Many authors write what they know. I don’t. I am writing to learn about what I don’t know.
For me, writing is a wonderful way to go deep on a problem I’m struggling with.
As my friend and fellow author, Gretchen Rubin told me, “Research is me search.”
When I’m struggling with one thing or another, my first step is to think through the problem myself.
I’ll make time for introspection. About 80 percent of the time, if I schedule time to really think about a problem, without distraction, I’ll find some answers to get me going on the right path. Jotting down some thoughts to myself in written form is a great way to break down the problem.
If however, I’m not able to solve my own challenge, I’ll typically talk things out with my wife and best friend, Julie. Most of the time, she gives me some great suggestions to consider. But there are still problems so tricky that they take even more thinking through.
The next step is to hit the books and see what’s been written about the topic. I’ll buy five to a dozen books on the topic and after I’ve done a deep dive, my hit rate is at about 99 percent.
However, if after thinking through the question, talking it out with Julie, and then reading everything I can about the problem, I’m still not satisfied, that’s when I know I need to write a book on the subject.
So far, that’s only happened twice in my life. When I couldn’t find a book on how to build habit-forming products, I wrote Hooked. When, after reading everything I could on distraction and procrastination and still not finding answers that worked for me, I wrote Indistractable.
Of course, writing books isn’t easy. It’s the hardest fun thing I know how to do. Writing 30,000 words of something I’m proud to share with the world takes years of consistent effort.
My mantra while writing has always been, “follow your curiosity.” As long as I want to know the answer to a question, I have the fuel I need to keep “writing to learn.”
My process for writing a book doesn’t start with planning out the entire volume. Rather, I blog my way through the book. I’ll take interesting parts of the problem and break it down into posts I publish on this blog. By consistently publishing an article weekly, I chew on the topic enough to offer readers something interesting but more importantly, this process of writing to learn eventually guides me to answer tidbits of the bigger questions in what will ultimately become the book.
Typically, I write way more articles than ever make it into the book. But along the way, I hit on themes that I explore further in fleshed-out chapters in the final edition of the book.
Right now, I’m between projects and have about 10 topics piquing my curiosity.
My first book was about how to build good habits. My second book was about how to break bad habits.
What do you think I should work on next? Do you have any big questions or challenges you think other books haven’t properly addressed that you’d like to see me work on? Feel free add your comments to the discussion on this same article on medium.com.
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