Austin Kleon

There Are No Books You HAVE to Read

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If a book makes me want to keep reading, it’s the right book.

If a book makes me want to start writing, it’s the right book.

Any other book is not the right book. (Right now.)

Austin Kleon

 

Most people who say they don’t like reading just haven’t found the right books for them. There’s no book you HAVE to read. There’s no book you have to force yourself to like.

I love the /r/GateKeeping subreddit where users share screenshots of obnoxious gatekeepers. Here’s how they define the term:

 

Gatekeeping is when someone takes it upon themselves to decide who does or does not have access or rights to a community or identity.

 

Here’s a sillier example:

 
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Don’t believe gatekeepers. Especially around books. Who cares if you don’t like the classics? Who cares if you only read books less than 200 pages? Read things that make you want to keep reading.

I like how Kleon’s quote ends with the clarification that any book that doesn’t make him want to read more or write more isn’t the right book (right now). Remember, that people change. You’ll change. Your preferences will change. You’ll grow and evolve and adapt. You don’t have to force yourself to read boring books now. Just read what you want to read. Who knows, maybe after a year of consistently reading you’ll be interested in picking up new, challenging books.

Just read something.

If you’re looking for something new to read, why not pick up my book, In the Altogether? People who don’t normally like reading are reading it and that’s the biggest compliment for me.

Just Keep Going

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There’s nothing worse than starting over.

When I finished the second draft of my book I took a little break from writing because I was so exhausted. When it came time to begin again, it felt like torture. All the momentum was gone. The muscles I had worked out from writing every day were weak again from lack of exercise.

It’s like a middle aged father watching his son, the high school quarterback, work out. His son is lifting some serious weight, pushing himself in the gym. The father can’t stop talking about what he could bench press back in his glory days. He wants to impress his son so he steps in to show him how it’s done. This dad hasn’t been physically active in a long time. He has no idea how much he can actually lift, but he tries for the weight he once maxed out at over 20 years ago. The dad goes to lift it. He can’t. It’s clearly too much. But he won’t give up. He used to be able to do this so easily! Come on! He tries again. And that’s when his body betrays him. He throws out his back. It’s violent and painful. He screams and falls to the floor. He’s humiliated. Did he cry? Yes. Like a little baby. Did he push himself so hard he pooped his pants? He’ll never tell. But yes. He totally did.

I get so mad at myself every time I go back to pick up a habit I abandoned. It’s frustrating because it used to be so easy for me to do this thing every day. Why is It not immediately easy again?! Because nothing can be done except little by little. I know it’ll eventually get easier but it sucks right now. It’s hard work. Like running a mile. The first day you do it is so much harder than the 8th day. After a month of doing it every day, you don’t even have to think about it anymore.

There’s something powerful about momentum. The snowball effect of work.

Why do I put myself through the frustration of starting again? If I just never stopped in the first place, I wouldn’t have to deal with this. If I stuck to writing, working out, reading my Bible, I’d never have to worry about that rusty stage again.

I should just keep going.

Advice on Starting a Newsletter

 
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Today someone messaged me on Facebook asking for advice about starting a newsletter (sign up for MY weekly newsletter). I ended up writing way too much so I thought I’d share it here too.

Here’s what I said…

I do my newsletter every week, however I know for a lot of people it makes more sense to do it every month. For me, it has helped to follow a few newsletters of people I look up to.

Austin Kleon is THE BEST. His blog and newsletter have been an inspiration.

I love the way he talks about daily blogging. He says it helps him be a better writer and makes writing books a lot easier. If he blogs every day for 3 months and then looks back over all he's written, he might notice 10 blogs all on the same subject. If you put them all together, that could be a chapter in a book! So he just uses it to pay attention to what he's paying attention to.

Every week in his newsletter he has 10 things he thinks are worth sharing. It might be stuff that he's written or stuff other people have made that are influencing him.

I also just subscribed to Ann Friedman’s weekly newsletter. I really like how she structures hers. I tried doing mine a little bit like hers.

