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Posts about reading (old posts, page 3)

Rules for Life

Ryan Holiday writes about 11 expressions that you will help you with life.

I have always used Memento Mori and Amor Fati.
This list has several more!

  1. Festina Lente
  2. Carpe Diem
  3. Fac, si facis
  4. Quidvis recte factum quamvis humile praeclarum
  5. Semper Fidelis (Always Faithful)
  6. Per Angusta Ad Augusta
  7. Amor fati
  8. Fatum Ingenium Est
  9. Semper Anticus
  10. Vivere Militare Est
  11. Memento Mori

Go on, read about what they mean and how they can change you.


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Life is Short

via Vishal Khandelwal

Vishal has a lovely article, on the shortness of life, over at Safal Niveshak.
That is where I stole the beautiful picture above from. (you can click the pic for a larger version.)

“So you must match time’s swiftness with your speed in using it, and you must drink quickly as though from a rapid stream that will not always flow.”
—Seneca


“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
—Mark Twain


“You live as if you were destined to live forever, no thought of your frailty ever enters your head, of how much time has already gone by you take no heed. You squander time as if you drew from a full and abundant supply, though all the while that day which you bestow on some person or thing is perhaps your last.”
—Seneca

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Want to Write? Here’s a Simple 3 Step Process

In the vein of the old zen koan about enlightenment or Seth’s drip by drip approach to affecting change in the world, James Clear offers a simple 3 step process to becoming a writer (or painter, or programmer, or guitarist, weight loss person, or gymnast.)

  1. Publish on a schedule. Consistency develops ability.
  2. Share your writing publicly. Writing is a magnet. It attracts like-minded people.
  3. Write about what fascinates you. You don't need to be an expert. Curiosity leads to expertise.

It’s simple.
It’s not easy :)
Walking the path as I have, I can attest to both, its difficulty as well as its efficacy :)

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Reread Books

In the run up to exams in a few months, my life has turned super busy again.
So once again, I turn to wiser people and the things that inspire me, to keep my writing habit going :)

Let’s start with Ryan Holiday.
In his post, Ryan Holiday Picks 20 Books to Help You Live Better in 2020, he concludes with a sage paragraph on the benefits of re reading books that matter.

When I wrapped up my list of books last year, I made one final recommendation that I will repeat this year. Whether you read any of the books above or not — this year or next year — I do think you would be vastly improved by the experience of picking three or four titles that have had a big impact on you in the past and commit to reading them again. Seneca talked about the need to “linger among a limited number of master thinkers, and digest their works, if you would derive ideas which shall win firm hold in your mind.”

And no matter how many times you read a certain book, you never read the exact same book twice because you change from one reading to the next. So this year, go reread To Kill A Mockingbird. Give The Odyssey another chance. Sit with a few chapters from the 48 Laws of Power. See how these books have stood the test of time, and see how your perspective differs from when you read them last.

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On Writing as a Discipline, a Practice

My brain is too scattered, so here are a few scattered thoughts on writing and why I write.

On the why?

Writing, to me, is cathartic exercise.
It acts like a pressure release valve.
It makes me calmer.
The very act of writing clarifies my thoughts, and helps sharpen my mind.
It gives me distance from my thoughts, makes me more objective.
It helps me learn better.
As I was learning Maths last year, the teacher constantly reminded me that learning, true learing and understanding, comes from written practice. Knowledge, he’d say flows upwards, through the pen to your fingers, through your brain and into your mind.

On how often?

Should you write regularly?
Thrice a day? Once every day? Once a week?
That does not matter.
The point is that you do write.
Often.
And to a rhythm, you find comfortable.

We need a routine.

Tim Ferriss on getting back to basics.

but without a regular writing practice, books eventually became terrifying. It was like committing to an Ironman every few years without doing any training in between. Even if you can muscle things on game day, and even if the outcome looks great from the outside, the lead-up and the internal experience are likely to be anxiety-ridden and unpleasant.

All because I stopped blogging.

Private journaling is a step in the right direction, but it’s not a replacement. I need to face the squirmy discomfort that comes both before and after publishing. So…

I’m getting back in the writing game, and I’m going to publish something on this blog at least once per week.

[…]

I hope that some of the writing will be decent, but a lot of it will be worth taking behind the barn and shooting in the head. Some of it will be long (e.g., unpublished chapters from secret book projects), and some of it will be short (e.g., terrible haiku out of desperation). As long as I publish something — anything — once a week, it doesn’t matter.

