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To get to the good stuff, get it all out and purge the need to write self help

I love to write. I would love to write about product management, operations, even history. The problem is, I keep writing about self help.

Why do I keep writing about self help?

It might be because my experience so far has been on helping and improving myself. Initially, I needed to become healthier, more productive, and better at work. I read a lot. I worked on it all day, every day. Of course I would have ideas to write about it.

Why can’t I write about ideas in specific domains?

Mostly, it’s because I have not created any new domain-specific knowledge. That’s why I have no new ideas to write about.

But why don’t I have any new ideas regarding my work?

One reason might be that just being competent is already so hard. Another: “Merely” being competent has been enough so far. Most people, for one reason or another, have not taken the time to learn what others have already figured out. That’s why being merely competent goes a long way.

How do I stop writing about self help?

I started a 30 Day Writing challenge to get back into the habit of writing. Even though I was loathe to write more personal development stuff, those were all the ideas I had. So I wrote them.

I wasn’t happy with them. But as Seth Godin writes in The two simple secrets to good ideas, Secret #1 to good ideas is: More bad ideas.

If you work really hard on coming up with bad ideas, sooner or later, some good ideas are going to slip through.

And more recently in a podcast with Tim Ferris:

If you want to learn how to be creative, you have to show me an enormous number of bad ideas.

By Day 7, I ran out of the usual topics.

As a result, out came:

Some friends say these are two of my best essays so far.

As my friend Ergest articulated, maybe it’s just about getting it all out, in order to “purge the need to write ‘self help’ and get to the best stuff.”

This post is Day 11.