This That And The Other

I was talking to my dad this morning about how it’s difficult for me not to watch the World Cup. It’s also difficult to sacrifice half the day in front of the television, so I try my best to multi-task. I told him I can’t just not watch a World Cup match because it’s once every four years, so the opportunity cost of not watching it is four years of my life. It got a laugh out of him, so I felt my job was done.

Anyway, I was multi-tasking by reviewing Jim Collins’ Built To Last. For those who haven’t read anything by Collins, I highly recommend you do. His content is easily digestible; he offers tangible advice to follow, and his research goes back over a century in some cases. It’s an excellent baseline for someone in any stage of their business to build off.

A lot of the advice is stuff most of us sort of know on our own but always need a reminder about. Like who knew the companies that encouraged innovation amongst its staff would be more successful than those who stifled it to focus on a single goal, and who knew a fervent belief in the ideology of a company would create an efficient workforce and be more productive than one built on the support of a single charismatic individual? See what I mean, stuff we all sort of know already but when we read about it, we go “oh yeah, that’s right.”

What really stood out to me though was what I included in my cover image for this article. The battle of conjunctions. Companies that struggled to reach the same level of growth as iconic ones (like HP, Disney, 3M) saw the conflict as this OR that. They fought with sticking to their core values vs. creating an atmosphere for innovation. They were nervous to experiment or potentially stray from the vision they saw for the company.

While companies that surpassed all their competition encouraged innovation. They saw it as a battle for this AND that. They wanted their company to grow. They wanted an environment full of energy and experimentation, understanding that a company is never done growing or evolving. They operated within the boundaries of what Collins coined BHAG (or Big Hairy Audacious Goal) to give them some cardinal direction then gave freedom of thought to their staff to create and build.

One may think this counters what Collins writes in Good to Great about the importance of keeping a hedgehog concept and not just growing for the sake of growing, but as long as you are operating within some cardinal direction (an over the top wildest fantasy dream of where you see your business going in twenty years) then you shouldn’t be afraid to take risks and change; or include new branches you never thought to include. If ideas come from within and are built on dialogue within the company, then the growth will all be authentic and organic. It won’t be growth for the sake of growth because its endogenous factors that spur the opportunity.

The Weight of Perfection

Is perfection a detriment? The fear of putting out something less than perfect leaves a lot of 80-90% projects on the sideline. Though we all strive for 100% in school, haven’t you ever received a B and thought “Oh thank God!”

I went to a writing conference in Pittsburgh where indie authors talked about launching their own publishing career without traditional publishing houses. To say these men and women have won the game is putting it lightly. They write full time, they travel the world, and they’ve reached a point where they don’t just have to write for the market. They can develop any passion project they want and their fanbase will thank them for it.

The advice that really stood out to me at this conference was don’t be paralyzed by perfection and there is no such thing as a kiss of death in this industry. Obviously what they meant by the latter is there’s no kiss of death based on product alone. If you write a bust you can recover. If a pen name loses an audience you can launch another. It always will take hard work but the worst thing you can do is not produce.

Does this advice work? Let’s think about it, have you ever seen someone put out content constantly? Some of it is garbage and others hit home? Have you seen a YouTube star blow up out of nowhere, then go to their channel and see they have videos going back years and the first videos look like they were filmed on their laptop’s camera.

It all comes down to branding. Trial and error, finding the right audience and making content for them. In writing there’s this strategy called the first 1000 fans (or something like that). I know to the casual hobbyist or to someone new to writing that may seem like an overwhelming number to achieve but once you get your feet wet and start making your first connections you realize just how attainable it is. Why is this number relevant? Because it turns your brand into a self-sufficient vehicle. If you have 1000 fans (not subscribers or followers but actual fans who love your work and share your content) then you have the best marketing team in the world at your fingertips, ready to come to your support with every tweet, product launch, or publication.

You can only start building this audience when you have content to share, and if you wait until your content is perfect you will not have enough. I’m not saying to go out there and purposefully put out trash, but I can tell you from personal experience that people resonate with effort and authenticity. If they feel you’re genuinely trying to help them, entertain them, or relay a specific message it will resonate with some people, and those people will be the start of your fan base.

