Replied to Indexing, filing systems, and the art of finding what you have – Austin Kleon (Austin Kleon)

I have a ton of material that never makes it online, and I need to get it out of my notebooks and into an indexed and fully searchable system. I think this will be easiest if I do it as I go, and keep it simple: the minute I finish a notebook, go back and type the whole thing into a .txt file and save it. (And back it up.)

I suspect that rather than being totally dreary, this transcribing step can also be a creative step, and I will see patterns of thought, generate new ideas…

Austin, I really enjoyed this reflection on various indexes. It reminded me of Amy Burvall’s suggestion that to connect, we firstly need something to connect:

In order to connect dots, one must first have the dots

Personally speaking, this is the one reason I persist with my newsletter, because as a habit it forces me to regularly take stock of everything. A kind of gardening I guess.

My personal digital garden extends well beyond this domain. Twitter, Notion, Roam, Slack, Discord, and even Apple Notes all represent digital plots where I tend and water ideas. It’s relaxing to sit down to the keyboard and do a little gardening

Liked First we read, then we write (Austin Kleon)

One of his mentors, Walter Jackson Bate, taught him his 100 chapters of 5 pages each method of composition:

I had a wonderful teacher at Harvard, W.J. Bate, who wrote very great biographies of Keats and then of Johnson, and his advice to me when he discovered that I was daring to write a biography was to write in short takes; if at all possible, to write in short pieces so that the reader feels that he or she is getting somewhere. I mean, that’s a big, heavy book. And people have busy lives and they have lots else to do, and if you can sit down and read four or five pages and feel like you’re getting somewhere instead of these big 30 or 40-page or 50-page chapters, it makes a book readable that might not otherwise seem so.

He passed that advice — be kind to your readers and respect their time — on to his students and other biographers: Write 100 pieces of one to two thousand words on the parts of the life you care about the most, and don’t worry about what order they’re in until you have the pieces.

Bookmarked Stepping into the portal – Austin Kleon (Austin Kleon)

You step into the portal and sometimes discover what you didn’t know want to know.

That is the gamble. The roll of the dice.

A book is the safest portal, and a diary is the second-safest portal. They are both private. When it comes to public portals, a blog, I think, is one of the safest, most forgiving portals.

I stepped into the portal a few hours ago and I discovered some things and made some connections that I hadn’t before.

Now I’m going to hit “publish” and step out.

Austin Kleon steps into the digital portal that is his blog as a means of reflecting about the spaces we have to imagine a different world. These include games, books and writing. Sometimes I wonder if we avoid some portals for fear we may not come back?
Liked Getting out from under the influence – Austin Kleon (Austin Kleon)

In a Talk at Google, Saunders explained that if a writer is lucky, they get to a point where they realize that the voice that they’re imitating simply can’t cover their own worldview. A new voice is needed. “That is a holy moment for a young writer,” Saunders says, “when you start getting full body impatient with your mentor.”

Liked The song machines – Austin Kleon (Austin Kleon)

A really great book about how much things have changed in the past 50 years is John Seabrook’s The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory. If you’ve ever wondered why contemporary pop music sounds the way it does, The Song Machine gives a pretty good contextual explanation for why that is: a crumbling music industry, artists who are stuck touring year-round and have little time to write or record their own music, and song “factories” in which producers start with beats and tracks, add on hooks with the help of “top liners,” then hand them over to singers, many of whom can’t really sing, but no matter, splash on some auto-tune and VOILA!

Replied to Blogging as a forgiving medium – Austin Kleon (Austin Kleon)

I want to be able to be wrong. I want to change my mind! I want to evolve.

Being wrong publicly is the easiest way to learn what you need to know. The trouble is: it’s also the easiest way to get yelled at or shamed or “canceled,” as they say.

To do the exploration that growth and change requires, one needs a forgiving medium… but what one really needs forgiving readers.

Austin, wondering if blogging is a more forgiving space because you have turned off comments?
Liked David Epstein’s Range – Austin Kleon (Austin Kleon)

One way you know if a book is any good is if you are still thinking about it a year after you read it. (Or five years, or a decade, etc. The longer you think about a book the better you know it is.) Another way to know if a book is good is if it seems like every week you read an article that could be a supplementary chapter.

Liked Nouns and verbs – Austin Kleon (Austin Kleon)

The first exercise in Jeff Tweedy’s How To Write One Song is called a “Word Ladder.” (Not Lewis Carroll’s word game.) It goes like this:

  1. Make a list of ten verbs related to some profession. (He uses a physician, I used a construction worker.)
  2. Write down ten nouns within your field of vision.
  3. Connect the words that don’t usually go together.
Bookmarked The Steal Like An Artist Audio Trilogy – Austin Kleon (Austin Kleon)

An audio compilation of my bestselling books about creativity in the digital age, Steal Like an Artist, Show Your Work! and Keep Going.

I purchased Austin Kleon’s audiobook trilogy from His books (and blogs) are something I dive into again and again as a point of reflection, so I am excited about reading the books with new ears. Also a sucker for authors reading their own work.
Replied to David Lynch on getting ideas (

Thank you Austin for sharing. I love this reflection on ideas from David Lynch:

If you catch an idea, you know, any idea, it wasn’t there and then it’s there! It might just be a small fragment, of, like I say, a feature film or a song of a lyric or whatever, but you gotta write that idea down right away. And as you’re writing, sometimes it’s amazing how much comes out, you know, from that one flash…

This reminds me of an interview between Kevin Parker and Rick Ruben in which Parker talks about the challenge of capture ideas when they come to you. Ruben shares how Neil Young always responds to ideas no matter how rude it may be. This excerpt captures Young’s thinking:

Usually 1 sit down and 1 go until I’m trying to think. As soon as I start thinking, I quit… then when I have an idea out of nowhere, I start up again. When that idea stops, I stop. I don’t force it. If its not there, it’s not there, and there’s nothing you can do about it… There’s the conscious mind and the subconscious mind and the spirit. And I can only guess as to what is really going on there. (Zollo, 1997, pp. 354-5)

Ruben then gives Parker permission to stop what you are doing and capture the ideas when they come.

Replied to Recording an audiobook during a pandemic by Austin Kleon (

It took us two days to get through 42,000 words, which I’m told isn’t too bad! I had two big revelations:

1. Recording is a physical process. It’s actually really hard work — it requires a ton of concentration and performance while sitting on your ass. My throat and my nerves were raw and I was an exhausted wreck at the end of the day! You start to notice every single weird pop and click your horrible mouth makes. I drank probably 3 gallons of water. (I was told, too late, that a green apple helps with mouth noise.)

2. You should record the audiobook before you turn in the book. I always read my work out loud when I’m editing, but being forced to say your words into a microphone and hearing your voice over headphones turns up every wart and wrinkle in the text. “What illiterate wrote this script?” I thought, five minutes into recording. The books got even better in the course of recording.

Thank you Austin for sharing your recording experience. It sounds like the closet is the way to go.

The process of using tools provided and dialling in remotely reminded me of Jacob Collier’s reflections on the use of Source Connect on the Switched on Pop podcast.

Looking forward to hearing the books. Maybe it is a trick of the mind, but I always like hearing an author read their own work.