Back in November, I took a class called Write Better Faster, offered by the author of Dear Writer, You Need to Quit, a book that I wrote about in a post called Dear Self, Have Fun.

I have not started writing either better or faster. Alas. But I’ve been slowly working my way through some of the books mentioned in the class. I’ve been reading them very deliberatively. And I just looked up deliberatively to be sure it was the word I wanted and it is: “related to or intended for consideration or discussion.” Not deliberately, ie “consciously and intentionally, on purpose,” although obviously that’s true, too.

Anyway, my usual reading is high-speed and voracious. I can finish a book in a few hours, but I only retain the main ideas. I’ve been trying hard to read these books in more depth, pausing to think about the information and ideas, taking notes, summarizing my responses. Trying to really use them as learning tools.

My approach was unsuccessful with only one of the books: The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg. Honestly, that book was just too interesting: I couldn’t stop myself from gobbling it down. My notes for it are terrible, although I used all caps and bold for my takeaway point, which says something about how I was feeling as I finished. Takeaway point: IF YOU BELIEVE YOU CAN CHANGE — if you make it a habit — the change becomes real. Your habits are what you CHOOSE them to be. 

So far, I’ve also finished Wired for Story, Verbalize, Triggers, and Rising Strong, and I’m working on Deep Work and Story Genius.

Coincidentally, an email showed up in my inbox this morning from Mark Manson (author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck) claiming that the most important life skill for the 2020s was probably going to be the ability to learn well on your own.

Sadly, this might mean that I’m not going to do so well in the 2020s. Because at the end of all this reading — a sincere, well-intentioned, thorough, focused attempt to learn how to write better & faster — I’m not sure what I’ve gotten out of it. Apart from approximately 15,000 words of notes, that is.

It’s not that I haven’t learned things. I definitely have. I’ve learned about the habit cycle, about transitive verbs, about the relationship of myelination to memory, about the human tendency to search for patterns. I’ve learned techniques for characterization, for plot development, for resolving interpersonal conflict, for creating change in my own life.

I don’t know, though. At the moment, I’m feeling very unfulfilled by all this learning. According to the Clifton Strengths test (taken for the class), I’m both high Input and a Learner, so this approach — reading all the books and trying to learn more — is definitely my style. But honestly, I think what I really need is to figure out how to get better at the execution strengths instead. Instead of being who I am, I want to learn how to be a Discipline and Focus person. But I think the whole point of the Clifton Strengths exercise is to embrace who you are and lean into your own strengths, instead of trying to be someone else.

Meanwhile, it’s Monday, and after my week off, I am feeling ready to get back to a solid writing schedule. It’s not quite the new year, but it’s time to execute! Hmm, maybe this story needs an execution? Nah, probably not. I did decide a couple of days ago that sentient otters were definitely in order, though!