Now, I’m no expert, I’m just an author documenting his own efforts and sharing his story with others in case they want to try but I can tell you though I am not at 1000 fans the numbers are growing. Since that Pittsburgh conference I released an 82 page novella. I would’ve probably come up with some excuse not to release it before that event. Maybe send it to a second editor for more input, or try and bulk up the word count to make it an even 100 then hold off on the release until I had a supplemental reading to attach to it and build up some universe, all the while delaying the production of all my other manuscripts. But I took the advice they gave me, made a cover on my own for free and released it. Since then my goodreads numbers have grown, my amazon ranking has gone up, my subscriber count on my newsletter has gone up, and I’ve had a little more change in my pocket (I even treated my girlfriend to food with the royalties). Again nothing substantial, but progress. Tangible progress and the sort of affirmation that makes me want to continue down this path.

So here’s a challenge to anyone reading this. Take a chance and put out something new. It doesn’t have to be a book; it could be an article on here, a video on Instagram, a new feature on a website or a youtube channel. Anything authentic that maybe you’ve been too nervous to try. You might be surprised by the response you get.

Simple Math Large Results

It’s funny how something so simple like basic arithmetic goes write over my head sometimes unless I’m looking right at the results. What I mean is, obviously writing every day has its perks, but writing a little more than you’re used to can yield major returns.

When I first started writing (late 2014 early 2015), I had a daily goal of 1000 words, not bad, and I would play with that sometimes going up to 1500 sometimes just settling for 1200. Anyway, I always wanted to hit 2000 so I finally started doing that and of course, the product finished sooner (twice the speed duh).

Then I bumped my daily word count goal up to 3k (where I currently am now) and of course, I finish books even faster cause DUH! The 32k novella I just wrote was completed in 10 days (the final day I wrote 5k).

These big chunks were easy to understand. I mean everyone knows writing 3000 words a day will hit a goal 3 times faster than writing 1000 words a day, but what if you started adding a couple hundred words to your daily word count goal. Nothing overwhelming, I’m talking next time you write and you hit your goal and 200 more words. What would that do for you?

Well, assuming you write daily that’s an extra 1400 words a week for possibly five-ten minutes more of writing.

I know this is pretty basic stuff, and almost insultingly simple to put down in a blog post, but I’m writing this because it’s one of those things that’s so simple I’ve completely overlooked it for so long. I’ve hit my goal and called it a day instead of putting in an extra ten minutes, which by the end of the month could earn me an extra 6000 words.

It’s why now I say my minimum is 3k but usually, I write 3100 or 3200 and the results are so obvious it’s cool. It’s fun to see how quickly you reach your goals just by adding an extra inch each day.

Anyway, thanks for reading!

4k today no stress

I know 4000 words are nothing to some people, but it’s a fair amount for me. These past three days now my numbers have all been over 3000 words, and it hasn’t felt particularly demanding.

Today was a day off for me so I obviously had more free time than usual but this technique has worked for me in the past even when I work full time or go to school.

It’s nothing new or groundbreaking, all I’m doing is focusing 100% of my attention on writing for short bursts of time then rewarding myself with a brief break. I’ve discovered one good way to time your breaks is to watch a show on Netflix (preferably one of the sub 30-minute shows).

Rather than trying to present this as polished advice it would probably be more beneficial to just write out my day so you all can see what I did and if it would work for you.

I started my day with a baseline word count to give me a bit of a cushion: 1000 words. From there I rewarded myself with a 22 minute break and watched an episode of Death Note.

I wrote 600 words following that episode and repeated until I reached 3200. I then gave myself a longer break to finish some errands, get out of the house, feel like an actual human and when I returned I knocked out the final 800.

The reason I liked this approach so much is it’s quantity focused not time focused. It doesn’t matter how long or short it takes me to write those 500 words, it’s the goal I set and the goal I have to reach. The break is then time driven because 22 minutes is enough to recharge, get some coffee, and let ideas percolate.

