3 Learnings from a Writers Retreat


Hey friends,

Greetings from London, where I’ve just arrived back after a lovely weekend in New York City for a writers retreat. It was a group of 7 of us, all writers + creators + internet entrepreneur types, all staying in the same house, and spending the days chatting through the challenges and learnings from our respective writing, business and life journeys.

During the retreat, each of us had a chance to take the “Hot Seat” – where we’d have the floor for 45 minutes to talk through whatever challenges we were facing that we wanted input from the group on. (Btw, I love this format, and I’ve used it a bunch of times for events I’ve hosted too, sometimes even at dinner parties if it’s the right crowd).

When it was my turn, I talked about how I was unsure about what to do next with my writing career. Feel-Good Productivity has now been out for just over 2 months – we’ve sold 150k+ copies, reviews seem to be reasonable (although I’ve been avoiding reading them lol), and I’m thinking “huh I wonder what I should do for book #2…”. I talked through how the main thing exciting me these days is building and optimising the business so that it’s a value-giving and value-generating machine that doesn’t rely on me continuing to churn out YouTube videos, so that I can get to the point where I feel like I’m genuinely making stuff because I want to, rather than because of the money. (If you’re a regular Sunday Snippets reader, you’ll know this is my age-old struggle – the old “passion vs money” debate. Thankfully, it seemed like every single writer at the retreat could relate).

Anyway, after I meandered through the current issues I’m facing, the others started asking questions and giving advice. After a lot of back-and-forth, the general consensus was (in a nice, wholesome, supportive way): “Bruh, your book’s been out for like 2 months, why don’t you just chill out, focus on the business because that’s where you’re finding joy right now, and don’t worry about cranking out another book right now. There’s always going to be time for that later”.

When that conclusion arose, I felt a little dumb. In my head, this was an Important Thing that I needed to figure out – what on earth is Book #2 going to be about, and when can I get started with writing it?? But after a bit of perspective from the others, I realised “oh yeah lol, I can in fact chill out a bit, focus on doing the business stuff, and choose to not worry about Book #2 for now”. It was a rather liberating insight. Felt like a weight had been taken off my shoulders. A sense of “whew, I don’t need to sign up to run another ultramarathon right now, I can always do that later”.

As I write this, part of me’s thinking: This sounds so trite. I bet readers are going to say “bruh you went all the way to New York and back, hung out with other writers, and your best takeaway was that it’s okay to chill? Wtf?”

But I guess that’s the thing with when we’re so wound up in our own heads, with our own stuff. As the old saying goes: “You can’t read the label from inside the bottle”. In my own head, figuring out Book #2 was a Major Important Thing That I Should Really Have Figured Out By Now. But in reality, it’s really not. No one cares, I can in fact just chill out, and having 6 other people (older and more experienced than me) tell me that was incredibly helpful.

So that was the first key takeaway for me. There were two other main ones.

The second was a reminder about the tradeoff between Quality and Scale. Especially in the creative world, cranking out more output often comes at the cost of quality. It sometimes doesn’t, but it often does. In cases where you’re torn between trying to “do more” and trying to maintain or increase quality, go with your gut and don’t put stuff out there that you’re not proud of just for the sake of putting it out there.

Of course, there’s a tension here – sometimes, we feel that something’s not good enough, and the perfectionist tendency can be to never ship it, never get it out there, because it could always be improved more. As Leonardo da Vinci apparently said, “Art is never finished, only abandoned”.

I think the way to go is to ask: “Am I proud of this?”. If the answer is yes, ship it. If the answer is no, keep working on it.

