Writing advice from Lydia Davis

One of the things I love about Lydia Davis’s advice to writers in her collection Essays One is that she is explicit that the writer’s education should be mostly self-directed.

Here are points 2 and 3 in full:

2. Always work (note, write) from your own interest, never from what you think you should be noting or writing. Trust your own interest. I have a strong interest, at the moment, in Roman building techniques…. My interest may pass. But for the moment I follow it and enjoy it, not knowing where it will go.

Let your interest, and particularly what you want to write about, be tested by time, not by other people—either real other people or imagined other people.

This is why writing workshops can be a little dangerous, it should be said; even the teachers or leaders of such workshops can be a little dangerous; this is why most of your learning should be on your own. Other people are often very sure that their opinions and their judgments are correct.

3. Be mostly self-taught.

There is a great deal to be learned from programs, courses, and teachers. But I suggest working equally hard, throughout your life, at learning new things on your own, from whatever sources seem most useful to you. I have found that pursuing my own interests in various directions and to various sources of information can take me on fantastic adventures: I have stayed up till the early hours of the morning poring over old phone books; or following genealogical lines back hundreds of years; or reading a book about what lies under a certain French city; or comparing early maps of Manhattan as I search for a particular farmhouse. These adventures become as gripping as a good novel.

Education is not a race

Journaling tip

Whenever I open an unruled journal, I think of people who use the journals for rapid logging. Good rapid logging involves giving titles to every page and then numbering each page.

I try to annotate the titles into a text file, often into Google Keep. I normally have dates at the bottom of every page. And every page is numbered. I record the title and page number in a Table of Contents at the beginning of every notebook. It’s a bit tedious but keeps me organised.”


My first Leichtturm

In 10 years

“Aim to be great in 10 years.

Build health habits today that lead to a great body in 10 years.

Build social habits today that lead to great relationships in 10 years.

Build learning habits today that lead to great knowledge in 10 years.

Long-term thinking is a secret weapon.”

James Clear newsletter

Gut decisions

From James Clear 3-2-1 Thursday newsletter

Gut reactions are usually very wrong or very right.

They tend to be wrong when they are based purely on emotion and in domains where you lack experience. They tend to be right when they are rooted in deep understanding and well-developed taste.

Trust your gut when you have the experience to back it up.

As a consequence leaders must cede control to others, which means that simply working harder to close a given loop is no longer an option. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that leaders themselves don’t work hard or that they should be reluctant to hold others accountable. In my experience they do, and they should. [3] But “hard work” by a leader doesn’t mean “burning more hours” or “focusing intently on the problem.”

Leaders often have the most positive impact when they help build systems where the actions of a few powerful and magnificently skilled people matter least. Perhaps the best way to view leadership is as the task of architecting organizational systems, teams, and cultures–as establishing the conditions and preconditions for others to succeed. [4]


Open Loops (Leadership and Uncertainty)