In-M-Out #2: The Compass vs. The Crowd

Plus: Mortal Kombat, Musashi, Struthless, and Ryan Holiday

I picked up a Freewrite Traveler and have been doing a bunch of, well, free writing. Quick review: great for skipping distractions and getting into flow. Feels great typing on it. Still thinking about where it might fit into my workflow. That said, it might just end up being a place for me to do morning pages, where the activity of writing is more important than doing anything with the writing.

Though Julia Cameron would probably say that doing morning pages with a keyboard is not doing morning pages at all:

Writing by computer is like driving a car at 85 mph. Everything is a blur. “Oh, my God, was that my exit?” Writing by hand is like going 35 mph. “Oh, look, here comes my exit. And look, it has a Sonoco station and a convenience store.”

In any case, on to the links!


  • Book: Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa — One of those fiction books with lots of lessons to apply to whatever your current context is. Right now I'm thinking of online writing so all the swordfighting and practice and mentorship stories seem to apply to writing online for me. (Ah, yes, writing with digital and analog tools makes me exactly like Musashi with the double sword technique……..)

    If I re-read it in 5 years I'm sure I'll see much different applications. Good story about dedicating yourself to a skill, learning from others, becoming the absolute best, sacrificing relationships to pursue your work, and figuring out what's really important in life.

    In its original printing, it was released as a serial novel in a Japanese newspaper. It'd be cool to see any original printings. I'm curious about how much was released with each paper. Everything old is new again: blogs and publishing platforms make serial publishing easy for creators. The Martian was released chapter by chapter. It's also become pretty popular with podcasts as well.

  • Podcast ep: The Daily Stoic "YouTubers Sam and Colby on Fame and Practicing Memento Mori" (Apple • Spotify) — The part that stuck with me is Ryan's thoughts on the hypothetical dinner party question. Who would you invite to a dinner party?Who would you want to talk to for a few hours? When someone answers Abraham Lincoln, it seems nuts that they wouldn't also just go read all of Abraham Lincoln's work. So much of his thought is captured in writing. There's so much wisdom in books for everyone to learn from.

  • Video: Struthless: The drawing advice that changed my life — Do the same thing every day. (He drew the same type of bird every day.) Creativity emerges in those constraints. If you do the same thing every day then you'll find some ways to not do the same thing every day.

    This reminded me of what Brett Jones says in "Ride the Wave: How to Program for Progress": "Trust that waviness will yield better results than sameness, because, in the end, you can do the same thing every day, as long as you don’t do the same thing every day."

Model: Crowd vs. Compass

Note: this part took forever last week. I'll keep retooling this section until it's something sustainable weekly. This week I'll try to share three quotes on an idea with some thoughts.

3-sentence explanation: Follow the crowd: use audience data to write more about what is resonating with your audience. Follow the compass: write about what you're curious about and what you enjoy writing. Path to do both: use the popular stuff to fund the stuff you enjoy.

  • Derek Sivers: "Don’t expect your job to fulfill all your emotional needs. Don’t taint something you love with the need to make money from it. Don’t try to make your job your whole life. Don’t try to make your art your sole income. Let each be what it is, and put in the extra effort to balance the two, for a great life."

  • David Perell: "I’m data-driven, but only in moderation. A little bit of data helps you find low-hanging fruit, but too much of it can turn you into a soulless automaton."

Finding the intersection would be great: what you enjoy making also happens to be the stuff that your audience loves. It's something to strive for, but be grateful if you're already in that situation. (And watch out for the biggest risk: removing joy from something you loved.)


Didn't hit publish much this week.

I was definitely working on things and writing, so I'll take that as me needing to shift my focus more toward finishing rather than starting. Maybe a topic for next week…?

Until then, thanks for reading!