And the final takeaway was a reminder of priorities: Health comes first, relationships come second, and work comes third. Again, you might be thinking “duh”. But I know that I always need the reminder. As someone who enjoys my work, and who wants to be more productive, do more, grow the business and all that jazz, it’s so easy to let health stuff (physical, mental, emotional) and relationships (romantic, family, friends) fall by the wayside for the sake of more work. There’s always an infinite amount of work to be done. The waiting room will never be empty. It’s so tempting to skip that workout because “just this once, I need to take that meeting during my gym slot because otherwise it’ll have to wait until X is back from holiday”. Or “just this once, I’m going to cancel date night because I’ve got so much work to get done”. But that’s the start of a slippery slope.

For me, work will inevitably fill my spare time and my spare thoughts. I need to make sure that I’m always counteracting that inertia, and actively focusing on health and relationship stuff, even when (especially when) I have to turn down the Work dial.

I’ll leave you with a question we spent some time talking about: “Who is someone you feel envy or jealousy towards, and what does that tell you about what you want that you haven’t admitted to yourself yet?”

Have a great week!

Ali xx

PS: Even though I’m trying to avoid reading reviews for another few months (apparently good practice for writers), I very much appreciate it that people are writing them. If you’ve read Feel-Good Productivity and enjoyed it, I’d love it if you could leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads please 🙂

❤️ My Favourite Things this Week

  1. Fiction Book – The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes – Okay, so on the JetBlue flight to New York, I browsed some movies and I saw: “Whoah, the new Hunger Games movie is out?!?!?!”. Turns out it’s been out for months and I somehow missed the news. So I googled: “Should you watch Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes or read the book first?”. Consensus: Read the book first. And I’m very glad I did. I absolutely loved the original Hunger Games trilogy back when I was in school. I bought the prequel (The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes) on Kindle ages ago, but never actually got round to reading it. So on my flight to NYC, instead of cranking on business stuff, I decided to read the entire book instead. And it was incredible. If you liked the Hunger Games trilogy, you’ll love this. And if you haven’t yet read the Hunger Games original trilogy, you really should – it’s fantastic. Next flight: going to watch the movie hehe.
  2. YouTube Channel – Ravi Abuvala – I’ve been on a recent binge of this chap Ravi’s YouTube channel. He’s got some absolute banger videos about growing a business. What I love about them is that he’s not targeting beginners like 99% of other channels do (“How to make your first $10k a month! How to make passive income online for students!!” – obv I’m guilty of this as well). Instead, he shows the real behind-the-scenes stuff of growing his business from 7- to 8-figures (a path I’m working on too). There’s such a gap in the market for business owners doing detailed breakdowns of their learnings beyond the beginner level, and I’m glad there’s at least someone filling that. GG Ravi.
  3. Article – The Inside Story: How Ali Abdaal became a published author – My (initially business associate but now friend) friend Hasan Kubba wrote up an enormous article about the process he helped me with when it came to writing and publishing Feel-Good Productivity. If you’re interested in the writing and publishing world, you should check it out – it’s a good documentation of the process with some fun old photos and some great analysis.
  4. Video – The Most Underrated Cardio Routine For Fat Loss – This is an absolute banger of a video from Doctor Mike Diamonds. I’ve been on a bulk phase since the start of the year, and I’m starting my cut to get #shredded in April. I watched the entirety of this video about fat loss, and all the way through I was thinking “bloody hell this is a really really really good video on so many levels”. Y’all should check it out if fat-loss and/or cardio is your thing.
  5. Movie – Dune Part 2 – Oh yeah, I watched Dune Part 2 last week. Amazing film. Not much more to say. It’s just really good. You should watch it if you haven’t (but watch Part 1 first). Going to start reading the book too – I hear it’s good.

🎬 My New Videos

🚫 7 Mistakes to Avoid While Building Your First Business –
I’ve made many a mistake over the years growing my business. Here are 7 that I’ve learned recently and am thinking about a lot at the moment. I hope you learn something useful from it. Enjoy x

✍️ Quote of the Week

“Your story must reflect change over time. A story cannot simply be a series of remarkable events. You must start out as one version of yourself and end as something new.”

From Storyworthy by Matthew Dicks. Resurfaced using Readwise.

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