Why I think this idea worked so well is that I never fully exhausted my mind or my imagination. The ideas were still flowing when I took my break so writing didn’t feel like a chore, it was something I was chomping at the bits to get back to.

Anyway, I hope this helped.

Thanks for reading.

-R.K. Gold

Know your ending

I know the title of this post seems obvious. The most important part of a book after all is the ending. People can disagree with me all they want but I will stand my ground, you can come back from a shitty beginning and middle but there’s no coming back from a shitty end. The culmination of all your hard work into a rushed pile of garbage is something you want to avoid. It would be much better to smear fertilizer all over the page and let a beautiful vegetable garden sprout on the final pages.

Lol sorry, I didn’t mean to go poetic at the end. I’m a little out of it this morning. It’s been a long week at school and it’s only Tuesday. But I digress.

As I mentioned in the title, before you start writing you should know the destination. This is not a call to outline the entire book, just know the cardinal direction of it. That way you can spend the entire novel trying to get there.

The reason I am emphasizing knowing your ending is that one issue I have when I write is that I think I know my ending then I write myself out of it and have to come up with something new.

The reason I am posting this advice today is that yesterday I finished my rough draft of Third Life and since I now have a physical ending that I’m in love with I know how to fill the rest of the story with actions, clues, and props that will make the ending POP. Honestly, this is more a post to remind me that I need to focus more on my endings before every aspect of the writing process. Far too many times I have changed my ending mid-story and while being flexible when writing has opened me up to some pretty cool twists it’s also sent me down some pretty miserable rabbit holes.

The Absolute for example used to be about a writer who wanted to kill God. Now it’s about a painter remembering the importance of family. Both of these stories have absolutely sucked lol (part of the reason I’ve taken a break from editing The Absolute).

Wow, this post is already longer than it needed to be. I’m just gonna end it here and repeat the title. Know your ending before you start writing. It makes the process SO much easier.

A Faster Mind

Did you know our minds can process 400 words a minute? Despite our ability to digest large volumes of information in a short amount of time we inhibit ourselves by stressing to retain and memorize each word, which is stored in short-term memory and forgotten, instead of focusing on the overall message.

In 10 days to read faster, we are told the most important skill any of us are ever taught is the ability to read, yet we stop learning reading techniques at too young of an age to really perfect the skill, and it ends up serving more as a stress factor than an ability to enhance our lives.

Maybe that’s why according to PEW Research, over a quarter of Americans say they haven’t read a book in the past year. That’s kinda sad, and I’m not just saying that as an author.

Studies have found that people who read novels develop a larger capacity for empathy than those who don’t. That’s obviously not to say people who don’t read cannot feel empathetic, but the correlation still exists.

One of the main reasons people read slowly is that they try to read every word. Their eyes will stop up to 8 times reading a single sentence, hindering their momentum and creating stress, because not only are they trudging along the page, they aren’t retaining any information.

Another problem individuals face is they will mouth the words while reading, slowing their mind down to follow the speed of their lips, which as mentioned above is much slower than our maximum ability to delivering and retain information.

10 Days to Faster Reading offers brief exercises, they may seem strenuous at first but will ultimately help you read faster and retain more (which is the ultimate goal). These exercises are teaching yourself to literally read between the lines; that way your peripherals will pick up on the text of the following sentence before you even get to it, thus it will already enter your mind before you move your attention to it.

Focusing on keywords in the sentence and allowing your mind to fill in the rest by context. Our mind is actually very good at this. Though it may feel uncomfortable at first, if you focus on the keywords you will be able to recite the entire sentence word for word (or just about).

Finally, do not look back. Re-reading not only halts any momentum you’ve built, but it will also create a subconscious stress to memorize the words, which will actually make retaining the information more difficult.

The main key to reading faster seems to be just trusting your mind.

Personally, I’m excited to keep practicing this skill and after just a single day I’m already noticing a difference.

No need to even buy the book, just remember that reading is like any other skill; practice makes perfect and the more you practice the exercises above the stronger reader you will become.