I need to have more variety and spontaneity in my blog writings.
I think there are people that are looking for hard information (who might read a Mark Suster blog post) and people who are just are looking for light entertainment. In other words how someone successful thinks and reacts to everyday life.  To me I don’t have the time (or the need) to read Suster everyday although many people do. Maybe if I was in my 20’s I would definitely read Suster every day. My blog reading and commenting slot is filled by AVC and I don’t have time for more than that.You can do both of course you can have a ratio of meat to fluff that makes your blog interesting and a repeat destination.That is what even the WSJ did back in the day  (now it’s much more fluffy and general interest) or even the NY Times. The appeal of Fred’s blog is in large part because of his success more than what information he actually conveys. Of stipple portraits.
good point. i can alternate. and i might start doing that.then you’ll have to come over and comment 🙂
.Monsieur Blockchain?Have y’all met yet?JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…
.I love good architecture and had the great pleasure of working with several of the biggest names. Ever.Some of my best friends are architects.I hate the word “architecting”. My flaw, I am sure.You have been warned, friend.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…
There used to be a comedian who did a riff on Springsteen something like “here’s another song about a car”.Flash alert about bitcoin.Last night I was watching “Million Dollar Listing NYC” and they had cast some tech startup guys in NYC as potential buyers. (Not actors afaik). One guy was asking if he could pay with bitcoin. He actually got in that “bitcoin is the same as cash” and it sounded like a totally planted line and not spontaneous (or at least not as spontaneous as the other planted lines). I wish my wife who was watching with me knew enough in order to understand how ridiculous the whole story line was.This episode:http://www.bravotv.com/mill…
Back when I did this often I had two buddies one on the tech side, one on the wine side.Once a week we chose a 90 minute block to write and publish.Started and published at the end.Part of the discipline is choosing a manageable topic and doing it within a very short period of time.Unless of course you are retired and have nothing else to do.
I don’t know how you do it but keep it up. You do get on rolls, though and good posts seem to generate another good one.
Did you start out this way in the very beginning? I’m guessing your approach to writing has evolved over time? Could an aspiring writer start out with this approach on day 1?
I used to post 2-5x a day. I slowed it down to one a day which ive stuck with. Every once in a while i will do two but that is rare
Speaking of blank screens, my preferred one is the Google Docs screen, as it’s easier and more convenient to write there, especially when you have multiple on-going drafts.The WordPress New Post screen needs a make-over and it needs to behave more like Google Docs IMO.
interesting. That’s what I was getting at w/ 1 of my comments here.Any good platform should be extensible so that developer innovation can happen, and a user can have flexibility in terms of I/O.
compare with the simplicity of the blank page of a new post on medium;
yup, medium, google docs, squarespace & others are the new way of writing straight on the cloud. i’m puzzled that wordpress doesn’t allow that. even an integration from Docs to WP would be great, like Save As —> WordPress and it transfers to your Admin.
good suggestion.even mighty google has some odd inconsistencies across the suite of cloud apps; some formatting things work better in Slides than in Docs, so i wind up doing them in the former and copy/pasting to the latter … reminiscent of making tables in excel and pasting them into a word doc
What about “Distraction Free” writing mode? Have you tried that?
i have, but you lose the formatting options, and it doesn’t save automatically i think.i’m really liking writing in Docs, then i copy/paste and format in WP.
The struggle is real 😉
Great post. And, via the back door, it shows why we have — and need! — the fourth estate. As a journalist, I know what a blank screen is, and I have plenty of things I don’t write about. But I think we need folks dedicated to ferreting out the facts — trying to get folks like you to reveal all those closed door dramas!!!
Consistency is the hallmark of greatness.Ritual, habit & discipline are great words – especially for people who self describe as ‘easily bored’.
