Steven Pressfield offers the most practical and remarkable advice to writers, young and old, in his Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t – guidance that applies to any creative endeavor, really:
Sometimes young writers acquire the idea from their school that the world is waiting to hear what they’ve written. They get this idea because their teachers had to read their essays or term papers or dissertations.
In the real world, no one is waiting to read what you’ve written.
Slightly unseen, they hate what you’ve written. Why? Because they might have to actually read it.
According to Pressfield, adopting this approach actually changes your mindset to produce better work. Antonio Damasio wrote in The Feeling of What Happens, “Sometimes we use our minds not to discover facts, but to hide them.” In a bold yet subtle way, Pressfield asserts:
It isn’t people are mean or cruel. They’re just busy. Nobody wants to read your shit.
What’s the answer?
Streamline your message. Focus it, and pare it down to its simplest, clearest, and easy to understand form.
Make its expression fun. Or sexy or interesting or scary or informative. Make it so interesting that a person would have to be crazy NOT to read it.
Apply that to all forms of writing or art or commerce.
The book becomes at once a tool of self-discovery as much as an instructional guide to better writing. He explains:
When you understand that nobody wants to read your shit, your mind becomes powerfully concentrated. You begin to understand that writing/reading is, above all, a transaction. The reader donates his time and attention, which are supremely valuable commodities. And in return you the writer must return something worthy of his gift to you.
The book is far from the typical ego-stroking run-of-the-mill how-to’s and serves as an essential companion for anyone laboring in the art of making something new.
When you understand that nobody wants to read your shit, you develop empathy.
With this, Pressfield brings life to the timeless wisdom of what makes an artist’s skill blossom and become cherished in the minds of audience.
You acquire the skill that is indispensable to all artists and entrepreneurs – the ability to switch back and forth in your imagination from your own point of view as a writer/painter/seller to the point of view of your reader/gallery-goer/customer. You learn to ask questions with every sentence and every phrase: Is this interesting? Is it fun or challenging or inventive? Am I giving the reader enough? Is she bored? She is following where I want to lead her?
Above all, this becomes not only a tool of accountability but a guide post to keep the artist or entrepreneur moving forward in the face of self-doubt and uncertainty.
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