This Isn't Ghostwriting

Have you noticed that “Hostwriting” is a play on ghostwriting?

Ghostwriting is for people who are too busy to write, or who don’t like writing at all. That might be you. You might be busy. You might not like writing.

It’s important to know, though, that Hostwriting is different. I’m not going to write for you. You have complete control over what you write.

My goal is to help you do the writing. I want you to write more. I want writing to be easier and faster. I want writing to help you meet your goals, and I want you to have more fun doing it. We'll do that by changing our definition of writing.

This new definition isn’t about the medium: a pencil, a paper, a keyboard. A new keyboard might help your RSI, but it isn’t going to help you write more.

It isn’t about a final product: a blog post, essay, or book. I want you to write incredible blog posts, essays, books, and more. But that’s not where I want you to start.

You have to start smaller. And you have to start on a completely different foot. Something open-ended. Something like the humble question.

Why do that?

In Plato's Theaetetus, Socrates offers a definition of thinking:

[Thinking is] speech that the soul itself goes through with itself about whatever it considers. Of course it’s as one who doesn’t know that I’m declaring it to you. For it has this look to me, that when it’s thinking the soul is doing nothing other than conversing, asking itself questions and answering them itself, and affirming and denying.

Perhaps, as you read this quote, it doesn’t mean very much to you. I know that was the case for me, when I first read it. But over time this passage has completely changed my way of thinking.

At the time, I was very interested in questions like "What is philosophy? Am I a philosopher? How can I be a better thinker? How can I be a better writer?” I realized that if thinking was simply conversation, then it gave me a clear way to practice being a reader or a writer. I realized that I could practice thinking simply by having a conversation. I could ask myself questions and answer them, in my mind or out loud. I could ask other people questions and hear their answers, or have other people ask me questions and answer them.

Of course, I had already been doing these things for years. But not intentionally. Not deliberately. For me, this was a dramatically different way of approaching thought and writing. And it has changed my thinking and writing process ever since.

Consider this lesson. It was originally composed while I drove to an appointment. I recorded myself speaking, transcribed the audio, edited the transcription, and transformed it into an email for the Hostwriting newsletter. Later, it became this lesson.

This experience was far easier than the usual method of writing I see: a quiet room, a blank screen, a locked door, and ample, strong, negative emotions.

Creating the email, and later, this lesson, wasn't anything like that. I didn't procrastinate at all. Actually, I had a lot of fun. The experience was like... play. Improvisation. Exploration. Creativity. Fun. Flow.

As humans, we learn to listen and speak years before we learn to read and write. We can take advantage of those years of practice by shifting to a paradigm of questions and answers. Simply by asking a question and answering it, you can very quickly generate a draft that will be much easier and more powerful than anything you might have written otherwise. As in many areas of life, 20% of the effort, applied in the right places, can get you 80% of the impact and value. It’s such an easy and powerful change, it’s astonishing more people aren’t doing this.

Complete and Continue