31: Changed neural pathways
November 09, 2023
At work, Dhruv and I have started co-creating essays again, and it’s probably one of my favourite parts of my job. We started it about a year ago, when we found that he wanted to write more and I wanted to learn more. He comes in with an idea or conviction which we interrogate and thoroughly research before putting down into words. I’ve read and written much more about product and strategy in the last year than ever before. And in helping Dhruv find his own style, I’ve also been dissecting my own writing and the style of people I consider good writers. A couple of interesting discoveries:
I appreciate two kinds of writers: those who have style, and those who have clarity of thought. I’ll read prose with a stunning style even if it were talking about a very mundane, everyday thing (think Anthony Doerr in Four Seasons in Rome). I’ll also read a plainly written essay if the plainness makes the clarity of thought all the more evident (Think Paul Graham). What I love is when the two come together: flowing prose and great storytelling that serves to accentuate a powerful, clearly thought-through idea. My reading list has a lot of those. What I hate is when the two come together in the wrong way: When style obscures the idea or, even worse, the lack of an idea. It’s a thin line, to be sure.
Dhruv and I write differently. I write paragraphs which more or less become my final blocks. Then I move them around to create a narrative and flow I’m happy with, because I’m already happy with the blocks themselves. Dhruv will write, and rewrite and rewrite until the final essay sharpens into life. We call his first draft the minus draft, because we look at the thoughts and not the writing style. His method is “picture going from low-res to 4K”, mine is more… LEGO.
I’m still handing sales for the company, and it’s made me realise that there isn’t a proper handbook for marketing product consultancies like ours, at least in the non-traditional sense. We’ve spoken to a bunch of similar agencies across the world to get a lay of the land. Interestingly, each of them has something that worked for them, but each of those tactics are unlike the other. One said ads on LinkedIn, another said that was too capital intensive and conferences would be better. Someone else suggested conferences might have a low signal-to-noise ratio, and so we should focus on founder communities and partner programs. We still haven’t settled on one approach, and maybe that’s for the best. But sales has been… interesting, to say the least. It’s definitely changed some neural pathways in my brain. I think I’ll write about that soon.
I’ve just started reading Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. I should say reread… but I picked it up over a year ago, never finished it and so have forgotten everything about it, other than it was an odd, odd story. I’m quite looking forward to it.
There’s a gorgeous anthology of food stories and memoirs I’m waiting on, but this time it’s because one of the essays is mine! It is literally just hot off the press and being delivered to writers and everyone else who pre-ordered. I think, aside from school magazines and the occasional story that made it to the papers in while in Sheffield, this is the first time an essay of mine is appearing in print instead of online. And despite being digital-first for many many years now, it still doesn’t feel real until I have a printed copy in my hand. I can’t wait.
I’m home for Diwali right now and it feels strange to work out of my old office nook. I’m so used to the particular sounds and silences of my apartment that I get distracted quite often here. As I write this, the cooker is blowing its lid off (I personally use a soundless instant pot). The dogs are play-fighting loudly. The just-audible murmur of the TV threads through all of it to buzz annoyingly in my ear. It appears that one can get too used to silence.
What you can read next…
Literary companions and pressed flowers.