So You want to Become a Better Writer?

A couple of days ago I did the first post in this series on becoming a better writer. What I realized is, maybe instead of being a better writer, I should write something about why you should write in the first place.

In that post, I introduced you to Scott Adams and Professor Patrick Barry. They are the biggest influence on me as far as the craft is concerned. In this post, I’m introducing Jim O’Shaughnessy, Howard Lindzon, and James Altucher to the mix.

One reason to write is because our memories are unreliable narrators. I’ll let Jim explain:

“One of the things that I learned very young was document things. Because there’s nothing like being called a liar in your own handwriting… Anyway, I was at some event and they were saying, “Hey, you were around during the crash of 1987, right?” And I’m like, “Yes, I was.” And they said, “Did you call it?” And I went, “Yes, I did.” And they’re like, “Really?” And I’m like, “Yeah, I got the biggest put position ever before the crash.” And I was driving home, and this might be the genie … inside of us, [that] was saying, “Read your journal, read your journal.” I read my journal and I’d forgotten something conveniently. I sold all of those puts the day before the crash. So the part of me that wanted to be a hero in the Campbell journey was reminded about the real guy who had the sense to write it down… And what it taught me was, our memories are unreliable narrators.

And writing can help you think.

Successful entrepreneur and investor Howard Lindzon says, “I love to write because it helps me think. I do it … on my blog and in several books. And I publish a newsletter of things I think are worth paying attention to.”

Shelby Davis, one of the greatest investors you’ve probably never heard of, wrote and published a bi-weekly newsletter for forty plus years. He wrote it and printed it and sent it faithfully to his clients. His grandson, who was helping him publish it, once asked, “Why do we bother with this when nobody reads it?” Davis said, “It’s not for the readers. It’s for us. We write it for ourselves. Putting ideas on paper forces you to think things through.”

It can help you get the girl (or boy)

James Altucher is a prolific writer: “About 24 years ago I started writing every day because I thought if I got a novel published I would get girls to like me. I also felt like I couldn’t get a job in the real world unless I had a published novel … but I wrote every day.”

I don’t care if you want to write the next great American novel, or if you want to write ketchup bottle labels. I’m attracted to the nuance and construction of the words, even their persuasive value. To me, words are art; to be played with, moved around, and changed if necessary.

The next post in this series will cover lessons from ‘The Day You Became a Better Writer’ by Scott Adams.

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