When Seth Godin talks, people listen.
We’ve been listening for years to this bestselling author of 17 books with a storied background in publishing, entrepreneurship, and online marketing.
It’s no coincidence that Mr. Godin writes like he talks, with conviction. And that his mission has always — in one form or another — been to dispel your fear of being remarkable.
Remarkable writing requires an evaluation of the Self, and Seth offers his wisdom to all of us about writing every day and letting go of your fear.
The status quo is something he’s fought to demolish, and he wants you to get out there and do the same.
Let’s flip through the file of Seth Godin, writer …
About the writer …
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Seth Godin and I notice things, name them, and sometimes provoke people to make a ruckus. I’ve published 17 books as a solo author, started a few internet companies and I like to teach, sometimes via my blog.
What is your area of expertise as a writer or online publisher?
I was a book packager for 12 years, did 120 books in total for just about every publisher. For a year, I did a project as a publisher in conjunction with Amazon (see: Domino Project) and I’ve put a lot of free ebooks into the world, too.
The most important thing to know is that my high school English teacher wrote in my yearbook:
“You are the bane of my existence and it’s likely you’ll never amount to anything.”
Where can we find your writing?
The writer’s productivity …
How much time, per day, do you spend reading or doing research?
16 [hours]. I’m not kidding.
Before you begin to write, do you have any pre-game rituals or practices?
Getting through TSA security theater is a common first step.
What’s your best advice for overcoming procrastination?
The deadline focuses the mind, of course. The curse of the traditional writer is that the publisher wants a book no more often than once a year. So procrastination is part of the process.
But blogging? Once a day. Not every minute like Twitter, which provokes mediocre writing because there’s so much of it. But every day? Better write something, better make it good.
What time of day is most productive for your writing or content production?
I have no actual data on this, but I’m guessing the morning, because I’m a morning person. But if I’m tired, which is too often, I’m useless.
Do you generally adhere to a rigid or flexible writing system?
I’m supposed to have a system?
How many hours a day do you spend actually writing (excluding email, social media etc.)?
Do you mean typing? I don’t know, fifteen minutes. I can type fast.
Do you write every day?
Do you talk every day?
The writer’s creativity …
This might not work.
Who are your favorite authors, online or off?
Brene Brown, Brian Clark, Cory Doctorow, Dan Pink, David Meerman Scott, David Sedaris, Dr. Seuss, Erle Stanley Gardner, Fred Wilson, Jared Diamond, Kevin Kelly, Kurt Andersen, Lewis Hyde, Malcolm Gladwell, Mark Frauenfelder, Mitch Joel, Paul Graham, Pema Chodron, Sonia Simone, Steve Dennis, Susan Piver, Tom Peters, Zig Ziglar. [in alpha order, with apologies to the 45 people I had to leave out]
Can you share a best-loved quote?
I’m really liking this one lately,
The thing about quotes on the internet is that you cannot confirm their validity. ~ Abraham Lincoln
Do you prefer a particular type of music (or silence) when you write?
If possible, I’ll listen to an LP of old jazz. Or a Keller Williams concert. But most often, it’s quiet.
How would you personally like to grow creatively as a writer?
Well, judging from a lot of what you read online, you’d think that some people have said that they’d like to take fewer risks, be more obvious and be less criticized. And to use more photos of cats. For me, I think it’s the opposite. Especially the cats.
Do you believe in “writer’s block”? If so, how do you avoid it?
This is a fancy term for fear. I avoid it by not getting it. Because I write like I talk and I don’t get talker’s block.
Who or what is your “Muse” at the moment (i.e. specific creative inspirations)?
I wrote my last book in memory of my mom. There are so many opportunities in our world, and so many things worth fixing — I can’t imagine wasting this moment.
Would you consider yourself someone who likes to “take risks?”
What’s a risk? Like most entrepreneurs, I don’t consider what I do risky. Kiteboarding is risky. This is my work and my art, and I’m going to do it for a long time, and if it doesn’t work, I’ll do it again, but better.
What makes a writer great?
It’s in the eye of the reader, no?
The writer’s workflow …
What hardware or typewriter model are you presently using?
Macbook Pro, Retina, 15, with external keyboard, roller mouse, angled stand, Aeron chair, coffee mug by Lori Koop and tea (herbal) from Samovar.
And chocolate. Sometimes from Vosge or Sweetriot, always dark, usually over 80%. And Hotel Chocolat, but only when I can get it fresh.
What software are you using for writing and general workflow?
Nisus! And Typepad. I use Google way more than I remembered I did in the old days. I do my illustrations and charts in Keynote, and use that for presentations as well.
Do you have any tricks for staying focused?
Fear of wasting the opportunity.
Have you run into any serious challenges or obstacles to getting words onto the page?
Never once. Often, I get into trouble finding the words in my head, though. I’ll frequently think about something for a year before I feel good about writing it down.
How do you stay organized (methods, systems, or “mad science”)?
Alas, it’s almost entirely a force of will. And email is breaking me.
How do you relax at the end of a hard day?
I cook dinner for the family, listen to my arcane stereo and play some bumper pool with my son. But I rarely have a hard day. I have the day I set out to have, and it’s work and I love it.
A few questions just for the fun of it …
Who (or what) has been your greatest teacher?
My dad taught me what it is to be generous and productive and connected. To stand up and own what you make, and to do it for others.
What’s your biggest aggravation or pet peeve at the moment (writing related or otherwise)?
After 25 years, the MacOS is getting sloppy around the edges when it should be going the other way. Flying wears me out. The TSA is a joke.
And most of all, the biggest thing, big enough that it’s not a pet, or even a peeve, is the media’s efforts to distract us from opportunities and urgencies by inflaming every small conflict into an epic game show.
Choose one author, living or dead, that you would like to have dinner with.
Well, if I have dinner with a dead author, he wouldn’t be very much fun, would he?
Most authors aren’t particularly good dinner companions, because they’re working so hard on the internal war of art that they don’t invest much effort in conversation. Michael Crichton, for example, was nearly impossible to talk to. Isaac Asimov, on the other hand, was a total hoot, and I loved hanging out with him.
With those disclaimers, and without bending over backward in search of the clever answer, I think I’d go with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Do you have a motto, credo or general slogan that you live by?
Hey, I’m in the motto business, with a sideline in credos. I think that having philosophical boundaries is a good idea.
What do you see as your greatest success in life?
Opening doors for people who will open doors for people.
If you could take a vacation anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go (cost or responsibilities are no object)?
Right here, right now. This is my choice.
What would you like to do more of in the coming year?
Find beginner’s mind more often.
Can you offer any advice to writers and content producers that you might offer yourself, if you could go back in time and “do it all over?”
Keep your overhead low, ship often, be generous, be patient. It’s going to be fine.
Please tell our readers where they can connect with you online.
I don’t want you to connect with me online. I want you to connect with other people online, to make a ruckus, to raise the bar, to join a community, found a community and lead a community! You don’t need me, pick yourself.
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?
You’re on the right track. Persist. Make better art.
And finally, the writer’s desk …
Nothing says more about a writer than the space they use to create.
The revolution begins here.
In true Renaissance fashion Mr. Godin, in his perch above the Hudson River, proves to be an original, Rubik’s cube, exotic chocolate, Shepard Fairey print, and all.
Thanks for tuning in to The Writer Files …
Stay tuned for upcoming Q&As from the working writers we admire.
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Now get back to your desk and write!