How to become a writer

…or anything else, Ed Yong’s suggestion:

1) Pull your finger out and work really hard. Stay up late. Practice. Sacrifice your social time. Churn out a crazy amount of output. Practice. Enter competitions. Practice.

2) Give people a reason to read you. There are plenty of competent writers and not enough time to read them. Maybe you are the go-to person for a topic. Maybe you write like an angel. If you want to stand out, stand out.

3) Tell people about yourself. Promote your work. If you want to be recognised, then it’s not enough to be good and shout into the ether. And I don’t mean in a narcissistic, self-aggrandising way. You don’t even have to directly point to your work. Just let people know you exist.

4) If you are lucky enough to be given an opportunity, grasp it as quickly as possible because the momentum fades. If you haven’t been given opportunities, maybe you should try to create some. If you’re not part of a network (and want to be; loads don’t), are you sitting around waiting to be invited or did you cold-call and ask for feedback?

5) If it’s been several years and you’re not getting anywhere… that’s about right. Building a reputation takes time. It is demotivating and miserable in the meantime. Suck it up. Do what you do because it makes you personally fulfilled. Don’t expect a windfall; that will come after a lot of work.

6) Go to 1.

The Role of Habits

The key to better living is forming better habits. Leo Babauta’s now famous blog Zen Habits started with that motto. Forming new habits or getting rid of old habits is difficult and we know that. Past experiences have taught us that lesson. But it has been shown by many that a period of about 30 days is enough to form new habits or break old ones.

Numerical Context

We make sense of the world around us with help of numbers. They are everywhere. Not just in critical things like your body-mass index, the credit card debt or the speed limit on a highway but also in things that don’t affect you so much you like number of calories in that steak, the number of likes received by your latest status update or clinical trials data on a new drug. But numbers on their own mean little. They need to be put in context.

We do well in being able to put some of them in context (for eg. comparing your current speed with the speed limit) but most of the numbers that don’t directly affect us we don’t put in context. For example, what does a £15 billion cut in the UK defence budget over a decade mean? Looks like a big number but in actuality with a defence budget of about £45 billion per annum, over 10 years it’s less than 4% overall cut. Is that good or bad? With a £175 billion budget deficit and £1 trillion public debt, I’ll let you decide.