Today’s edition is a celebration of milestones: Quick Brown Fox has officially hit double digits, it’s the first day of fasting in Ramadan, and it’s my birthday! 🥳
I have a lot to be thankful for, including the opportunity to write to you with this newsletter. Thanks for subscribing! I’m glad you’re here with me. I’ve really appreciated the feedback and interactions this newsletter has fostered. Here’s to many more Quick Brown Foxes!
P.S. If you’re planning to / just started a newsletter of your own, I put together a thread summarizing my biggest lessons learned on writing and growing this newsletter. I hope you find it helpful!
Why Writing Resonates
I’ve been thinking a lot about books lately. Sometimes, I’ll be reading an incredibly popular and well-rated book, but find myself incredibly bored by it. It just doesn’t click. Other times, I’ll read an obscure, unknown book and find its words smack me the face, like a splash of water.
It made me wonder: What makes a book resonate?
Beyond the typical factors (genre, author, etc.), I believe a major factor that is often ignored is timing.
You need to be in a place in your life where you are ready to receive the message being presented by the author. If you’re not, it doesn’t matter how good the book is or how many weeks it’s been on the best seller list. The book won’t connect.
“The right book for the right person is not enough. It needs to be the right book, for the right person at the right time.” —Johny Uzan
Another perspective on this is from Bret Victor on his Worrydream site (if you haven’t seen this website before, give it a look — it truly one of the hidden gems of the internet). In a comment on his 2013 links page, he describes this resonance as a transaction of energy exchange, which is maximized when there is a “phase-match” between the reader and author:
Carver Mead describes a physical theory in which atoms exchange energy by resonating with each other. Before the energy transaction can happen, the two atoms must be phase-matched, oscillating in almost perfect synchrony with each other.
I sometimes think about resonant transactions as a metaphor for getting something out of a piece of writing. Before the material can resonate, before energy can be exchanged between the author and reader, the reader must already have available a mode of vibration at the author's frequency.
The author and reader must share a close-enough worldview, viewpoint, vocabulary, set of mental models, sense of aesthetics, and set of goals. For any particular concept in the material, if not enough of these are sufficiently matched, no resonance will occur and no energy will be exchanged.
I’m in love with this analogy. It perfectly describes the phenomenon you experience when something you read lights a spark within you. The last book that did this for me was The Courage to be Disliked — it came at exactly the right time in my life, and impacted me so strongly I wrote an essay about it.
Ideally, our range of inputs is as diverse as possible, to maximize the chance of experience this kind of resonance. The next time you think of starting a new book, take a moment to consider if it’s the right time to read it. There may be another book you put aside long ago, whose time has finally come.
Building Connections through Twitter
If you resonate with the idea of seeking resonance (ha!), it makes sense to apply this to the people you interact with as well. We should aim to resonate strongly with our relationships, not just the books we read.
In today’s climate, however, the majority of these interactions happen online. So, we need to get a lot smarter with how and where we spend our time on the internet. I want to take some time to talk about one of my favorite platforms for meaningful interactions: Twitter.
When you think of Twitter, your first thought might be: “It’s a waste of time, and it’s full of negativity and trolling.”
There’s definitely some truth to that. At the same time, Twitter can be an incredibly valuable use of your time, if you use it right. In fact, I think Twitter is one of the most underrated tools for developing new opportunities and creating more leverage for yourself. I’ve met some of my best friends through Twitter, and it has opened countless doors for me.
Making friends on the internet is certainly not a new idea. But I believe it has come around again in a new (and more authentic) way. The challenge, however, is to ensure that you’re smart about your intentions and tactics.
Here are a few tips on using Twitter:
Ruthlessly curate who you follow to be people you respect/admire, and who are tweeting about content you want to learn more about, and want to write about. You have no obligation to follow anyone. Choose your inputs and curate your experience.
Reply to tweets from the accounts you resonate with most using your own related ideas (don’t be spammy). You’ll get more engagement and feedback by doing this than if you just tweeted in your own feed. Get to the point where you are a consistent participant in the kinds of online conversations you want to have. Visakan has a great post on this — he calls it practicing good reply game.
Every so often, when you have a thought/idea that you feel is worth sharing, just tweet it. Jump over the hurdle of your ego. You don’t have to write ground-breaking, earth-shattering takes. Just post something. If you can’t think of anything to say, try writing about your process. Don’t underestimate the value in describing what you’re doing and how you do it (but in a clear and actionable way) — many people can learn from it.
If you want even more guidance, David Perell and Matthew Kobach just recorded a workshop presenting their techniques for success on Twitter (alternatively, here’s a thread summarizing takeaways from the session).
Most importantly: If you start trying to apply any of these lessons, be sure to take it one step at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself. You’re not likely to get much engagement when you’re starting out. That’s fine! The point is to build connections over the long term, not stress over engagement in the short term.
I’ll leave you with a few themed links from this week:
Yesterday was #WorldBookDay📚, so if you’re looking for some books to check out, check out my book recommendations:
My all-time favorite books (end-of-the-year lists from 2017 onward)
My ongoing thread of every book I’ve read in 2020
Remember to apply the lessons on seeking writing that resonates — try to ensure whatever you read is aligned for you at this moment.
We also had #EarthDay🌎 this week, which inspired me to throw together another fun little animation:
I tried to keep it simple with this animation. I’m hoping to build the muscle of making more animations consistently, rather than seeking perfection in each one. In case you missed it, I shared a few other animations I made in last week’s edition.
T-3 hours until I can break my fast with some birthday cake! 🎂