Stephen King said “…writing is telepathy…” and more specifically:
“…It’s amusing when you stop to think about it—for years people have argued about whether or not such a thing exists—and all the time it’s been right there, lying out in the open… All the arts depend upon telepathy to some degree, but I believe that writing offers the purest distillation.”
So if writing is telepathy, what does the reader get from this partnership with the writer?
Blog writer Gary Smailes explains it this way:
The best way to think about writing is [that it is] a process of transferring an image from your mind to the mind of the reader.
As a writer, you conjure a mental picture of a scene; a location, populated by characters who say and do things. You can see the characters, the location, and the action. It is crystal clear.
Your job is to take this image and put it in the mind of the reader.
Therefore, reading is telepathy too…or at least “once removed” (like a long lost cousin).
Then with this double dose of telepathy, you bring it to your own writing, which then makes all of those images, read and imagined, come to life.
I will add that being a slow reader makes you a better writer.
At least that was my thesis in Surviving your library which I wrote a few weeks ago.
And since I asked for your thoughts in that post, I was flooded with responses both agreeing and disagreeing.—and I want to share some of those with you.
I also received responses to my other premise (from that same post) that non-fiction is far more valuable than fiction–which I wrote hoping to get a charge out of some of you…which I did…both pro and con.
The slow readers
Interesting email. For once, I had a HUGE relief that there are other slow readers on the planet. What is your take on people like Jim Kwik who promotes speed reading and his work is endorsed by some public companies & figures? Apparently Warren Buffet reads 500 pages a day & devotes 80% of his time on reading. This makes me feel small… yikes! I like to take my time & it has been a long time since I finished a book in its entirety. Just wanted to hear your perspective
I’m glad you agree with me Ratha…however, as I said in the post, there are speed readers who can digest quickly and become great writers too (and you cited two of them–Jim Kwik and Warren Buffet are no slouches).
But…never feel inferior to anyone who you think is “doing it better than you.”
That goes for reading, writing…or cooking, gardening, painting the house, whatever.
We are who we are…and so there’s no shame in reading slowly.
For every Jim Kwik or Warren Buffet I’m sure there are some speed readers (or folks who just want to “finish the book”) who are not getting the full telepathy from the author.
Just speculating…but I think I’m right about that.
Hi and thanks so much for your inspiring blog! Yes I do consider myself a competent writer. And, YES! I am a slow reader.
It also made my day to see that someone else has a library that looks like mine!
I know you are referring to this picture (my library in action), Stacy…and I know you are saying it in the nicest way ☺:
From Gayle…another “compliment” about my library!:
I don’t feel so bad now looking at your “library.” I finally gave a bunch of my books to a local library and donated 1000 more to the underprivileged.
You make a lot of sense, Gayle…I just can’t get rid of any!
Doing that would be like me unsubscribing folks without their permission from my online family (i.e. this list)…you wouldn’t want me to do that would you? ☺
I definitely need a 12 step program for dumping books.
Do you have any recommendations?
I love love,love to read, and have more books than I can ever read. I love buying books too. I love that they pop up like friends to read next. Read me, Read me! I have so many books. My daughter upon visiting last year said, “Mom, you have a book problem.”
Well if that is my only problem, I am okay with it.
Books are my friends. I cannot get rid of them if I have not read them, and if I have read them, they are my friends and I have penciled them up. I do not know where to put them all now.
I just remembered, I have 2 books on speed reading…[but reading them]…is probably not going to happen. I like reading slowly too much. I just realized that, thanks to you.
Sounds like we both need an intervention…if I get a reco from Gayle I will let you know, Cynthia.
And since you obviously can’t read those two speed reading books quickly (LOL!), maybe you should consider getting rid of those first?
I was going to reply to this email (even before you asked for replies) with a “ME TOO!”
I have always been a slow reader and I’ve always felt guilty about it. It always made me feel like I was secretly stupid.
I especially feel guilty about my slow reading because I want to spend my time writing.
In college an English seminar professor, who I really liked, told me that people are either “readers” (i.e. scholars) or “writers” (i.e. creators). There isn’t enough time to do both.
That advice has been ringing in my ears for almost 20 years now…
Your email may have erased those guilty thoughts forever!
