My First Essay Contest

So I’ll be participating in First Things’ Student Essay Contest. I’m excited to throw my hat in the ring, as this is my first essay contest. I’m leaning towards responding to the first prompt: “Liberalism is at the end of its rope. What comes next?”

First place wins $500, second $250. I’m sure many of the participants, which will include graduate students and seminarians, are much smarter and can write much better than me. But what the hell, I’ll give it a shot. I’ve got nothing to lose.

I plan on posting my essay here after submitting it to First Things. It’s due September 15, and chances are I’ll need the full 39 days to finish. Starting the research today. Wish me luck!

Three Things You Need to Do For At Least an Hour Every Day

Reading, writing, and training. Alexander Cortes explains why:

Reading, Writing, and Training are absolutely critical practices. Within those three things you enable the broadest possible range of skills and cultivation of personal qualities that support your success in ANY field. I believe this is the foundational formula to becoming the top 1% of human beings, in any any given realm. It acts as a cornerstone to building skillsets, increasing cognitive learning, and maintaining physical health and resiliency to continuously improve. And it can be be done at ANY TIME, with a minimum of cost and a maximum of gain. There are ZERO prerequisites to doing it.

Said another way, it tilts the odds of success in your favor. And you WANT to the odds to favor you. The world is ever more competitive with each passing year, and staying competitive requires judicious action. The world has many narratives, many challenges, and many opportunities.

We all occupy a world where ideas have become the most valuable form of currency, where the ability to focus is under fire in a world of noise, and where “mastery” and making sense of truth is more important than ever before.

Reading and writing are self-explanatory. Training, however, means more to Cortes than just exercise:

3. Training-People might take this to mean “exercise”, but it is not so specific as that. Training is anything of a physical nature. Walking to have time to think, playing an instrument, physical training of the body through various forms of exercise, this is something that everyone had their own version of. What was recognized was that physicality creates mentality, and that to self-actualize, you must have the physical health to support doing so. Strong body, strong mind, the two are inextricably linked. (outliers exist of course, but they do not disprove the heuristic)

Read the entire post here.

In Case You Needed More Proof of the Power of Deep Work…

Cal Newport’s latest blog post:

As longtime readers know, I enjoy tracking down the deep work habits of well known and highly accomplished individuals. This is why I was happy to recently stumble across a pair of interviews (here and here) in which the novelist John Grisham describes his professional routines.

Here’s what I learned…

  • Grisham primarily writes his novels during the winter months on his farm in Oxford, Mississippi. During this period he works five days a week, starting at 7 am and typically ending by 10 am.
  • Grisham writes in a period outbuilding on his property that used to house an antebellum summer kitchen. He and his wife refurbished the kitchen to maintain its period details (with the main exception being that they added electricity and air conditioning). Crucially, as Grisham explains: “[the building has] no phone, faxes, or internet. I don’t want the distraction. I don’t work online. I keep it offline.”
  • Grisham maintains strict rituals for his writing. He starts work on a novel on the same day each year, and starts writing each day at the same time. He works on the same computer. He drinks the same type of coffee out of the same cup. “My office routine rarely varies,” he explains. “It’s pretty structured.”
  • Grisham starts a new novel on January 1st and is usually done with the bulk of the writing by the end of March. He aims to be completely done with the manuscript by July. This leaves a nice half year period to recharge and work on new ideas.

I understand we all have different life circumstances and professions. Not many of us can construct a schedule just like Grisham’s. But the point is that highly focused, distraction-free work actually gives you more freedom, more free time in your life.

You Shouldn’t Become a Writer

Mike Cernovich writes just as much in a recent post on Danger & Play. Excerpt:

The life of a writer is to write every day in obscurity….for years. If you’re lucky, you’ll “break through” in three years. It took me 15 years to earn a full-time living from writing. Today it’s easy street, but factor in opportunity cost and you’d wonder why the hell anyone gets into this game.

I used to be a sports blogger. I started at age nine and didn’t begin making money until age 15. That amounts to six years of constant blogging without anything to show for it. And even by the time I was “making money,” my best months hardly exceeded $150. Peanuts.

I quit sports blogging by age 17 for two reasons: 1) I simply got bored writing only about sports and 2) I could no longer stand the inherent liberal bias in most sports journalism. I never cared about the money. If I did, I would’ve kept going.

I’m 20 now. Let’s just say I hadn’t quit sports blogging. Even if I had a full-time gig by now, I would’ve blogged in relative obscurity for over a decade to get to that point.

If you want to become a writer, you have to write. Day in and day out. For years. With little to no readership. That’s what it takes, folks.