He’s also prolific on Twitter. In the past six months he’s tweeted 3,000 times.
I took every one of those tweets, combined them together in one document, and organized the major concepts. Then I distilled the content from 320 pages to ten. The result is a summary of his big ideas — and these are the biggest:
Write before you're an expert on a subject
Write to become an expert on a subject
Share the best of what you’re learning
I focused on David’s writing content, and the ideas naturally broke into three parts:
Quotes about writing (and other topics)
PART ONE: WRITING PHILOSOPHY
The internet rewards people who are prolific
The internet rewards people who think well
The internet rewards people who are different
The internet rewards people who are domain experts
The internet rewards people who are curious and ambitious
The internet rewards people with big audiences
It’s the seed of entrepreneurship
It’s one of the world’s biggest arbitrage opportunities
It’s how you show curiosity, commitment, and diligence
It’s how you get compound interest on your ideas
Shrink the world
Attract like-minded people
Build your network
Share what you’re learning
Find the courage to publish
Build an asset few have
Create your own serendipity
Build a note-taking system…
Manufacture an arsenal of ideas
Keep it messy (breed serendipity)
It’s a serendipity vehicle
It makes you a better observer
People give you their attention
A massive audience is waiting for you
Write down your epiphanies
Choose topics no one is writing about
Build a Colosseum of Ideas
Make ideas building blocks (which you can put into different arrangements)
Write summaries and long-form essays…
Attract curious people
Attract smart readers
Receive interesting emails
Build an audience…
Build an audience…
Open source your workflow
Create an online home
Gain a cheat code for life
Build an audience…
Then build a product…then scale with software
Build a personal website…
It’s your resume
It’s your store
It’s your museum
Find your unique obsession
Be known for something
Be the only person who does what you do
Build a personal monopoly (a unique set of skills)
Use that monopoly to teach
Be a conscious consumer…
The best content is getting better
Have self-control in a world of abundance (learn to surf the waves)
Ignore daily news (it limits your rate of learning)
Skip newspapers (read books instead)
Read old books (tech changes, principles stay the same)
Obsess over your favorite writers (read their best books twice)
Make things (to learn faster)
Read outside your industry (think originally)
Learn from great teachers (not experts)
Make yourself lucky (create value, tell people about it)
Make creative space (if you want to make things)
Study creators (watch how ideas spread)
Don’t be original (build on the ideas of others)
Curate (good taste is a business model)
Compete against history (not people)
Be anti-mimetic (copy people who don’t copy people)
Forget scale (find your tribe)
Put practice first (and theory second)
Focus (the greats obsess over problems for years)
Use your free time (acquire skills and build an online business)
Measure outcomes (to improve outcomes)
PART TWO: WRITING TIPS
Write about what you’re excited about
Write for an audience
Write for clarity (not to impress people)
Write to express (not to impress)
Write for wit (only after writing for clarity)
Write fast (algorithms reward people who are prolific)
Write casually (like you’re talking to a friend)
Write like you’re sending an important text message
Write to give your reader an epiphany every 100 words
Write to make your reader smarter (give as much insight in as few words as possible)
Focus on one idea (one idea per sentence, per paragraph, per essay)
Reduce your message and make it fun (Steve Pressfield)
Shorten your introduction (get to the point)
Cut the fluff (cut to the chase)
Delete superfluous words (treat every word like it’s on trial for its life)
Delete sentences that bore your reader
Shorten your sentences (more periods, fewer commas)
Use simpler words
Avoid redundant, wasted, and weak words
Use analogies when possible
Add metaphors (make concepts concrete)
Add sound (bang, bash, clack, clang…)
Writing online 101
Pick an important topic people are confused about
Make your ideas easy to understand by removing all jargon
Streamline your message. Pare it down to its clearest, easiest-to-understand form
Make your writing fun, playful, scary, suspenseful, or educational
Make your writing so compelling that a person would have to be crazy NOT to read it
Build your audience by teaching
Publish every week
Write on your own website
Write about what excites you
Share your best ideas
Aim to write unlike anybody else
The Internet rewards clarity
Turn off the Internet when you write
Writing will help you crystalize your ideas
Writing online is a process of discovery
Writing online will help you find business partners
Writing online is the essence of entrepreneurship
Writing online teaches you the basics of digital marketing
Writing online will force you to show up, even when you don't feel like it
Writing online will teach you to own your audience
Writing online will improve your business plan.
Writing online will accelerate your learning
Writing online will help you pick a market
List #5 (Business Writing)
Shorten your sentences
Make your point fast
Shorten the introduction
Use simple words
Add graphs and statistics
Use more periods, fewer commas
Write for skimming, not deep reading
Bold the main takeaways
Make your writing CLEAR
Connect to the previous sentence
Link to the following sentence
Eliminate anything that adds confusion
Add colorful details.
Remove unnecessary words.
Make your writing pop
Personal: Write about stories and experiences
Observational: Write about hidden truths
Playful: Make your writing fun with puns and jokes
Write more clearly
Examples: Abstract concepts are hard to follow, but examples make them real
Metaphors: Make your ideas come to life by comparing them to something else
Specifics: Add statistics, colorful words, and precise descriptions
Good writing is strong, smooth, and specific
Strong: Be bold. Try to avoid qualifying words like “usually” and “maybe.”