On writer’s block

Thing you will get stuck? I assure you, you will. :)
I do, all the time.
This post was supposed to be an quickie.
And forty five minutes two hours later, I am still trying to grasp at what exactly I want to share.

The best way out, is through.
Power through the block.
The Daily Stoic, has sage, stoic advice.

What about when a writer gets stuck? What about when the words don’t seem to come? John Avlon, the Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Beast described writer’s block as “getting stuck in a desert, a nightmare.” Similarly, Esquire writer Cal Fussman has said this on his ten year war with writer’s block on a particular article: “On the sunniest day of summer the fact that I couldn’t write that piece hung over me like a dark cloud.”

The first key is simple: Do not despair. As Marcus Aurelius wrote to himself as consolation: “Not to feel exasperated or defeated or despondent because your days aren’t packed with wise and moral actions. But to get back up when you fail, to celebrate behaving like a human—however imperfectly—and fully embrace the pursuit you’ve embarked on.” Marcus talked a lot about rhythm, about how important it is to return to it, to stick with it.

Again, this is why routine matters so much.

So you build a habit and a routine to write no matter what—that’s how you overcome writer’s block. John Avlon who we mentioned earlier has said that “writing is a muscle: it gets stronger the more you use it. If you let yourself fall out of the habit, it can be hard to get back in form.” Same goes for author Jeff Goins: “What do I do when I feel blocked? I write through the block.” How would you get rid of runner’s block or talker’s block? By doing those very things.

Of course it’s not just about putting your ass in the chair. The Stoic advocate and bestselling author Tim Ferriss has talked about how his routine involves just “two crappy pages a day.” The goal is just to make progress, anything more ambitious can be intimidating or cause paralyzing anxiety. But those pages add up and eventually crappy pages can be polished and refined in editing.

Being disciplined and establishing a routine can help you beat writer’s block, but the bigger lesson is this: Creating a habit and a routine is true for just about any profession and any desire to live a better life. Routine and habit are the only way to do it. You can’t just randomly improve. You don’t do great work or make great decisions on accident—not, by definition, with regularity anyway.

Routine is everything. In writing, philosophy and in life.

Like Seth says

Streaks are their own reward.
Streaks create internal pressure that keeps streaks going.
Streaks require commitment at first, but then the commitment turns into a practice, and the practice into a habit.

Read my summary of Atomic Habits, to help you build sustainable routines.
If you need more detail, go buy the book. I promise you it’ll be the best two hundred bucks, you will ever spend.

Writing is work

I used to think, that I could write whatever, I wanted, quite easily.
My language is fairly good. I have a decent vocabulary.
How hard could it be?

But now, after years of writing, it still hasn’t gotten easier much.
It might be easy for other folk, but I still struggle, every time, I put pen to paper.
One thing to note though, if I keep to my rhythm, the flow stays and the words come easier.
So all I need do, is to just keep swimming writing.

Susan Fowler agrees. This is her, reflecting on her writing.

Becoming a Better Writer (and Writing a LOT)
This year was transformative for me as far as my writing skills are concerned. I got to the point where I can now sit down and knock out 3000-5000 good words in one sitting, even when completely exhausted at the end of a long workday. My day job as an editor made all the difference here: since I’m so used to thinking of writing and editing as work, I no longer get writer’s block and writing has lost most of its mythical quality (which is a good thing, as far as I’m concerned). In addition to finishing my memoir, I also wrote a couple of pieces for the Times, two novels (which I am currently revising), and one very joyful screenplay.

Writing Isn’t Magic; It’s Hard Work I used to struggle to get my thoughts onto the page because the first time I put them down, they were complete crap. The second time I put them down, they were also crap. And the third time. And the fourth time. And the fifth time. But each time, what I was writing got a little bit better, and eventually I realized that by approximately the fiftieth time I revised something, I’d have something really good; therefore, if I wanted to write something worth reading, all I had to do was put in the time and effort to revise it enough times. This is a general lesson that I think applies to most things: if you want to get better at something, you have to do it over and over and over again and incrementally improve with each new try; given enough time, you can take something from crap to good (and maybe even to great).

But in the end, it’s worth it.
You’ll become calmer, more objective, more kind, more thoughtful.
You’ll become as immortal as you’d ever be, with your words carrying your thoughts after you are gone. Like Sam says,

That’s what death is, isn’t it?
Forgetting. Being Forgotten.
If we forget where we’ve been, and what we’ve done, we’re not men anymore, just animals.

Writing gives me, us, our humanity!
And so, I write.


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