Then I read from at least four different styles of books. I have coffee. I think. I list. I write. Throw stuff out. Then finally it’s around 6am and I begin.
Here’s the types of articles…
I think of a pain point in my life. Losing a lot of money. Getting a divorce. Being humiliated. Being a bad father. Being a bad friend or son or businessman.
I start off with the most painful part: “Then there was the one day I lost a million dollars.”
I like to start off as if it were mid-sentence: “Then there was…” because no story has a true beginning, middle, end. We are always starting in the middle.
And then the pain gets worse and worse and then I tell how I might have gotten it better. Or even worse. But even when it gets worse you always know it must have gotten better because here I am.
Writing about it.
I get annoyed at something I read. Like someone will write: “How to be an entrepreneur” and I read it and I think, “That’s not what it’s like at all.”
So I list for myself: “10 things an entrepreneur needs to know.”
Then I start with a story: “When I ran a company the worst thing was when employees had sex with each other.”
And then I start the list of what an entrepreneur needs to know and I make sure to tell a story with each item. Storytelling is everything.
Stories are the bridge that facts and opinions travel over from one person to the next. @jaltucher (Click to Tweet!)
Sometimes I can’t think of what to write. So I list something. “The 40 Ways I Deal With Shame.”
This is not a self-help list. This is a “me-help” list. Advice is autobiography and NOTHING else.
Then I write up the list, “But I forget to tell you about the time Nadine said ‘no’ when I asked her out and then she ran away.”
And then I begin to list the items. Interweaving stories with each item.
THE ONE TAKEAWAY
I watched the movie “8 Mile” about Eminem. In the final rap battle, which he won, it seemed to me he was using cognitive biases to defeat his opponents.
So I wrote a post about that. It combines pop culture, persuasion techniques, cognitive biases.
Everyone could relate. It was one of my most popular posts.
I try to learn from everything I do. And then I don’t just vomit what I learned. I tell MY STORY about how and what I learned.
I might even make a list: “10 things I learned by watching Jerry Seinfeld perform live” and then I write it. “Seinfeld started his act by telling me why I should kill myself…”
When the “Brexit” vote happened in the UK, the US stock market was down 500 points in the morning.
Everyone was screaming on social media that the world was going to collapse. I was scared when I saw everyone’s comments.
But most of the time, when everyone is scared, it’s usually for the wrong reasons.
Nobody actually knew what Brexit was.
So I explained it. I turned all of “accusations” that were being yelled online, into questions. And then I answered each question.
The result: the only rational post about the topic. Since then my predictions on it have been mostly true. And it was, again, a popular article.
HOW DID I LEARN….
When I quit my job, quit my life, and decided to change everything, I had to reinvent myself.
And then I had to do it again and again. I learned, “The hard way”, as people say, how to reinvent myself.
So then I wrote “The Ultimate Cheat Sheet on Reinventing Myself.” It’s not a How-to. It’s “How did I.”
And then I interviewed 100s of people how they reinvented themselves and then wrote the book.
I’ve written articles like this about writing, sales, business, relationships.
I don’t claim to be the expert on any of these things. I just write my story and then other people can decide. Most of the time I am a complete failure. But even that contains lessons.
So I write about it.
I hadn’t published a novel. So I decided to write a novel in the weekend.
I wrote: “The Autobiography of Prince George.” I used a pseudonym, “John Kenneth Rowling.” Prince George was just three days old.
It was fun and funny. I wrote it in three days and uploaded it to Amazon.
Another time I heard a true story about a guy who was secretly the richest man in the world but he had never told his daughter.
So I wrote a children’s book about it. “My Daddy Owns All of Outer Space”. I didn’t know how else to write the story.
In order to be an artist of any story, you constantly have to put aside the past and try to learn new things.
What will be next for me? I don’t know. Yesterday I put together a pitch for a TV show and set it to three production companies and an agent. All responded that they were interested. So we’ll see.
I wanted to be a photographer but I had never taken a photo in my life. So I asked professional photographer, Chase Jarvis, how, “within one hour,” I can take a professional looking photograph.
He said, “find your filter,” (“sad people” I told him) and go up to the person and explain what you are doing. And take their photography.
Since I also like to write, I often include the story of how I took that photography. How I approached the person, what I learned, how I got the photograph.
Let’s say someone made a graphic I like. Maybe it has a quote I like on it.
I get the graphic, and I write a story around it.
Or, I might have an older post, I’ll ask someone to make an infographic around that post, and I’ll write a new story around old material that has been put in graphic form.
PROCESS IS ART
First there is the art. But now process is art also.
For instance, I love the cover of “Reinvent Yourself”. And I noticed many people were tweeting photos of the book. Many people liked the cover.
So I asked the cover designer, Pamela Sisson, to show me all the covers she had been considering until she finally decided on the design of “Reinvent Yourself”.
So she made this graphic:
Eventually I will write about her process for creating the cover. Process of art is just as much art as the final product.
For example, this post.
Then I write and rewrite and rewrite. Then, almost always, I take out the first paragraph and the last paragraph.
I took out four paragraphs of the top of this one, for instance.
But this is the last paragraph.
James Altucher is the author of the bestselling book Choose Yourself, editor at The Altucher Report and host of the popular podcast, The James Altucher Show, which takes you beyond business and entrepreneurship by exploring what it means to be human and achieve well-being in a world that is increasingly complicated. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Image courtesy of voltamax.