Dashed off a quick piece about learning history at LessWrong --
Crossing the History-Lessons Threshold
Comments/questions welcome there or here.
Brief update: I'm working on longer-form writing that's more focused and deep. I've finished around a dozen pieces but haven't struck the tone I want yet. I don't know when the next iteration will come, but it's going to be terrific.
I've gotten lots of inquiries as to how I'm doing -- very well, thank you. Well, that's not 100% true. It's a difficult metamorphosis. Some days, things go exceedingly well. Others, it's frustrating. I'm studying technical materials and looking to seriously improve. There's been some results that are remarkable to me, but other days it's really tough.
My average time for writing a moderate-length piece used to be maybe 30 minutes, plus or minus 20. Now I'm up around 7 hours, plus or minus three. Lots of outlining beforehand, carefully citing facts and sources, footnoting, getting deeper points, and then editing afterwards.
Sometimes it's tough, because I'm putting a lot of work in, but I'm losing that natural free-flowing tone that I was able to strike when just writing.
The potential if I can nail this style is A+ work. But right now, I'm doing C- execution at that A+ style. The building blocks are all there, but it's slightly wooden and tough still. I think some of the core readers here will really love it, but the general public won't dig it. The stuff I'm writing is coming in at the 2500 to 7000 word range per piece, but doesn't quite move fast enough. Deep-thinking-love-to-critically-analyze people will dig it, but I can do better. I want to get that musical sense, that really grand and enjoyable tone.
A few notes --
1. Kai and I co-authored a book a while back. It’s basically done. I still keep wanting to do tweaks and edits, but I’ve got to send this baby off into the world. We’ve had some great early reviewers of which I’m grateful. Now, if you'd like to be involved, here's a good opportunity --
We’d like to have 15 small samples of the book get sent to people when they sign up via email.
I’ve been trying to do this, but I’m too close to the work — I can’t tell which samples/excerpts would be most interesting and relevant to people, in the right order.
So, if you’re interested, you get an advance copy, you read it, you get any questions answered you want, you pick out 15 sections that you think are relevant, you format them into Mailchimp. Pay is $100 for it.
I'm both surprised and flattered to get a number of concerned emails wondering where I'm at. I guess that's not-too-crazy: I used to post basically daily here, and now there hasn't been a post in almost a week.
So, where am I?
The answer is, I'm looking to do an order-of-magnitude quality improvement in my writing. Putting concepts on more solid ground, making them more actionable, writing in a more service-oriented fashion, covering things from first principles and background knowledge (so someone seeing something for the first time could put it into action right away), etc.
A problem with a lot of my writing in the past was that I wrote strictly about what interested me. This turned out some good pieces, but erratically and with no scope.
This resulted in an amazing regular readership of just absolutely marvelous people here who like to put together patterns and extract general principles from history, science, business, philosophy, etc. Which has been terrific and has greatly enriched my life, and I think a lot of readers and people in the dialog here have made some amazing gains too.
What have your favorite posts been on here? Why? What's been most useful to you?
I got a really nice mix of opinions yesterday (though there seems to a strong undercurrent on history, practical interventions, and maybe some more "narratives" instead of abstract pieces) -- now I'd really like to hear about your favorite pieces from the past, either series or specifically.
I'm going to go back and select a number of pieces that were pretty good and edit them to be something coherent and better. I really want to step my quality level up and do really great by you. This blog has long been a source of inspiration and a great way to connect with people, but I want to take it to the next level and really deliver stuff that's outstanding on all fronts.
All feedback super appreciated. Especially doubly true if you're on email and don't normally comment; the opinions of people who regularly obviously matter a lot to me, but if you're normally quiet -- your opinion matters to me too and I'd love to hear it.
So... What have your favorite posts been on here? Why? What's been most useful to you?
Any feedback on what you'd like to see going forwards?
Major changes are coming.
Thanks for reading here. I appreciate it. You'll be excited to see what comes next. Any feedback on what you'd like?
There is a memorable scene in The Terminator where the machine has taken damage, shuts down, and then boots back up.
Napping works somewhat like that for humans.
In the course of being alive, you're always doing little subtle damage to your brain and body and organs. Sleeping can help alleviate this damage and let your body repair itself.
What's miraculous about napping, though, is just how much can be repaired in such a short time.
I'd eventually like to spend time researching the exact mechanics, but I suspect that a lot of hormones and chemicals that have pooled in various places in the brain are -- for lack of a better word -- "flushed away" when you nap.
Thomas Carlyle; useful points on happiness from a more old-school perspective --
The only happiness a brave man ever troubled himself with asking much about, was happiness enough to get his work done. Not "I can't eat!" but, "I can't work!"--that was the burden of all wise complaining among men. It is, after all, the one unhappiness of a man--that he cannot work,--that he cannot get his destiny as a man fulfilled. Behold, the day is passing swiftly over, our life is passing swiftly away, and the night cometh, wherein no man can work. The night once come, our happiness, our unhappiness,--it is all abolished, vanished, clean gone; a thing that has been: "not of the slightest consequence" whether we were happy as eupeptic Curtis, as the fattest pig of Epicurus, or unhappy as Job with potsherds, as musical Byron with Giaours and sensibilities of the heart; as the unmusical meat-jack with hard labour and rust. But our work!--behold, that is not abolished, that has not vanished: our work, behold, it remains, or the want of it remains--for endless times and eternities, remains; and that is now the sole question with us for evermore! Brief brawling Day, with its noisy phantasms, its poor paper-crowns tinsel-light, is gone, and divine everlasting Night, with her star diadems, with her silence and her veracities, is come!
Working on a lot of things behind the scenes. Not much time to write, but here's the "Do It" video again, my absolute favorite and a must-watch:
I mentioned it in passing before, but would like to make it explicit:
Closing every browser tab at the end of the day has had an inordinate positive impact on performance.
Likewise, I often have 4 or 5 books open, and strive to close those, and project plans, which I also look to close.
Leaving stuff open and sitting around means you don't start the day with a blank canvas to work with. It's easy to get pulled into whatever was left lying around.
It also makes it easier to leave things that are almost complete "...to finish tomorrow." But at what rate are things finished tomorrow? ...not high enough, for many of us. Much better to finish and wrap up today, even if a little fatigued.