I’m Lou Franco and this is episode 18 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.
Previously in Season Two
This is the third episode of season 2, and like I said, this season is about restarting projects.
In the first episode of the season, episode number 16, I talked about how holding an incorrect worldview held me back, but I couldn’t reject it until I tried to solve problems with this worldview and just couldn’t.
I realized that my beliefs were wrong, and so I tried advice that I’d been initially resisting and I was able to accept a new worldview, make some progress, and be more open to advice along those lines.
Last week, in episode 17, I talked about how I figured out that one of the things that was holding me back from podcasting was not being comfortable with the quality of the podcasts and wanting them to be better. But then I realized that in my life I’d only gotten better at things when I worked with others.
To become a good programmer, I needed to program with others, and get their feedback.
So now I accept that I won’t get better at podcasting unless I make podcasts and share them with others.
Listening to my own advice
To prepare for this season, I thought it would be a good idea to re-listen to all of my podcasts from season one. Each of them is only about 10 minutes and there are only 15 episodes, so it doesn’t take too long.
This had two effects.
First I realized they weren’t as bad as I thought, which made me feel better about restarting.
The second thing is that I started to hear the advice almost as if it was coming from a third party because I had recorded these so long ago. I had dropped many of these practices during my break, so it was almost like hearing from a different person. But that person was making podcasts and I wasn’t, so I decided to listen to him.
Here are a few episodes that were helpful in helping me restart this podcast.
Episode one is about an exercise called Morning Pages. It’s from a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.
In this exercise, you start every morning by filling three pages with long-hand writing. Just a stream of consciousness. It doesn’t matter what it is, you’re not going to use it for anything.
It’s just an exercise that helps you get better at writing on demand.
I started doing this a few days before I restarted and it really helped.
I also started doing what I call morning recordings, where I record myself for 15 minutes just speaking extemporaneously in a stream of conscious. And then I use a program called whisper from OpenAI to transcribe those recordings into a transcription. I sometimes use pieces of those transcriptions in these podcasts.
In episode four, I talked about how you just have to have a schedule and make time to do things that you want to do. This seems obvious, but I wasn’t putting podcasting on the schedule. So I did that and force myself to do it when it shows up on my calendar.
Last week, I talked about how I wasn’t following the advice of episode 8, which is all about lowering the bar and biasing towards shipping. I relistened to this episode and it’s been helpful in reminding of me why to do it.
In episode 10, I talked about why I’m even doing this podcast and why I’m writing in general.
That episode explains the name of the podcast: Write While True.
If you’re a programmer, you realize, well, that’s an infinite loop. That’s intentional because writing and podcasting are infinite games.
I’m not playing the game to win.
It’s a game I’m playing because it’s fun.
Like I said in the intro, it’s like a game of catch, and the only way to get better is just to do it more often.
Related to that was episode 11, which tells the story of a class of pottery students.
Half of the class were graded on the quantity of their pots, measured by their weight, and half were graded on their best pot, which needed to be perfect to get an A.
At the end of the class, the best pots were made by the students that were judged on quantity, whereas the ones that were judged on quality theorized about pots but didn’t make any great ones. I spent a lot of my break theorizing about the great podcasts I was going to make. Now, I just want to make 50 pounds of podcasts.
In episode 12, I talked about the one thing I can do that makes writing and podcasting easier for me, which is to keep a long topic list.
Right after I relistened to this episode, I tried to come up with as many ideas as I could about what was helping me get restarted. I thought of six. This is the third one.
I have at least have three more to go, but I’ll try to come up with more topics and make this season at least as long as the first one.
To come up with new ideas, I could apply the lesson in episode 13.
This is where I talked about a book by James Webb Young called A Technique for Producing Ideas. It’s a short, breezy read, more like a pamphlet than a book, and you can listen to that episode to learn how to generate new ideas or if you want, you can read his book in about 30 minutes.
Finally, ironically, one of the episodes that’s helping me the most is the last episode of season one, episode 15, the one right before I took two years off.
In that episode, I talked about how I’m trying to develop an identity as a podcaster and a writer. That I know that my identity as a programmer helps me, makes me want to program more, and my identity as a runner makes me want to run more.
I want to do the same with writing and podcasting. But I see now that the identity comes after the work. It might be a year before I feel like I’m a podcaster.
The other episodes are more tactical on how to edit or write first drafts or how to keep track of your notes while reading, but the ones I’ve pointed out here are the ones that are helping me right now.
Taking my own advice
A few years ago I read Nassim Taleb’s books, which are philosophical essays and parables on randomness. One of the books in the series is called Skin in the Game.
In this book, he writes about the idea of not giving advice to other people that you don’t take yourself. That you should suffer the consequences of your own bad advice.
When I was recording those podcasts, I was doing all of the activities I described in them, but when I went on my break, each of them fell to the wayside.
But now as I’m restarting, I can say that I am taking my own advice, and it is working for me.
How about you? Are you following your own advice? Think back to when you were the most productive or doing the work you are the most proud of. What advice would you have given? Maybe you were asked about it and wrote an email or a Linked-in post about it. Go find it and reread what you wrote or use this as a prompt and write some advice to yourself from the past when you seemed to know better.
Thanks for listening. This has been Write While True, a podcast where we’re ok with infinite loops, as long as they’re fun.