Write While True Episode 40: Transcript

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I’m Lou Franco and this is episode 40 of Write While True.

Write While True is an infinite loop, and that’s because I think of writing as an infinite game. A game I play for fun and to get better at it. Like a game of catch.

So in each episode, I’ll tell you something I learned about writing, and then I’ll throw you the ball with a writing challenge or a prompt.

Introducing Season 4

I started this podcast in 2021 because I wanted to write more. I was reading a lot of books by authors and artists about their processes, and I was trying so many things and learning so much. I knew that I would benefit if I took the time to synthesize what I learned and share it.

It’s been on and off since then. Season one ended in 2021 when I just got too busy to continue. Those episodes are about the basics: first drafts, editing, voice and tone, choosing an audience, coming up with ideas.

I took off in 2022 from the podcast but came back in 2023 with season two which is about not quitting. All of the episodes in season two are on the theme of stopping if you have to (temporarily), but not giving up.

At the end of 2023, I slipped into season three which is about the tools and materials of writing: words, sentences, and paragraphs.

For season four, which I’m starting right now, my plan is to take you through my process as I try to write a short, focused book. I expect it to be about 50 pages. I call this kind of book a pamphlet.

The name pamphlet comes from the short works produced in the lead up to the American Revolution that were used to sway public opinion. The most famous is Common Sense by Thomas Paine, which was referenced in the musical Hamilton.

In episode 13, I talked about my favorite, more modern pamphlet: A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young. He was an advertising executive in the Mad Men era (the 1960s). His book is his answer to how he comes up with so many creative ideas. It’s comprehensive about this one topic, but it’s very short.

My ambition is like Young’s — I want to write a book that shares my thoughts on a single topic in my industry. I started this podcast to get me to write more, and I did accomplish that goal. I wrote 100’s of blog posts and some themes emerged. I’ll be using one of those themes to help me get a first draft.

Exercise: Define a large writing goal

My plan to write this book is based on the lessons I learned from the book The Four Disciplines of Execution. This book outlines a strategy for getting important work done while acknowledging the whirlwind of things you need to do just to keep your life going.

The book is something I want to do, but I still have a lot of things I need to do with my time. I still need to service my clients, work on my startup, go grocery shopping, make dinner, spend time with my wife and family, plan trips, work out, manage my finances, read books. The list goes on and on, and none of that goes away because I want to write a book.

Four Disciplines doesn’t expect you to not do those things—it’s focussed on how you make sure you get your important work done in spite of those things.

Step one is just deciding on what your Wildly Important Goal is. In my case, it’s this pamphlet. They recommend defining the goal in a very concrete way with a deadline. My deadline is the end of 2024.

I started working on this goal in January, and right now, I have about 10,000 words. In the next few episodes, I’ll outline the other three disciplines in the Four Disciplines of Execution, and how I’ve been using them so far.

But, for now, if you’ve ever wanted to write a book (and this seems daunting), then I suggest you start with something smaller, like a pamphlet. It’s only 50 pages.

For the next few months, I’ll be publishing episodes about the processes and techniques I am learning and applying. They would be useful for any large, non-fiction writing project. If you want to follow along, at this point, to apply the first discipline of The Four Disciplines, you just need to define the goal with a date. For me, it’s to publish a 50 page book on a topic in software development by the end of 2024. If you want to try that, that would be fine. Other ideas are to make a video course or even a long blog series with different posts on the same topic.

In the first three seasons of Write While True, I concentrated on getting a writing habit focussing on short-form writing. This season will be about something bigger. I hope you’ll play along.

This has been Write While True, a podcast where we love infinite loops as long as they’re fun.