How I write these posts v3.0

A different tack today, so skip it now if you aren’t interested in the process behind these posts. I always enjoy the this is how I write posts or videos (Ryan Holiday just did one), and this is one for  how the Andy Grove post happened.

1/ Find the source. Tren Griffin writes the wonderful 25iq.com blog had a post about Grove. Some of the quotes sounded interesting so I ordered the book on Amazon.com (we have Prime).

For podcast notes this just means listening to episodes as they come up. I subscribe to 80 feeds. If I’ve started an episode, I’ll continue it. I’ll skip quickly, and start from the top.

2/  Read the book (or listen to the podcast). For Grove’s book, Only the Paranoid Survive it meant reading it. I try to follow Stephen King’s advice as closely as possible and take a book everywhere.

I take a book with me everywhere I go, and find there are all sorts of opportunities to dip in. The trick is to teach yourself to read in small sips as well as in long swallows. Waiting rooms were made for books – of course! But so are theater lobbies before the show, long and boring checkout lines, and everyone’s favorite, the john.”

At first taking a book everywhere was odd, but now it feels normal along with the phone, wallet and keys. The hard part is reading the book, a simple but not easy exercise for sure.

As I read/listen I let my confirmation bias work for me. If there’s an idea, like, keeping a low overhead I’ll make a note of it. To get new ideas I try to look for areas of a book or podcast episode where I didn’t take any notes. Why is the person writing this? Why did they include this? How else could this have happened?

More often than not I can’t answer, but sometimes something good comes from these questions.

3/ Put ALL THE NOTES in Evernote. Overcast, my podcast app of choice, allows you to export at a certain time to a variety of services, one of which is Evernote. Mostly I listen to podcasts on runs, and export timestamps to Evernote to look at later.

For book notes it means paging through the book and copying what I underlined. The books notes for Only the Paranoid Survive were 1400 words in total, but only 500 made it into the Grove post. How? I chose the most common themes.

While I transcribe my notes and Grove’s quotes from the book, I organize it by theme. Here’s a snippet of that.

Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 8.05.02 AM.png

Two similar ideas thirty pages apart. I include terms “devil’s advocate, flyting, argue well, etc” to search for this later. In my head these are adjacent ideas, and I want (hope) that future searches for this concept would show this quote.

Flyting by the way, is the wonderful term I got from Geography of Genius, another book that promotes constructive confrontation. Wilbur Wright was a flyter too, “(Wilbur) was always ready to oppose an idea expressed by anybody…ready to jump into an argument with both sleeves rolled up,” said family fried George Spratt. “A good scrap….brought out new ways of looking at things…helped round the corners,” Wilbur said.

4/ Outline, write, proof, publish, (fix mistakes I find later). I’ll outline a post with the major ideas, fill in the direct quotes, and add the links. One helpful tool for this is aText. It’s a software program that lets you have key sequences that fill in programmed text. So, if I want to link to a post like this: Peter Thiel, I’ll only type “;;pt1.” That five character segment expands to Markdown code, which WordPress turns into hyperlinks.

I’ll try to write the first draft fast, making lots of errors, including too many words, and with more examples that are necessary. Then it sits for a day or two. Then I edit it. Then I publish it. Then I find another spelling error and update the post.

The actual writing of each post might take an hour. The note organization thirty minutes. The book reading, three hours. A podcast, one hour.

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