Thanks for the email, I’m glad you decided to riff on Epstein’s thesis, it was a huge gift to me, and I’m sure to many others.
Glad I could erase some bad advice from an English Professor, Annie.
I had a ton of that to erase myself, especially the one who told me I only need to read Milton and Chaucer to get ahead.
From Thomas (in South Africa):
I trained myself to be a fast reader however I’ve recently decided to reread books (mainly on copywriting).
To focus on a few and get a deeper understanding.
However, what I’ll take from your essay is to slow down and actively try to understand how the author arrived at their conclusions.
Also to jot notes of their figures of speech.
And from JoAnne B:
I was always a slow reader, but I never knew it until I heard about speed-reading. And now that I’m a writer (started copywriting 4 years ago), I find myself doing exactly what Epstein describes–pausing to ask those two questions. So I’m still slow and I’m fine with it. It just feels like it’s my job as a writer to read like Epstein.
So JoAnne…you’re a fast reader who slows down at key crossroads…I like that.
The fast readers
I am a fast reader of most material. I always quickly check the author’s credentials before starting, and then I look for two things as I read:
1) How does what I am reading fit into what I’ve already read and what I’ve personally experienced in my work life – either supporting and building on my current processes or providing an interesting new possibility for improvement?
2) How can I immediately apply the new concepts myself or suggest to one of my peers or clients. I enjoy academic minds, but I am always conscious that something beautiful in a lab setting may fall apart quickly when applied in messy and unpredictable real life.
There is some material that I savor slowly.
I believe that the richest, pithiest material deserves a slower pace.
I like that approach as a compromise Lise, similar to JoAnne’s take.
I feel I am a relatively fast reader.
By reading faster, I can absorb more material at a quicker rate.
This allows me to think quicker and more creatively, put ideas down on the page much faster and thus, write more quickly.
Quoting the woman in the deli, in the movie When Harry Met Sally, “I’ll have what she’s having!”
You are a unicorn, Jeevan. ☺
On the importance of reading fiction
From Anonymous (Well…I didn’t save his or her name…sorry…let me know who recognizes this response and I will give you credit next week…promise! ☺):
I understand Marty’s point about the value of non-fiction BUT disagree about fiction… what we learn from fiction is writing clear, compelling, interesting, engaging sentences and scene setting.
And fiction can transport us.
This was something that the “copywriter panel” discussed at The Titans of Direct Response event in 2014.
They are some of the best copywriters in the world who admitted that there was more to their “writing education” than reading Breakthrough Advertising and Tested Advertising Methods (4th edition of course, not the 5th edition!).
First of all, there’s a wealth to be learned from fiction.
In fact, John Carlton recommended in the Simple Writing System that you read one novel for every two business books you read.
Fiction is where you see the masters really elicit emotion.
If you’ve had a book make you cry, it’s typically not a business book (though some business authors rise to the occasion).
Fiction is also where you see some of the best image-creation from the page.
Also, I think you’d agree there are plenty of business books that are worth the whole volume and not just one chapter. Eugene Schwartz’s works are an obvious example. So are many of Dan Kennedy’s.
Anyway, some thought provoking ideas inside your email, and I think you’ll find some interesting counterpoints.
I certainly did Daniel…including yours…which is very insightful.
I especially liked it when you said, “If you’ve had a book make you cry, it’s typically not a business book (though some business authors rise to the occasion).”
I’ve also cried (from boredom) reading some business books too.
And when you said, “Fiction is also where you see some of the best image-creation from the page” you echoed the inspiration for this follow up bog…that “Reading is telepathy.”
Also, since you mentioned Gene Schwartz, his “other classic,” The Brilliance Breakthrough, How To Talk And Write So That People Will Never Forget You is all about this idea as well–choosing the appropriate words for the “occasion” to create the most powerful images in the reader’s mind.
I explored this in my blog, Reading Pictures; and it’s where copywriter extraordinaire David Garfinkel explored this concept even more deeply in a podcast link inside that post.
Too much fiction is never a good idea, but a little can go a long way with storytelling.
I think we still can find some cool ideas or insights in fiction books.
This has been a prevailing view among my online family, and many others, that dismissing fiction from one’s life is not a good idea.
I agree with that sentiment despite omitting fiction myself.