Part of the attraction of this blog is that I (as a reader) always get the feeling that it is just skimming the surface of what you are investing in, thinking about, seeing day to day on the cutting edge. It’s a window on another world, and it tantalisingly opens each day to varying degrees. Comments are great too. Thanks and keep up the fine work!!
Thanks Fred for one of the most not-garbage posts I’ve ever read. A great, thought-provoking way to start a truly productive day, esepically on a sad day like today. Putting away all pressing problems for 10-15 mins and letting something creative come out is an incredible idea. I sign me up!
Yeah. Writing is a salve to reading. Particularly when you read about horrible stuff
Yup it’s a ritual. I do a blogpost every day. Somedays it’s harder than others but most of the time I can think of something. You are right, sometimes it flows and the post is good-sometimes it’s arduous and the post isn’t so hot. All you can do is give it your best shot and try.My gut feel in your case is some great posts can come out of the things you are talking about. For example, you can’t talk about a new product launch, but you can talk about how to organize your business for a new product launch etc. There are so many of the finer points of operating a startup that you can speak about in generalities without compromising the actual business.I get value out of the posts, and I get a lot of value out of the comments, otherwise I wouldn’t punch avc.com into my browser each morning.
One thing I’ve learned to do that I find useful when I’m forcing myself to write a song — and this may already be part of your creative blog writing process — is that I let any idea flow out of my imagination as it will and I note it down; and I make sure to not let my consciousness interfere with what is happening. In other words I stay “out if the way” and let the process take place. I try to act as a “witness” more than as the “instigator”, at least for the initial piece so I can get a germ of an idea to work with.Another possibly useful suggestion is to capture moments when the creativity juices are flowing naturally, as it may occur throughout the day, and write little summaries of them on your smartphone that you can go back to the next morning and re-ignite.Lastly, thank you for taking the time to create and share something every single morning that others can enjoy.
and I make sure to not let my consciousness interfere with what is happening. In other words I stay “out if the way” and let the process take place. I try to act as a “witness” more than as the “instigator”, at least for the initial piece so I can get a germ of an idea to work with.Great points.This is similar in a way to my theory on avoiding “mental stuttering” and why when I am doing deals or perhaps just in every day life I almost never talk about what is going on in detail or ask the opinion of anyone else. I don’t want to second guess my instinct and my gut. I have found that very helpful.I am not a consultant but I help people with some things on a consulting basis. I had a somewhat well know movie director as a client who told me he wanted to be informed about everything I was doing and why. I told him “sorry I don’t do that it messes with the creative process in my brain”. That was both true and a play to him because I knew it would work very well with a person who was creative and under the thumb of the studios. And it did work. He backed off of that demand. I then actually ended up having many long phone conversations with him where I explained after the fact what was going on in my head as far as how I did what I did. I really enjoyed that.But if I had to run every move by him I might have questioned those moves and that would caused the stuttering that would blunt the creative process. I feel very strongly about this.
Makes complete sense to me.Someone asked Neil Young how he writes music and Neil answered “you don’t write music, you capture when it occur”. And countless others have more or less said the same thing, Black Sabbath, etc.We’re all talking along the same vein about the creative process.
Just do itYes Thank you
Success leaves clues as they say. Thanks for modelling this behavior.
Thank you Fred for sharing your thoughts on daily blogging. Some of your posts have served as the basis for starting a class discussion with my students. You and Seth were my inspiration for starting a daily blog this year, and I thought it was just me who occasionally struggled to come up with something to write each day. I’m glad to know that I am not alone.
Tomorrow”s Blog Post Idea: What do you think of the California Labor Boards ruling that Uber’s Drivers are employees and how has this been playing overseas where you are at?
I think it’s a minor decision in a much longer battle for them. I also think its a tough case for them to win. My partner Albert wrote more on it. See it on continuations.com
“The ritual, the practice, the frequency, the habit, and the discipline” <- that’s the secret to success in life in general.It covers everything from hobbies, to work, to even relationships and marriage…
Sounds almost like you are describing an OCD.
