Looking for the Sweet Spot

Never a day without a line. ~ Pliny the Elder

The Latin for this quip, Nulla dies sine linea, actually refers to drawing, but I'll take it as a motto for my 100 days of writing, starting today.

Some parameters for the 100 days project…

At its most basic, my Ponder100 project is about showing up, and about reflecting on my writing practice. (Re: showing up and reflecting on practice, see Prolifiko's article by Bec Evans on the origins of the hashtag: #100DaysofWriting.)

Heaven Forbid

Finding one's voice is a first reflective task for a writer, along with settling into some sort of content plan. There is also nurturing one's overall motivation.

Standing out from so much tedious advice on writing, today I chuckled my way through Ted Gioia's Four Types of College Papers. The Four Types he acronymizes, and characterizes with insight, are: C&C, TWIT, DIM, and The Old Switcheroo. The punchline is that he had to unlearn all four essay types and regain his original desire:

I actually had to forget much of what I had learned in college and regain the mindset of a wide-eyed innocent. I even decided that the goal might actually be to seek wisdom. Heaven forbid!

Here is a motivation worthy of nurturing. Triangulating between non-wisdoms will find the sweet spot for a 100-post endeavor.


I've always appreciated the rigor of academic writing in the sense that it requires research, thinking, synthesis, and careful citation — with citations from primary sources being by far the best. But the scope, breadth, width, and even depth of most scholarship is lacking. It's too narrow, too esoteric. What academics and scholars write about is normally incomprehensible to the rest of the world, and irrelevant. It's not wisdom, despite many pretensions.

What other kinds of writing are there?

I also won't write about tech, although I might occasionally stray (something to do with DAOs...). This is mostly due to lack of competence, but again, it's also because tech writing, similar to academic writing, lapses into the obscure.

The internet is full to the brim of “creator” writing, but ultimately this is so “meta.” I do have “meta” goals, including some entrepreneurial ones, but a business needs to build around content, not content around business (“content marketing”). I won't craft an entire writing program around productivity, business concerns, reaching an audience, gaining followers.

Nor, finally, can I stomach writing about news and politics by taking a media or journalistic approach. Recently, I curated a newsletter on sustainable travel for a few months, and while delving into industry trends was informative and fascinating for a while, I learned that newsy content ends up repeating itself ad nauseum. I wanted to build something instead. Going around in circles is not wisdom. Growing a considered body of work comes closer.

So just like Gioia had to unlearn four types of college writing techniques, finding the sweet spot for my 100 Days of Writing requires quadrangulating between four types of writing I have no intention of pursuing: academic writing, tech writing, “meta” writing, and newsy media-journalism.

Gioia concludes that one must write with questions in mind, not answers. This rings true. My long-time moniker is “Pose Ponder.” Finding one's voice means finding questions to ponder, without expecting to find The Answers. Wisdom comes in right here.

Finding voice also implies conversation. Mortimer Adler (and Robert Maynard Hutchins) used to call reading the Great Books a practice of engaging in a Great Conversation. Living interlocutors are necessary, but the best conversations are had with the wisest minds, and most of those have lived and died already.

Chosen carefully, one's daily reading contains the richest life lessons, and one's particular mashup and juxtaposition of those should be shared with the living. This is how culture works, how it's formed and transmitted. Here, too, is wisdom.

For the Curious

Writing is a lonely pursuit, but when all goes well a community forms between a writer and her readers, especially if both are driven by genuine curiosity and the search for wisdom. Again, Gioia: “A writer must be curious.” Why?

Because the readers are. A writer must seek inspiration and mind-expanding experiences, because the readers do. A writer must try to find wisdom, because that’s what readers are after. Not every reader. But the ones you want to write for.

Yes, those are the readers I want to write for.

Tomorrow I'll connect up a couple other “100 day” projects. For now, enjoy a

Joke of the Day

An ancient Greek walks into his tailor's shop with a pair of torn pants. “Euripides?” says the tailor. “Yeah Eumenides?” replies the man.