Smooth: Make your reader's life easy. Writing clearly lets you communicate difficult ideas.
Specific: Explain ideas with stories, statistics, and examples.
Start by writing down five things
A one-sentence summary
Three steps to improve your writing
Write for 60 minutes every day
Publish one article every week
Listen to feedback
Be more precise
Back up your claims with statistics
Use colorful adjectives
Support your main point with specific stories and examples.
Improve your writing with repetition…
Improve it with fresh ideas, improve it with obsessive editing, and improve it with words that make you smile.
But save this trick for a special moment — when you really need to make a point.
Writing tips from Elmore Leonard
Delete the parts readers tend to skip
Cut exclamation points
Shorten your paragraphs
Keep the flow of your story moving
My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.
PART THREE: QUOTES, CURATED
Ours is the first age in which many thousands of the best-trained individual minds have made it a full-time business to get inside the collective public mind.
-Marshall McLuhan, The Mechanical Bride
To be absolutely certain about something, one must know everything or nothing about it.
The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.
When analytic thought, the knife, is applied to experience, something is always killed in the process.
If you can't communicate your ideas, it doesn't matter how great they are, thus the huge importance of getting better at crafts like writing and public speaking.
The very reason I write is so that I might not sleepwalk through my entire life.
To become a better writer, I first had to become a better person.
If you wish you would take something more seriously, do it publicly.
Your biggest enemy is a day spent not writing, not a day spent writing too little.
The coolest people I meet are the ones who find me through something I’ve written.
Almost all successful rewriting involves moving closer to just calling a spade a spade.
-Alain de Botton
The cheapest leverage most people have access to is their ability to write.
Conflict is to storytelling what sound is to music.
Writing is the most scalable professional networking activity - stay home, don't go to events/conferences, and just put ideas down.
Good communication is the ability to say the most stuff in the fewest words.
Everything is vague to a degree you do not realize till you have tried to make it precise.
Good writing is full of wonder; it marvels at the glory and stupidity and frustration and pain and beauty of being alive.
If people cannot write well, they cannot think well, and if they cannot think well, others will do their thinking for them.
Keep in mind that you want to write in the same voice you'd use if you and I were in a bar having a chat.
Writing is nature's way of telling us how lousy our thinking is.
When differentiation happens for the sake of popularity, it converges.
We are living in space-age times with people who are living with Stone Age minds.
The real problem with humanity is the following: we have paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions, and god-like technology.
If you want to know what a given society believes in, look at what its largest buildings are devoted to.
We Americans seem to know everything about the last twenty-four hours but very little of the last sixty centuries or the last sixty years.
To follow an idea seriously, you must constantly pause to consider all possibilities, which takes time and care.
The most powerful money-makers are individual brands.
Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It's the democracy of the dead.
The dead outnumber the living 14-to-1, and we ignore the accumulated experience of such a huge majority of mankind at our peril.
Building, owning (and possibly someday selling) a profitable remote software business is the new American Dream.
An empty white page is the world’s best mirror.
We are blind to the complacency that passes for ambition in modern society.
Stripe CEO Patrick Collision ends meetings by asking two questions:
1) Is this the most ambitious plan you could come up with?
2) What would you propose if you had unlimited resources?
The world is a very malleable place. If you know what you want, and you go for it with maximum energy and drive and passion, the world will often reconfigure itself around you much more quickly and easily than you would think.
You can always re-write it. You can change it. That's the great luxury of being a writer. We're not surgeons. The world does not hold us to our first pass.
First we shape our tools. Then our tools shape us.
An army of robots is freely available - it's just packed in data centers for heat and space efficiency. Use it.
When you write something and put it out into the world, what you’re actually doing is eliciting feedback, critique, and agreement.
Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking of them.
What an astonishing thing a book is. It's a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you're inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years.
I have no rancor against lawyers, financiers or management consultants, but the pursuit of these careers seems like a misallocation of human creativity.
I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.
-Oliver Wendell Holmes
The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.
-Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Conan Doyle)
By giving away useful information, you will attract readers — and get them to trust you — because you’ve helped them so much.
The returns to writing online right now have never been higher and are only going to get better. Now is the time to do this. Every good thing that's ever happened to me in my career has come from writing online.
A lot of success in life and business comes from knowing what you want to avoid: early death, a bad marriage, etc.
Anybody who doesn’t change their mind a lot is dramatically underestimating the complexity of the world we live in.
The test of a first-rate intellect is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in your head at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.
-F. Scott Fitzgerald
Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.
We are blind to the complacency that passes for ambition in modern society.
Write with blood.
It is easier to feel than to realize, or in any way explain, Yosemite grandeur. The magnitudes of the rocks and trees and streams are so delicately harmonized, they are mostly hidden.
Tis easier to suppress the first desire, than to satisfy all that follow it.
It's easier to hold your principles 100 percent of the time than it is to hold them 98 percent of the time.
Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.
Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.
It is remarkable how much long-term advantage we have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent.
Writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly. That’s why it’s so hard.
Books are like love, simultaneously overrated and underrated.
Getting good at communication—particularly written communication—is an investment worth making. My best advice for communicating clearly is to first make sure your thinking is clear and then use plain, concise language.
Bonus (Baker’s Dozen…)
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