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LM: #266: Make butter

June 03 2024 – 10:00am

There’s an old documentary of Jerry Seinfeld that captures the essence of the creative process.

In Comedian, you follow Seinfeld as he builds an hour-long act from scratch, relying on none of the material he has heretofore created.

He struggles on stage. He loses his train of thought. He gets heckled. Over the course of several months, he builds up to three minutes of material. Then ten, twenty, forty. My favorite moment comes toward the end, as he’s riding home from a show:

That, for me, is what it feels like every time I write a book. I’m workshopping material on Twitter and in these newsletters, and early on, I’m getting nothing. No likes and no replies, and even I’m not loving what I’m saying.

It’s like the proverb about the two mice that have fallen in a bucket of cream: One drowns, and as much as the other moves his little legs, he can barely stay afloat. But eventually all that activity turns the cream to butter, and the second mouse crawls out to safety.

I’ve been through it enough times to feel confident that no matter how desperate, awkward, and hopeless it feels to bomb, eventually cream will turn to butter and I’ll be standing on solid ground.

Only to dive off that precipice of butter, back into another bucket of cream.

Book: Open Society and Its Enemies (Amazon) is Karl Popper’s 1945 attack on totalitarianism.

Cool: If you want to know how safe your sunscreen is, the EWG guide to sunscreens breaks down the exact known (and unknown) risks of each ingredient.

P.S. Before you make butter, you’re in the void.

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