Just like I do every morning, today I unfolded a space-grey slate about the size of a notepad and nearly as thin, and set my wrists on its cold aluminum frame.
I was half-awake. Three sources of illumination brought me to life: two were my laptop screen and monitor, radiating blue light onto my desk and face. The third was a standing lamp on my right, brightening the room with a sunshine-like glow. It was early and I was cold, so I grabbed my New England Patriots hoodie hanging on a hook behind the door and put it on. Cozy and ready to work.
Some authors spend years writing a single book. I was impatient after seven months of crafting The Dropout Manifesto. This morning, looking through my copy editor’s suggestions…
Unnecessary adverb. Unnecessary adverb. Unnecessary ramp-up. Delete. Delete. Cut this paragraph. Too wordy. Delete.
…it felt more like years.
And then, somehow, the editing process was over. I had a final draft of the book along with printouts of earlier drafts, but I couldn’t remember what I was thinking or what I was going through when I wrote them all. They just existed.
And now, so does a finished product.
I couldn’t stop writing after I finished the book. It would’ve felt like treason. So one day after TDM launched, on May 8 at 5:09 AM, I typed the following:
“On feeling successful: You released your first book. Exciting. But a reminder:
Don’t worship the praise. Nor the attention. You are nothing more and nothing less because of a book. Maybe as a business entity, you’re more credible as an ‘author’, but let’s be real:
You’ve got a long way to go.
This is just the beginning of your journey.”
I liked what I produced, and I continued writing in that form. Once a day, for three months between May 8, 2018 and August 8, 2018.
This is a collection of those writings.
I modeled my exercise after the philosopher Seneca’s Moral Letters to Lucilius. The letters are honest, affectionate writings from a mentor to his pupil, Lucilius: a raw transmission of wisdom to another man through writing. For Lucilius—and everyone who reads the Letters—Seneca is a voice of reason.
That first reflection, writing to myself about my book release, was a nod to that voice of reason. Could I provide myself a voice of reason? Could I detach from my daily struggles, frustrations, and angers? Could I bring myself back down to earth by writing every day in a separate voice?
These writings are my attempt at doing so.
They are not prescriptive. I don’t agree with everything I said. I wasn’t always objective about myself or many of the problems I encountered. I’ve added some commentary in the form of footnotes where appropriate to highlight those cases.
Developing a journaling practice and writing daily made me a better writer for obvious reasons. But it also helped me personally grow through self-analysis. I’ve developed an ability to reflect on my own actions and correct myself, sometimes in the heat of a moment where I might otherwise react negatively.
Journaling is an essential habit to reinforce. It’s not a silver bullet for your problems. But occasionally, when I grow frustrated with a situation then sit down to write about it, the act of journaling gives me supreme clarity. That feeling is such a relief. Many other people I’ve spoken to or heard about who journal have had similar experiences.
The point of this book is for you to get inspired to write for yourself. You don’t have to post your content on a blog, and you don’t have to write 400 words a day. Just write something and see what effect it has on you.
A couple of easy ways to get started:
Take notes on interesting ideas you hear or read, so you can review them later.
Write a paragraph every day describing what you’re thankful for.
Write a thank you note every day to someone who has helped you. (Bonus points if you give it to them.)
Journal about upsetting situations to gain clarity on your emotions.
Compose letters giving advice to yourself or others.
Write one poem a day about something you see, experience, or have on your mind.
What you’re about to read was never written for you. These are letters written to myself—the voice you hear in the following pages is the voice of my inner Seneca, not yours.
Go on. Turn the page and dive into my head. I’m sure you’ll have your opinions about what I’ve written—rest assured, I do too. Just make sure that when you put down this book, you start to consult—and pay more attention—to your voice of reason.