Shall I repeat myself? Yes:
Problems of output are problems of input.
No input, no output.
If you want to be a writer, you have to be a reader first.
It was put beautifully by writer Ted Gioia (one of my favorite people to follow on Twitter and author of, most recently, Music: A Subversive History) on an episode of the Conversations With Tyler podcast:
I think the most important skill anyone can develop is time management skills. How you use your day. But there is one principle I want to stress because this is very important to me. When people ask me for advice — and once again, this cuts across all fields — but this is the advice I give:
In your life, you will be evaluated on your output. Your boss will evaluate you on your output. If you’re a writer like me, the audience will evaluate you on your output.
But your input is just as important. If you don’t have good input, you cannot maintain good output.
The problem is no one manages your input. The boss never cares about your input. The boss doesn’t care about what books you read. Your boss doesn’t ask you what newspapers you read. The boss doesn’t ask you what movies you saw or what TV shows or what ideas you consume.
But I know for a fact I could not do what I do if I was not zealous in managing high-quality inputs into my mind every day of my life. That’s why I spend maybe two hours a day writing. I’m a writer. I spend two hours a day writing, but I spend three to four hours a day reading and two to three hours a day listening to music.
People think that that’s creating a problem in my schedule, but in fact, I say, “No, no, this is the reason why I’m able to do this. Because I have constant good-quality input.” That is the only reason why I can maintain the output.
Pay attention to that ratio. Double to triple time spent on input vs. output. (I remember the first time I read Stephen King’s On Writing as a young writer and being blown away by the fact that he writes in the morning and after lunch he spends all afternoon reading.)
As far as maintaining that high-quality input, Gioia says one other thing I want to highlight: getting outside of your comfort zone and being exposed to new experiences is a human effort, best conducted outside of the algorithm. (“More search, less feed.”)
[T]hese amazing curated playlists are just a feedback loop. They’ll tell you what to listen to next week based on what you listened to last week. And because they’re a feedback loop, they won’t show you anything new or interesting.
So what you need to do, if you really want to broaden your horizons as a listener, is to get exposed to new things. Pick somebody. It doesn’t have to be me…. Find somebody who you trust as a guide, and let them open your ears to these new experiences.
If you do that, you will be rewarded infinitely…
Filed under: input and output