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Forge
A publication from Medium on personal development.

Writing

In Forge. More on Medium.

It’s not: “Do you like it?”

Photo: Christin Hume/Unsplash

I recently wrote a pilot TV script with a girlfriend of mine. Neither of us had ever done anything like this before. As I sent out the draft to a few trusted friends, I was about to type: “Do you think this is any good?”

But I stopped myself. Instead, I wrote, “Can you please help us make this better?”

I’m a seasoned entrepreneur and a novice writer. I’m learning that the same rules apply to both roles. Whether I’m crafting a script or a business plan, it’s up to me to decide when it is “good enough” for the…


When I let small talk with strangers spiral into something deeper, it became a book about memorable interactions. Here’s what I learned.

Photo: Getty Images / janiecbros

The best conversations crack us open. They leave us tender and reeling, alive again with possibility, mesmerized by the uncanny nature of things. When you really “get there” with someone, you reach what my friend once referred to as the wilderness. You may not know where you are anymore, but you know it’s a place of mystery and beauty. You know you want to keep going. I felt this most acutely a few years ago when I kept having unexpected interactions with strangers. I wrote a book about those experiences — No One You Know, which is very much a…


Creativity doesn’t need to have an expiration date

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

The phrase “unfinished project” brings something specific to mind for each of us. For you, it might be the novel you’ve been working on for the past decade, or the pile of knitting supplies sitting in the corner of your bedroom, or the stack of half-read books collecting dust on your coffee table.

Whatever it is, I’m willing to bet that thinking about it makes you a little uncomfortable. Anything uncompleted tends to have that effect. Oftentimes, the discomfort is not even about the project itself — it’s a reminder of all of your shortcomings and failures. “I’ll never finish…


A lesson from the pope (sort of) that taught me how to understand everything better

Photo: Jorge Zapata/Unsplash

I was working at Esquire magazine a little over a decade ago when I received an incredibly valuable lesson about learning and research. A senior editor gave us interns an assignment to find out how much money the pope makes. We interviewed some Catholic academics and historians at big-name universities who gave us their best estimates, and then submitted our research file.

Our editor took one look at the file and pulled us all into the conference room. “Guys, no,” he said, shaking his head. “You call the fucking Vatican.”

“Call the fucking Vatican.” In the years since, it’s become…


✍️ Today’s tip: Write your own pandemic reflection.

Here’s a way to process everything this year has — and hasn’t — been: Write it down. Take 15 minutes to write your own pandemic reflection.

It can have immense benefits. As Ryan Holiday writes in Forge, “I journal each morning as a way of starting the day off fresh — I put my baggage down on the page so that I don’t have to carry it to meetings or to breakfast with my family.” Or into post-vaccination life.

Here are a few prompts:

What final pre-pandemic memory do you keep returning…


From drawing a bird to forgiving your ex

Illustrations by the author

A few years ago, I was feeling lost. “Stuck in the weeds” was how I kept referring to my state of existence. A little voice in my head kept telling me, incessantly, “You can’t do anything.” It literally said those words!

One day, I woke up feeling tired of the voice. So I decided to slap back. “Surely I can do some things!” I said out loud. (A word of advice: It’s best to argue with the mean voices in your head in the privacy of your own home.)

I decided to make this a project: I would write about…


An exercise for figuring out your value at work or anywhere else

Photo: Pornsawan Sangmanee/EyeEm/Getty Images

If you’ve never written a book before, you fall into one of two groups: You either will write a book someday, or you could write a book someday.

Even if you have no plans to write a book, you should figure out what your book would be. Because in some ways, it’s the central question of your life. What’s my purpose? What do I have to give? What’s my value? What am I worth? The answer is always singular, and it’s always revealing.

Everyone has a book in them. The person in your professional life you’re most happy to see…


Photo: Caravan Images/Getty Images

My dog does this thing sometimes where she eases her way into trouble. Whenever a pillow or table leg catches her eye as particularly chewable, she’ll mash her face against it and rub her nose back and forth, maintaining eye contact the whole time, as if to say: Just sniffing, can’t be mad. Often, she spends so long on this weird little preamble that by the time I notice she’s progressed to actually gnawing whatever it is, there’s already a hole in it.

We have a lot in common, in that this is also my preferred strategy for writing anything.


Strategies to ensure you always have something worthwhile to say

Photo: MoMo Productions / Getty Images

Often, when people say, “I don’t know what to write,” they really mean one of two things: They haven’t spent enough time formulating their ideas, or they’re trying to write something they don’t really believe in.

Many years ago, I started writing fiction — or rather, I tried to start writing fiction. My attempts never amounted to anything, and for years, I didn’t understand why. It wasn’t until I read an essay on writing by Arthur Schopenhauer, the German pessimist, that it finally clicked. “There are above all two kinds of writers,” he wrote: “those who write for the sake…


Photo: Patrick Semansky/Getty Images

Today, the nation watched in awe as Amanda Gorman read her powerful poem “The Hill We Climb” at President Joe Biden’s inauguration—and then immediately Googled everything she’s ever said and written. I ended up swiping through the young poet’s Instagram Stories, where she did a Q&A with her followers a few months ago, sharing thoughts on writing and staking a claim in the world that will resonate with anyone trying to do creative work:

On where her inspiration comes from:

Rarely does a writer say “I’m gonna have a great idea” and it comes. Instead you have to wait lovingly, preparing a place for inspiration to…

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