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The acronym that changed how I write

Ali Abdaal
Ali Abdaal

Hey friends,

When writing these email newsletters, I often run into writer’s block. Confronted with a blank canvas on whatever writing app I’m trying that week, I sit like a lemon and sometimes stare at the screen for hours before anything gets done.

But recently I came across a concept that’s changed the way I write. I came across it in an episode of the Tim Ferriss Show where he’s interviewing Safi Bahcall, a physicist-and-writer. Safi talks about how there are 3 modes of writing - hunting, drafting and editing. In the drafting stage, where we want to be chucking our ideas down on paper as fast as possible, it’s easy to get caught up in perfectionism and therefore not get anything done.

The solution is to write FBR. FBR stands for Fast, Bad, Wrong.

Write fast, write bad, and write wrong. Terrible style, terrible grammar, terrible word choice, wrong facts, and that liberates you. That liberates you to follow the narrative thread and just keep going and going with it. And don’t stop and backtrack, because every time you stop, it’s like a car going down the highway - it’s easy to stop, but then you have to spend all this fuel to get back up to speed, and you might not get there. You discover that start writing, and start pulling on that narrative thread, it’s really surprising where it goes. But only if you go fast. Not if you go slow.

Since coming across this acronym, I’ve found it much easier to write these email newsletters and even to plan videos. I just tell myself ‘write FBR’ and that gives me permission to write from the heart, to say whatever pops into my head without any regard for whether it’s ‘good’ or not. Then, at a later date, I edit the first draft, and even if I thought it was pretty crap the first time around, I find that when I read it with a fresh set of eyes, it’s not as bad as I thought.

I think the FBR approach works great for any type of creative endeavour. Often we want to separate the first draft from the later editing stages, but our perfectionist tendencies prevent us from making headway. Even for stuff like starting a YouTube channel, or starting a blog - if we tell ourselves that our first 50 videos or articles are going to be FBR, it makes it infinitely easier to get started.

Have a great week!

Ali


This week on Not Overthinking

Not Overthinking | 018 - How should we give advice? | Episode 18

In this episode we talk about whether we should give advice to others, and if so, how to go about it. Do we have a moral imperative to offer advice to our friends if we think they're doing the wrong thing? Or should we simply 'let it be'?

Stuff I enjoyed this week

1 - Podcast Episode - I enjoyed this IndieHackers interview with Sahil Lavingia, founder of the startup Gumroad. Initially he raised millions and had a large team of people working on the product, but 'failed' to turn it into a billion dollar business, and so cut down the scope massively and turned it into a lifestyle business. He offers some very interesting perspectives on the value of work, money and what makes us truly happy.

2 - Person - I recently discovered a chap called Tynan and I've been binging his blog posts and every podcast he's ever been interviewed on over the past week. He used to be a pickup artist, then became a travelling nomad and writer, owns a private island, and lives a pretty interesting life (which he says is surprisingly accessible for most people). If that sounds cool, check out his blog for more, or listen to this podcast that's a good introduction.

Kindle Highlight of the Week

As priorities change, regrets may surface. Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse working in palliative care, recorded what she perceived to be the top five regrets of the dying. They were: I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

From Happy by Derren Brown.

This week's video

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Ali Abdaal

Junior doctor, YouTuber, web designer, aspiring musician. Trying out this blogging thing.