I’m Lou Franco and this is episode 17 of Write While True.
The name of this podcast is a program that goes into an infinite loop, and that’s because I think of writing as an infinite game.
I’m not playing it to win, I’m playing it because it’s fun.
It’s like a game of catch, which is even more fun when you get better at it, but the only way to do that is to keep playing.
So in each episode, I’ll tell you something I learned about writing and then throw you the ball with a writing challenge or prompt.
This is season two, which is about restarting after stopping.
I’m exploring this topic in the context of restarting this podcast after a two-year hiatus.
My two years off
I started this podcast in 2021 and I was able to publish a new episode weekly for 15 weeks in a row and then I stopped.
When I look back at the dates, I see that it coincides with a trip that I took around June or July in 2021.
And when I got back, I took on some big programming projects. Over the next six months, I had to travel for work quite a bit. So, it’s understandable that I’d have to take a little break.
But I know that for the past two years, I’ve been thinking a lot about restarting this podcast and then just never did it.
I have to say that honestly, a big part of what stops me from doing it is that I’m not happy with the quality.
Last week I talked about how I was held back by an incorrect worldview and that I needed to keep trying and trying and trying and failing and failing and failing inside of my belief system before I was able to reject that worldview. Once I did that, I was open to suggestions from an expert.
The problem here is harder because I think I have the right worldview, but my actions show that I don’t really hold that view strongly. I think the right thing to do is to make a lot of podcasts (I said that in episode 11 which was about quantity). I think that to do that you have to lower the bar (episode 8 was all about that). I think I think these things — sometimes I do really behave this way — but even if I give myself grace for the first year off, the second year is harder to justify.
But here I am. A week ago I restarted, and I’ve got the second episode going right now. So what changed?
Time to Reflect
At the end of each year, I spend some time reflecting on the previous year and planning the next one.
In December of 2022, I tried to figure out why I wasn’t writing as much and why I hadn’t restarted the podcast.
I thought about things that were going well, where I had a lot of output, like my programming projects. One thing I realized that helps a lot is that I am proud of that work. Doing it is a self-esteem builder, and I have a lot of confidence that I can meet my own standards.
I’ve been programming for a long time, so this isn’t much of a surprise. All during that time I challenged myself by doing bigger projects and learning new things.
While learning new things and working on bigger and bigger projects helped me improve, it wasn’t the most important factor.
What helped me the most was the people I worked with.
When you write code, it’s just part of the job to get your work reviewed by others. Sometimes I even worked side-by-side with another developer as a pair, passing the keyboard back and forth. Giving and getting feedback as we worked.
All of my code was part of a larger whole, so I was constantly exposed to the work of others. I probably read 10x as much code as I wrote and learned all along the way.
I was lucky to have skilled collaborators that helped me get better.
So, writing a lot of code helped me, but it was just as important as seeing the work of others and giving and getting feedback.
But I forgot this lesson when it came to my other interests.
I also want to get better at writing and podcasting, and that’s where I’ve stumbled.
When I figured this out — I wrote a phrase in my journal:
Make Art with Friends.
I decided that in 2023, I was going to seek out like minded people who could help me.
So in January I joined my local Toastmasters group. This is a group that meets once a week to practice public speaking. A big part of it is getting feedback. They call it evaluation. They value evaluation so much, that they also evaluate the evaluators.
The big thing I learned is that you should tell people what you are trying to improve and the kind of feedback you are looking for. This helps you be more open to the suggestions.
The previous episode and this one were both adapted from speeches I gave to the group, and I developed them further based on their feedback.
To learn more about receiving feedback, check out episode 399 of the Scriptnotes podcast. In this podcast, two professional screenwriters talk to a room of producers and teach them about how to give feedback to writers. They explain why it feels so painful to hear feedback and how to structure it so that it will be accepted better.
So, what about you? Is there something you’re working on that you haven’t shipped? Do you think it’s not good enough? Try showing it to someone. If you want, you can show it to me. Email it to me at email@example.com.
The Feedback I Want
If you want to give me feedback, I already know that one of my big problems is that I’m trying to sound as if these podcasts are extemporaneous, but they’re not — they’re scripted and I know they sound like I’m reading sometimes and I’m working on it.
What I’d really like to hear from you is whether the tip I’m trying to give was useful to you. Or if you have any tips that you’d like to share with me.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Thanks for listening. This has been Write While True, a podcast where we’re ok with infinite loops, as long as they’re fun.