Thinking differently about content creation
Writing something is hard. You need an original, insightful idea and well researched arguments. This creates a lot of friction — stages in the process when you don’t have the motivation, or the ideas, you need to advance.
Through this blog post I hope to share with you a new method of content creation that will hopefully change your view on the writing process and help you to avoid friction — and be more productive in the process. Additionally I will show how I am going about implementing this process, and my thoughts on it.
The main idea
The central idea here is that in writing, or content creation in general, one should follow the path of least resistance. This is about doing the most interesting thing at any given time and following the most promising path of inquiry. What this means is that you should not have to come up with a piece of content, research it, and only then start creating — a linear process. Rather you should be taking notes while learn and sorting these notes under a running list of topics that you would like to write about. These topics are questions that you are exploring through learning — you are not limited to one. Once one of these topics, or questions, has accumulated enough notes you should start writing, completely foregoing a tedious research process.
Following the path of least resistance therefore merely means that you should be writing about what interests you at that current time without worrying about planning, or getting one single piece of content done.
The benefits of this are clear. You are not forced to read about something you find uninteresting, thereby avoiding much friction. It does not require you to find ideas on schedule, as if by clockwork — when you do think of a new idea it is because it is something you are currently exploring, find interesting, and have already taken notes on.
When you start the writing process it should be easy. You have a compiled list of your thoughts and sources on a topic — these are personal to you and have already been ‘translated’ into the context of the topic you are writing on. All you are doing is fleshing out the ideas.
Your ideas develop and mature as your knowledge related to them grows — this happens over a longer period of time. This contrasts to the usual linear process where you establish a premise and research supporting arguments. By learning without your opinion fully formed you establish a more mature premise when you do eventually start writing, it results from the learning you did — it does not shape, and restrict, this learning.
When you start writing about something and you feel at a lack for ideas, or that you don’t find it interesting anymore, you should be able to stop and go work on another topic. You are writing about what is most promising. You will have multiple running ideas, in various stages of development. These ideas will develop as your thoughts progress in depth and insight.
Additionally, this way of operating ensures that insight drives your projects forward — you add to your list of topics based on insight you gain. This runs counter to many people's methods which are driven forward by strict planning and to do lists — you are forced to ‘beat yourself into submission’ with a bunch of boring tasks. These rigid structures are upset by insight — a mark that something is wrong.
Implementing it in a practical way
This idea is based primarily on the zettelkasten method. If you want to learn more I highly recommend checking out this website. This will teach you the basics of it and how to fully implement it your workflow. There is a lot of material to explore, which this blog post serves only as a cursory introduction to.
The most important thing to make this system work is to change how you think about notes. They are not superfluous, or just there to help you remember things. Writing is the best medium of thought, allowing you to elaborate on and develop ideas. And most importantly, it serves as a bridge between learning and actual creation.
While you learn, you take notes. Taking notes facilitates thought and you will naturally find patterns in your learning that revolve around a few central topics or questions. These become ideas for pieces of content. Now when you learn you collect ideas under these topics, arranging them coherently as you go. The questions you originally wrote will refine and develop as you learn more related to them. Eventually, one topic will reach a critical mass, where you have collected enough ideas to write a coherent piece of content. From there all you have to do flesh out these already structured ideas, using them to guide your outline, and enhance the piece.
These should also be entered into a permanent system (for later reference) where they should be tagged, for easy reference later, and linked to related ideas (which can be found under related tags. This means each of these notes can be easily referred to later on when you are writing on a relevant topic — you can draw on past ideas. Additionally, each note serves as an entry point into a physical manifestation of your collective knowledge — the links you have made and the understanding you have gained.
I recommend you read “How to Take Smart Notes” for more information on this. It has the potential to be a life-changing book.
Relationship with deadlines
Now some of us may have deadlines. This method is harder to work with and will require some adaptation. However, if you are writing as more of a ‘side hustle’ — where you set your own deadlines — you should be able to incorporate this quite nicely.
There are a few potential detriments that this idea has. Firstly some might find it is more difficult to release things consistently — this is not my experience though. However I believe if you apply this correctly you will be able to produce far more work, and of a higher quality, in the long term. If you are determined to release content according to a very rigid schedule, you can always just write about an idea prematurely, before it has reached a critical mass. It will mean more friction — research, brainstorming, etc. — but you will still be able to get it out on time, and still keep many of the same benefits.
I think this way of operating has many benefits. It is important to note though that this is only a system for content creators — I am not advocating that you do the easiest thing available to you in real life.
Additionally, it is mostly for content creators with freedom — from deadlines, imposed plans and time to learn things. It is more difficult to implement and maintain when writing is more of a strict profession for you, but it can be done.
I am in the early stages of implementing this method and have already found it to be greatly helpful. It has allowed me to not only enjoy the process more, but avoid friction and therefore get a lot more done — I am doing what I am most interested in and I write only when I have real insight.