.Fred, your dedication to a daily blog is without equal.I know of no subject specific blog or blogger which produces a constant stream of thought provoking material of the quality that you deliver.Equally important, you regularly feed and nourish what is clearly the most thoughtful and interested/ing community on the web. The manners and comity of this community — even when discussion normally contentious subjects — is without equal.You have inspired others to write. Include myself amongst that group.You have also made the world a little smaller and more cozy place with the many interesting places from whence the community emanates.Thank you and thank you to the AVC community of extraordinary persons.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…
And, where has BRC been of late?
.BRC took a month off to Savannah, Columbia, Charleston, Fernandina Beach on Amelie Island — road tripping from BBQ joint to Cajun joint to fancy restaurants.Can you believe that shit in Charleston?First new post in a month today.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…
that’s some good country the BRC hit i must say! savannah especially is second to none!
.Savannah was not destroyed in the Civil War and is a lovely city with 24 public squares in the historic downtown.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…
Now that’s a fine road trip for clearing the head gaskets. To bad our paths didn’t cross. Lunch in Charleston would have been fun. Hanks should be on your dining list next time you’re there. A real tragedy today. Sen. Pinckney was well liked and admired.
.I didn’t know him well personally but when I had some lobbying dealings in SC, I met him as a member of the Black Caucus.What a tragedy.JLMwww.themusingsofthtebigredc…
Thanks JLM. If there is one thing this community has taught me is you don’t have to agree with someone to like them. I think that’s a lesson the entire world would benefit from
I would be challenged to put that any better JLM. I’ve been blogging off and on for 21 years now (am I really that old?), and Fred sets the bar. Fred, I’m not BSing, I thrive on challenges and your work and insights keep me challenged. Unfortunately I cannot rise as early as Fred normally does, and function well enough to produce intelligent (read: not embarrassing) content. I’m glad that Fred rises when he does so that I always have something available to me, and great discussion already happening, when I’m ready to ingest it.I share similar issues when going to write a post. I can’t write about insider information, cool yet unreleased things our company is doing, or anything that might reflect negatively on our company. To me, that’s much harder than writing a post on a given topic. The writing is the easy part.Thinking of rituals, reading Fred’s latest post is part of my morning routine to encourage (not guarantee) a good start to the day. I try to spend the first hour of each day, before doing any work-related items, learning something new or enriching the knowledge I already have, and spend 15 minutes reading something in a foreign language, usually native news, to keep up my polyglot habit.Do fires interrupt? Of course, but the day starts better by enriching one’s self before putting on the CEO hat and all that it entails.
Posting every day isn’t easy for a host of reasons but for me the hardest is that much of what I work on every day is off limits. I wake up thinking about a drama unfolding in one of our portfolio companies and I can’t blog about that. I wake up thinking about aYou hit the nail on the head as far as why I don’t blog. I would feel handicapped. There are just so many things that are off limits and that can’t be discussed. And the missing details, the things that you would tell someone perhaps if you with a friend in a private meeting are the most interesting and engaging topics and minutia that would hold someone’s attention.  But even with a private meeting you have to be careful. In the past someone (say like you) could tell something to someone in private and there was little chance that that info would make it to the general public. Today it’s trivial and very possible for that info to become public or to get passed along and end up in a public forum.
RE daily ritual, quantity & quality: I read once of an Art Professor who conducted a study RE quality of ceramic art, graded on a curve. Half his class was charged to create a single work and their semester grade would depend solely on the quality of that one piece.The other half would be graded on the total weight of all ceramics produced over the semester.The first group meditated, agonized, fretted and delayed until time was almost up. The second group got right to work and never looked up, producing a roomful of objects, from the ghastly to the sublime.The quality of the first group’s work was just OK – what you’d expect from a random group of undergraduates.But the average quality of the second group’s work was far higher. Given the luxury of wasting their cycles any way they chose, they found the genius otherwise trapped by their inner scarcity model. The quality of each student’s work gradually rose and easily outshined the average of the group striving for perfection.The lesson is that the blank page is our friend, like an open mind and showing up for work every day. And having children without knowing how it’ll work out.I guess our role, we your readers, is to act as an empty turntable for whatever formless clay you want to throw our way.
project runway: a whole collection in a weekmy kid is in a few fashion camps this summer — they started cranking out work on day one, to get in the habit.