I think if you’re not a known personality a lot of people will want to follow, it’s probably best to pick some topic or theme you can keep people informed about. Obviously you want people to look at you as an expert in your field so they use you as a resource. Maybe the newsletter can be a way to share resources with them. Stuff you’ve made or podcasts, articles, books, quotes that can you’ve found helpful in your own research.

Also, I’m writing this I’m realizing I’m not following my own advice. I should probably be more focused in my newsletter too.

I use mailchimp. It’s really easy and the free version is good enough to start with. I think once you start growing your audience, it’ll make sense to start paying for it.

A lot of people will have some free offer as an incentive for signing up for the newsletter. Is there something you can give people who sign up?

There’s a whole movement around newsletters these days. Social media is garbage and we have no control over who sees our posts. With newsletters you’re guaranteed to be in their inbox. It’s more intimate. It’s more reliable.

90 Days of Daily Blogging

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I set a goal in my Full Focus Planner (I feel ridiculous recommending it but it really changed my life) to write a blog post every day for 90 days starting November 1st.

TODAY IS DAY 90!

In the planner you’re supposed to designate a specific reward for when you complete a goal. Well, I was running out of ideas so I said when I’d celebrate by eating a whole cookie cake. So that’s what I’m doing tonight.

Daily blogging has helped me so much

  • I feel like I’m becoming a better writer

  • It’s helped me with ideas for chapters in the book I’m writing

  • Now I know for a fact that I DO have time to write every day. No excuses!

I owe a lot to Austin Kleon. He’s championed daily blogging for a long time and I totally get it now.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m feeling very sick because I just had cookie cake for dinner and I feel like I’m going to die.


Daily Blogging Like Austin Kleon

 
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Austin Kleon has always talked about why daily blogging has bee so important to him as a writer. I decided to try it back in November and I finally understood what he was talking about. I’ve been going strong for 65 days straight.

Sitting down to write has gotten SO much easier. A few posts I’ve written have turned into rough drafts of chapters for the book I’m working on. And I’ve seen a HUGE spike in the number of people visiting my website.

Whenever I try to convince someone else to join me in daily blogging I always point to Austin Kleon’s post “A Few Notes on Daily Blogging” because it’s so good and he’s absolutely right.

Are all 65 of my posts incredible pieces of writing that everyone should read? No. Absolutely not. Yesterday I was so drained, in such a bad mood, and DESPERATE for something to post that I wrote about a screenshot of Shaq in a General Insurance commercial. That’s…not great. But it’s something. I’m keeping it a daily habit.

I’ve heard Conan O’Brien talk about how he’s learned to not get too obsessive about the quality of every single episode of his show. He’s doing a new one every night. That’s hundreds of shows a year. You can’t waste any time beating yourself up about a show that aired three weeks ago. You’ve got to move on and focus on the one that’s airing tonight. He says he likes to think of it like a batting average in baseball. He knows that not every show is going to be amazing but he wants to make sure they have a really high average. More good shows than bad. When you look back on the year, sure not every hit was a home run, but what’s your batting average?

I try to have the same mindset with my posts.

The other thing that was really helpful when I was starting out was Austin Kleon’s 30 Day Challenge. I used that to get through November and now the habit has stuck. Even if it’s 2 am and I’m SOOOOO tired I’ll still make sure I post something before I go to bed.

It’s a new year. Maybe daily blogging is worth trying out?

Keep Going, Forrest Gump

 

“I figured since I gone this far, I might as well turn back and keep on going.”

 

You’ve made this far so you might as well keep going.

This month I’ve been using Austin Kleon’s 30 Day Challenge to keep track of my daily blogging and my Bible reading.

As I write this it’s 11:30 pm. I just got home from doing stand-up at a men’s event across town. I’m tired. I don’t feel like I have the energy to write anything creative/funny/interesting. But November is more than half over. I’ve made it 15 days in a row. I’ve already gone farther than I thought I could, so why not keep on going?

I’m really good at giving up on goals. I’m an old pro. Maybe when I feel like quitting I just need to be like Forest Gump and just keep going.