David Perell never forgets a story. This prolific online writer captures and records, and then writes his viral essays. The first time I heard about the concept of writing from abundance was from Perell on a podcast in which he talked about how he would have all of these ideas for stories when he lived in New York City, and he would immediately capture them on his phone before he forgot them.
The idea of immediate capture resonated with me, and I decided to implement it in my writing strategy, but you know, life got in the way; I got lazy, lost motivation, and never did anything about it.
That changed when I received a scholarship to David Perell’s sought-after online writing cohort, Write of Passage.
Writing from abundance was a key concept during the cohort. It’s based on the idea that you never start writing from scratch. Instead, you start from a foundation of abundant notes that you gather over days and years, capturing everything you hear, read or consume that you feel worthy of capturing.
While contemplating the writing from abundance methodology, I couldn’t help but think of the story of the poet Ruth Stone which I first heard about in the book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.
Ruth Stone used to run back home when an idea popped up in her mind for a poem. Sometimes she caught it; sometimes she would catch only the tail; sometimes she missed it altogether. If only Ruth Stone had an info capture system, she wouldn’t have had to run at all!
My abundance writing system
I started my abundance writing system from the very first week of the Write of Passage course, and I’m still refining it as I go. It’s not an exact science, and I have customized it based on my needs.
My info capture system is a mix of systems ( Notion, Evernote, Apple Notes). The jury is still out on which one I prefer; I rely on Evernote for notes and note tagging, Notion for workflow, and Apple Notes for quick, fleeting notes.
I don’t know if someday I will find a platform that will solve all my problems, but here are the current building blocks of my game-changing writing system.
- Writing from conversations: Writing from conversations is a concept I hadn’t heard of before taking Write of Passage. It’s capturing and recording conversations that you deem worthy of archiving. How often do we sit with someone and have a mind-boggling inspiring conversation and never write it down? How many opportunities did we miss?
- Otter: This is such an important tool in writing and capturing ideas that I’m kicking myself for not using it earlier. It’s a voice note-taking system and transcription app all in one. As soon as an idea strikes, whether I’m walking the dog, washing the dishes, or folding laundry, I stop what I’m doing and speak out my idea. Otter transcribes it to text I immediately drop in my capture system.
- Tagging notes from Readwise: I have been using Readwise to capture ideas from Kindle books for a while. But I have refined this system by tagging the info and capturing them in Evernote. This way, let’s say I’m writing an essay on creativity, I can just look for the tag “creativity” and get all the info that I have gathered over time.
- Journaling: I have been journaling on and off for a while, but after implementing the writing from abundance concept, journaling is becoming almost a daily habit. I’m using the app Day One Journal to record my thoughts, summarize the day, and make sure I capture my daily doings. I also tag my thoughts to make sure I incorporate them in future essays when needed.
In his book, The War of Art, Steven Pressfield writes:
“Hitler wanted to be an artist. He applied to the Academy of Fine Arts and later to the school of Architecture. Ever seen one of his paintings? Neither have I. Resistance beat him. Call it an overstatement, but I’ll say it anyway… It was easier for Hitler to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square of canvas.”
Facing a black page is daunting, and Pressfield argues that starting a war is easier than facing the dreaded blank Google Doc. That’s where writing from abundance comes as it solves that issue.
When I open my info capture system, I get ideas for essays, feature ideas I want to pitch to editors, tweets, and nuanced arguments I want to include in my newsletter.
I copy those captured ideas that I want to expand on and paste them into a Google document. Gone are the days of the dreaded blank page.
Having abundant info reduces the friction of sitting down to write. And as Pressfield says: “It’s not the writing part that is hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.”
So fellow writers, listen up; writing from abundance is indeed a game-changer. Do it, do it now. And remember, it’s better to write than to start a war.