How much time do you spend on this habit? From “oh crap, I need a topic.” to hitting the publish button?
No more than 60mins a day
Play is what we do when there’s no fixed outcome, just exploration. Play = learning.Process-oriented, rather than product-focused, play, creating, or writing, is where we are most free, albeit often most challenged. But if we don’t allow that freedom, we don’t create from instinct.The freedom to simply do it, whatever that it is, and see where we end up is vital. I wish education trusted this basic tenet more – we get more creative risk-taking, explorative minds with trust.If we knew where we were going, all the time, it would be dull.
well saidsome people write with an outline: beginning, middle, end.some just jump into the middle and swim up to the surface.i do either, depending on the situation.i’m finishing a work project after a lot of research; not sure yet what the intro or middle will be, but i’ve found the conclusion, so i’m working backwards from thatdebating how much tangential, fun, related but in a, oooh, look, over there, manner, stuff to put in — it’s a fine line between amusing myself and entertaining / annoying the audience it’s for. i’m leaning toward going for it; i can always revise it back into a boring paper.
Laurie, having a conclusion is a different type of writing no? That’s a paper, the schoolwork of adults, and a different animal than a blog post, which is probably more full of questions. The in between here is the questions and Jerry Colonna’s favorite idea from Rilke’s “Live the Question”.For sure papers are more fun when you dig into the epiphany, the aha! moment, which showed the journey. Then it’s a story, and arriving at the destination is satisfying. Trial and error is not exclusive to humans, it’s all of nature, the history of life.
i don’t disagree — just saying that, for me, it can be equally as true for a 500 word blog post as for a 20 page paper or a 50 slide presentation; not always starting at the beginning, not always finishing with the ending
Your dedication and philosophy is very akin to what Chuck Close says about making art: Inspiration is for amateurs – the rest of us just show up and get to work. http://awe.sm/gNYHQ
I LOVE that quote. So many great artists have shared similar thoughts.
AVC passes Google’s toothbrush test. It’s a daily habit.Thanks to everyone here for making it a place we can all hang out, learn, share and mostly take ourselves beyond ourselves.
Yup. Always looking forward to the morning read… Thanks Fred.
Consistency – such a simple recipe and yet so hard to achieve.I’ve learned a ton about what a great daily blog looks like from hanging out here.
OK – So what is today’s going to be about ? <—- Joke 🙂
Waxing lyrical. the usual.you want to hear a joke backwards? start by laughing 🙂
I love to say to my Nephew: “Say `Knock Knock'”to which I answer in the traditional “Who’s there?”to which he rolls on the floor in hysterical confusion(He is possibly younger than the average AVC reader)
omg, that is a great stage of early kid humor.related: hello; i must be goinghttp://www.elyrics.net/read…
Well.. however you do it, it’s clearly working.
A number of prolific creative writers recommend starting each day with 1-2 pages of “free form” writing. (This was way before blogs existed.) It certainly unleashes the creative brain for the rest of the day. (My favoriite is “Writing Down the Bones”) http://www.amazon.com/Writi…
For me it has become a daily ritual of reading yours n Seth Godin blog , most of the time i get inspired and try to put something in practice or influence or share with others. But you guys are brilliant of writing daily and does not matter if you are travelling or busy …that shows the love and inspiration I’m sure you get reading the comments .. Keep writing 🙂
This is one of my favorite blog posts.
this inspired me to write today for the first time in a long time. thanks Fred.