I think my experience of being “all fiction all the time” in college got it out of my system…or phrased in a more loving way, I just burned out reading fiction all the time. It’s just the way it happened I guess.
On avoiding reading fiction
I also avoid fiction as I believe there is so much non-fiction to learn from so why waste time when one can be learning?
After all there is not enough time to learn everything I would like to learn.
At the moment I am reading your book, Overdeliver, which is very interesting to learn from all your experience and knowledge of other people’s work.
Whilst I plan to read it cover to cover which would you say is the key chapter in your book?
Touché Quentin! You beat me at my own game!
(Note: I suggested in Surviving your library that there are only one (maybe two) chapters worth reading in any non-fiction book.)
I know…that sounds a bit jaded.
And if it’s true for most business books, it’s true for my book too (sadly).
So I am required to answer Quentin’s question…
It’s probably Chapter 10 of Overdeliver, “Playing the Long Game,” which encompasses my overall theory about business (which is not very complicated).
Or…if that’s too much to read, just skim the key takeaways at the end of each chapter.
Or…If that’s also too much to read, just read one page (that would be page 241).
Reducing my 40 years in direct marketing to one page is really sad.
But at least it’s a decent page.
This reminds me when I did a “10 Minute Talk” about the key secrets I’ve learned over those 40 years…to which my kids asked, “Why do you need so much time to do that?” ☺
P.S. Those of you who have been part of my online family for a while know how much I respect the pioneers of direct response marketing.
That includes the pioneers of yesteryear who I followed when I began four decades ago.
(I know most of you are thinking, “Was there even marketing back then?”)
And my respect also includes the many pioneers who started after me.
One of those pioneers is Eben Pagan.
Eben started in online marketing when it was a new thing (anyone remember David DeAngelo?)…mastered it…mentored so many of the superstars practicing today…and moved on to being one of the most respected marketers and results leaders of all time.
Eben is launching a new program (with his spectacular wife, Annie Lalla) and I am proud to endorse it and give you a link to see what it is all about.
You also know that I don’t accept affiliate commissions and while I will take them for this, I will donate 100% of all commissions that I receive from this offer to my favorite, (and “uber”) charity, charity:water.
It’s an “uber charity” because all life begins with access to clean water…and it can end quickly without it.
And charity:water donates 100% of all donations they receive to bringing clean water to everywhere on the planet where it doesn’t exist.
More about that in the P.P.S.
Back to Eben:
His new program is called Virtual Coach.
And let me tell you why I am so excited about it:
- Dan Sullivan, the top coach for entrepreneurs in the world, said something at a recent workshop that stuck with me:
“Coaching is to 2020 as Management was to the 1980’s.“
- We are all coaches (sort of like “we are all copywriters”)…and learning from one of the best coaches I’ve ever met in my life (Eben), teaching you about coaching, is pure gold.
- The first video he prepared, “The Coach’s Secret,” is the best way to introduce you to coaching, “Eben-style”
- It will be motivating and educational whether you get into his program or not.
- Eben delivers pure value…and that’s the reason I want you to click here and check it out.
- Because I believe Dan Sullivan’s premise above, and Eben’s ability to deliver on his promise in “Virtual Coach” to teach this #1 career and money-making skill for 2020 and beyond, I encourage you to at least watch this first video. There are four factors that are converging that are making coaching the #1 career and money-making skill to learn for 2020. This video (and the ones that follow) introduces all of those to you.
- Coaching is the best virtual career path for professionals, a great business to start, and a direction to follow upwards. That is, coaching is a “futureproof skill” that gets more valuable through your life.
P.P.S. As I mentioned in the P.S., I will be donating all affiliate commissions I receive, in their entirety, from any of you purchasing Eben’s “Virtual Coach” program, to charity:water.
Check out my page here and watch the video that tells you everything about this wonderful organization, under the leadership of one of the most dynamic entrepreneurs in the world, Scott Harrison.
And if you happen to buy Eben’s course from this link, you will also be helping this great cause at the same time.
But watch Eben’s video regardless…and charity:water’s video as well…even if you don’t plan on buying Eben’s program or donating to charity:water.
You will at least get two mammoth doses of entrepreneurial inspiration…and motivation.