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The Trap of Approval, Advice On Writing, Ground up Organization

Resource: Jennifer Egan on Writing, the Trap of Approval, and the Most Important Discipline for Aspiring Writers


Read the kind of stuff you want to write.

Write regularly. Treat writing like exercise. Even though it seems dreadful when you’re sitting on the couch thinking about it, it’ll get easier and more habitual if you keep showing up.

Don’t get intoxicated by fame, praise, or the pursuit thereof. It leads to a lifestyle of trying to replicate the behaviors that led to the praise instead of seeking new arenas of improvement. Seek growth, not glory.

Be willing to write badly. Your good writing will be the reward of the bad writing you endured.


On writing as necessary for self-actualization and sanity:

“When I’m not writing I feel an awareness that something’s missing. If I go a long time, it becomes worse. I become depressed. There’s something vital that’s not happening. A certain slow damage starts to occur. I can coast along awhile without it, but then my limbs go numb. Something bad is happening to me, and I know it. The longer I wait, the harder it is to start again. When I’m writing, especially if it’s going well, I’m living in two different dimensions: this life I’m living now, which I enjoy very much, and this completely other world I’m inhabiting that no one else knows about.” -Jennifer Egan

On how writing takes her into a completely different universe of consciousness:

“When I’m writing fiction I forget who I am and what I come from. I slip into utter absorption mode. I love the sense that I’ve become so engaged with the other side, I’ve slightly lost my bearings here. If I’m going from the writing mind-set to picking my kids up from school, I often feel a very short but acute kind of depression, as if I have the bends. Once I’m with them it totally disappears, and I feel happy again. Sometimes I forget I have children, which is very strange. I feel guilty about it, as if my inattention will cause something to happen to them, even when I’m not responsible for them…”

On how writing can dictate the quality of a writer’s life:

“When the writing’s going well — I’m trying not to sound clichéd — I feel fueled by a hidden source. During those times it doesn’t matter if things are going wrong in my life; I have this alternate energy source that’s active. When the writing’s going poorly, it’s as bad or worse than not writing at all. There’s a leak or a drain, and energy is pouring out of it. Even when the rest of my life is fine, I feel like something’s really bad. I have very little tolerance for anything going wrong, and I take little joy from the good things. It was worse before I had kids. I appreciate that they make me forget what’s going on professionally.”

On how addiction to praise can undermine your writing:

“The attention and approval I’ve been getting for Goon Squad — the very public moments of winning the Pulitzer and the other prizes — is exactly the opposite of the very private pleasure of writing. And it’s dangerous. Thinking that I’ll get this kind of love again, that getting it should be my goal, would lead me to creative decisions that would undermine me and my work. I’ve never sought that approval, which is all the more reason that I don’t want to start now. My whole creative endeavor is the repudiation of my last work with the new one. If I start craving approval, trying to replicate what I did with Goon Squad, it’s never going to lead to anything good. I know that. Stop getting better? There’s no excuse for that.”

On reading at the love you want to write at:

“Read at the level at which you want to write. Reading is the nourishment that feeds the kind of writing you want to do. If what you really love to read is y, it might be hard for you to write x.”

How writing is like exercise:

“Exercising is a good analogy for writing. If you’re not used to exercising you want to avoid it forever. If you’re used to it, it feels uncomfortable and strange not to. No matter where you are in your writing career, the same is true for writing. Even fifteen minutes a day will keep you in the habit.”

On the willingness to write badly:

“You can only write regularly if you’re willing to write badly. You can’t write regularly and well. One should accept bad writing as a way of priming the pump, a warm-up exercise that allows you to write well.”

Resource: Writing Advice by Frank Chimero


The most important thing is to show up and try.

Trust the process of being available to what your writing efforts want to show you.

Give yourself permission to be brief. Say what you need to say. Not a word more.


“Just try. You’ll improve. Keep going. Enjoy it.”

Resource: Getting Done by David Allen
Description: Ground up organization


If you don’t what exactly what your job is, you’ll always feel overwhelmed.

If your next actions list has less than 50 items, it’s doubtful that you’ve captured everything.

Organize from the ground up.


“The first thing to do is make sure your action lists are complete, which in itself can be quite a task. Those who focus on gathering and objectifying all of those items discover that there are many (often of some importance) they’ve forgotten, misplaced, or just not recognized. “

“Aside from your calendar, if you don’t have at least fifty next actions and waiting-fors, including all the agendas for people and meetings, I would be skeptical about whether you really had all of them. “

Finalize your Projects list. Does it truly capture all the commitments you have that will require more than one action to get done? That will define the boundaries of the kind of week-to- week operational world you’re in and allow you to relax your thinking for longer intervals. If you make a complete list of all of the things you want to have happen in your life and work at this level, you’ll discover that there are actions you need to do that you didn’t realize. Just creating this objective inventory will give you a firmer basis on which to make decisions about what to do when you have discretionary time. Invariably when people get their Projects list up-to-date, they discover there are several things that could be done readily to move things they care about forward.

“Taking the inventory of your current work at all levels will automatically produce greater focus, alignment, and sense of priorities.

“If you’re not totally sure what your job is, it will always feel overwhelming. “

“When you’re not sure where you’re going or what’s really important to you, you’ll never know when enough is enough. “

“Neutral is a state where you are not jumping ahead too quickly or moving too slow. Neutral does not mean being inactive, complacent, or passive. It’s about a calm poise that allows for new information and new possibilities to emerge before taking further action. When in neutral you actually increase your sensitivity and intuitive intelligence. Neutral is fertile ground for new possibilities to grow from.” —Doc Childre

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