Absolutely spot-on Fred; established PROCESS is key in writing/blogging/repetitive creative. Why do you think so many “real authors ” (HA!) make a point of writing x pages or for y hours ever day?I hadn’t thought of this explicitly before, so thank you. We’ll be incorporating this idea into the message at http://answerguy.com , where business process management is the idea and ideal.As is so often true … you da man.
WITHOUT QUESTION. The discipline and practice of writing is really the foundation of great writing, period. Most times I don’t feel like writing at all… but there’s a sense of responsibility and desire to do it, even when that feeling is just trace…
That’s interesting that you look at the blank screen. When I don’t have a topic to post about, I used to hit other blogs to find inspiration. Now, most of those people have moved to Twitter and so now I go to Twitter for inspiration. I agree that some of the best posts come as a surprise.I will say this. People totally underestimate what it takes to blog regularly. It sounds easy until you do it. Although, over time it does get easier. Although, you’re probably like me now and you start to wonder if you’re retreading topics you’ve already covered.As far as consuming your posts, I don’t have a ritual there. My RSS reader collects the posts and I read them based on my schedule. I’ll admit that I know when I haven’t read in a while and I get excited to think that I have so many of your posts waiting for me to consume. I like to tell people that I read VC blogs (like yours and Brad Feld’s) as a hobby. Reading VC blogs definitely takes my nerd level to a new height.I will say that the videos you post change the way I consume your blog. Videos take more time and so I can’t consume them on the fly like I do your posts. YouTube “Watch Later” has been good in this regard, but the videos you post act as a barrier to me consuming other posts if the video’s the next post in my RSS reader.
@fredwilson:disqus question: on average how much time do you invest (and it is an investment) in a) writing your daily post and b) conversing with the community ex-post? Thank you for this investment. I bet many readers wish they took the chance to do it themselves and their comments here are oftentimes essentially their own blog posts.
30 to 60mins a day on average
An investment I think all of us could (should) make as well. Key is taking that first small step.
My buddy is a songwriter, and every time he touches a piece of blank paper, he always throws a slash of ink across the page. He can think better with an un-blanked page. =)http://kapuno.com/conversat…
Congratulations, you’ve slayed RESISTANCE – and we are the beneficiaries. To learn more about RESISTANCE, read “The War of Art” by Stephen Pressfield. It’s one of the best motivational books ever written.
such a gooooooood book!
So true! It pains me when I miss a day of reading this bog. Thank you for your dedication!
Everyday I wonder what you are going to write about. I have learned a lot from you and all the people who leave comments, as I read most of them. Thank you
It is nothing short of amazing that you’ve kept up this pace and maintained the quality you have. I know the feeling of the “blank screen” and you’ve tamed it better than most.Fred, you and Seth inspire me, yet I fail to keep up. I’ve been blogging for 6 years now and my frequency has diminished to two – three times a week. It kills me. I just feel like an empty vessel. It often feels like I’ve written everything I know. I put so much pressure on myself to create something “good” and new, that if I don’t think it has value I punt. This punting creates days of no posts.If I’m honest, I’ve come to accept I no longer post every day. I posted every day for two years. Then it slipped to 5 or 6 times a week. Then 4-5 times a week. Now it’s 2-3. It’s amazing you’ve been able to keep up the pace.Well done my man, well done!
Fred, could you write about policy of startups not giving equity to employees? What would drive this kind of corp/hr policy?
I sense Malcolm Gladwell’s theory at work here, 10,000 hours to perfection!Don’t take your foot off the gas, look forward to every post!
.Every time I hear the word “scaling”, I think of scaling fish. Big fish.It is right up there with “architecting” in my hall of fame.Five yards, loss of word.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…
why anonymous…that would spoil the fun of knowing it’s from you, Charlie.could you find a way to blog without revealing secrets or strategic stuff?
I feel the need for that outlet to sort through the challenges we face.So you need a sounding board which makes sense. The same reason people go to therapists (they don’t typically solve any problems, right?). (Many) People just want someone who will listen to what they have to say for 50 minutes and it can be all about them. Then the inevitable “we have to wrap this up”.Why don’t you do this. Why don’t you do a closed community blogging test. Put up your blog and write posts (about the challenges you face) but don’t make it public.Just invite certain people to visit (password protected … can just be a simple apache authentication) and those people can comment if they want. Keep it limited to a small group who agrees not to disclose any subject matter.If you did that, and it was interesting, I would visit and perhaps make comments.
Has blogging replaced journaling? It seems that you could achieve much of the same result by keeping a daily journal. Of course you wouldn’t get the feedback through comments but you’d get all the rest. You’d also have material for future posts.A friend published an inspirational book and found that she had already written much of the material in her journal.
You could journal privately and then publish it all after you go public in 7 years
Old school he is 100% right. If the benefit to his business doesn’t exceed the potential downside (and that is hard to calculate) then no way should he blog about what is going on. And even if he does blog how honest can he really be? Is he going to discuss an employee problem honestly or even health problems and so on? That he can’t pay his bills? Do you think that if vendors were to know that there is little money left in the bank they are going to say “Charlie is such a nice guy let’s continue to extend him more credit”.I am always amazed at the extent of effort that people put in and personal information that people share on the net in order to become an internet celebrity. In many cases this obviously has a payback in terms of career or business success or perhaps personal fulfillment. But it does come at a cost there is no question about that.Look at it this way. If you were in school and were trying to get good grades to what degree would you divulge your secrets so that the competition could make life difficult for you?
If you are subject to a distribution model which is the core of your business, it is simply a very bad strategy to narrate its issues or question its policies.The food business is a mono channel reality.
I dunno how different it is from Fred not disclosing secrets, and still spreading opinions and knowledge.if you want a competitive business, the VC is damn competitive. actually, i can’t think of a significant type of business that is not competitive.
again, look at Fred. he doesn’t divulge secrets, but he writes. it can be done.
Language evolves. Surrender to it.
I really don’t like http://architizer.com/ as a name. They would have been better off with http://www.archr.com (which I actually owned and sold last year..)
.Haha, good one.I, madam, have never surrendered to anything in my life.No retreat. No surrender. No bell bottoms.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…
This is not about being competitive it is about a mono channel.
Bell bottoms: you don’t know what you’re missing 😉
Surrender to Nature, Surrender to your breath
.I was in the Army, the first time they were in fashion. I’ve been wearing the same pleated, cuffed khakis for the last thirty years. They’re starting to get soft now.If they hadn’t invented boat shoes, I’d be barefoot or have to wear goat ropers all the time.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…
Well he kind of does. He reveals much about himself and how he thinks and that info can be used against him at some point. That doesn’t mean he isn’t successful even with that. He is. But it does have an impact. And it doesn’t mean that someone that isn’t Fred would be able to pull it off.   Like saying “he climbed Everest with only 1 leg so you should be able to as well”. Not everyone can do things well with 1 leg. Another example is BandH Photo. They close on Saturdays (religious Jews) but are very successful. But they also have a long history and tie ins with major manufactures and legacy intertia. As a general business strategy it would obviously be foolish to “cut off your leg” just because someone else has overcome that particular adversity and thrived. You need as much advantage as possible. Firing on all cylinders.
I did that once when I was in a difficult relationship. I covered a great deal of issues covering all sorts of emotions. I kept thinking that I needed to write it all down and that it would make great material for a book. Even though I had never wanted to write a book and don’t plan to do so. Just the raw emotions seemed so real and I felt that they needed to be documented.It was very helpful and fun to do. Once again, wasn’t a directive or an assignment but something driven almost entirely by emotion and reaction to events.
I think the private vs public thing means both need to exist but they do provide similar benefits
I’m impressed that you did this LE.