Become a Writer Today

How to Write Technical Topics in a Fun and Accessible Way with Steve Krug

May 30, 2022 Bryan Collins
Become a Writer Today
How to Write Technical Topics in a Fun and Accessible Way with Steve Krug
Show Notes Transcript

Steve Krug is the author of the book Don’t Make Me Think. He’s rewritten the book three times, and so far, it’s sold over 600,000 copies. 

During the interview, I got into why he decided to rewrite the book several times and how the book helped him build a business around writing technical non-fiction for his audience. 

Steve also talks to me about what he’s up to these days and gives some valuable tips for overcoming problems in the creative process like procrastination and writer’s block. 

Listening to Steve is reassuring as it shows that writers of all levels have issues with procrastination and motivation. 

In this episode, we discuss:

  • The best approach for setting up a new website today
  • How Steve came to write his book
  • What Steve is writing today
  • Using the Getting Things Done methodology 
  • How procrastination has been an ongoing problem for Steve
  • The books that have significantly influenced him.

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Steve: You actually only understand what you mean and what you’re trying to say in the act of writing it, you know? In the act of trying to find the right words to say it, that’s where you figure out what it is you think. You know, think the things through first and understand it and then sit down and write it.

Introduction: Welcome to the Become a Writer Today Podcast with Bryan Collins. Here, you’ll find practical advice and interviews for all kinds of writers.

Bryan: What does it take to write about technical topics in a fun and accessible way? Hi, there. My name is Bryan Collins and welcome to the Become a Writer Today Show. This week, I got to catch up with somebody whose book made a big influence on me several years ago. His name is Steve Krug. He’s the author of the seminal usability book, Don’t Make Me Think

So, for a couple of years, I worked as a copywriter for a large corporate company, and I worked with an experienced design team. While I was working in this particular company, I found it quite difficult to talk in the language of experience design. It was my job to write copy for the sales pages and product pages for the company and the experience design team will pair the layout and the look and feel of these pages. But often they would use terms that I didn’t quite understand or they would talk about design principles for web pages that I wasn’t familiar with.

It was only after reading Don’t Make Me Think that I got to understand how copy and design of a page work hand in hand to create something that ideally encourages readers to read or customers to subscribe. In other words, it doesn’t make the user of the website think, they simply know what the next step is. 

Today, thankfully, it’s much easier for content publishers or writers to set up an accessible and good-looking website. To be honest, all you need to do is fire up WordPress, install, buy a premium WordPress theme, the theme I use on my site is called Astra and that’ll cost you between $50 and $100 and, boom, you have a WordPress website that’s mobile, that’s responsive and accessible. 

That said, you do need to maintain the look and feel of your site by making sure that you’ve got alt tags for your images, that you’ve got a clear call to action, and that you don’t overload the page with pop-ups, which is a mistake I’ve made in the past. It’s also important to ask yourself what is the key principle of every page on your site. 

So, even though websites have gotten much easier for writers and content publishers today, it’s still helpful if you understand some of the key principles of accessibility and design, and that’s what you’ll learn in Don’t Make Me Think. And it’s actually quite a fun, colorful book to read, it has lots of visual examples which illustrate Steve’s principles.

Now, I got a chance to catch up with Steve and in the first half of the interview, he talks all about his writing process for Don’t Make Me Think. He’s actually rewritten the book three times and it’s sold over 600,000 copies. And I get into the reasons why he decided to rewrite the book several times, and also how the book helped him build a business around the craft of writing technical nonfiction for his audience. 

In the second half of the interview, Steve talks about what he’s up to these days. He’s not writing about accessibility at all. And he gives some great tips for overcoming the creative process or problems in the creative process like procrastination and like feeling like you’ve got a case of writer’s block. And I was fascinated to hear some of Steve’s takeaways because I would have thought somebody who has sold so many copies doesn’t have to worry about these things. It was kind of reassuring to see that writers of all levels have sometimes issues with procrastination and finding motivation. 

Steve also talks about some of the books that have made a big influence on him in this week’s interview and I certainly agreed with his selection for one of the best nonfiction books for writers who are looking for advice about the craft. 

I hope you enjoy his interview with Steve. It was definitely a fun one. If you did, please leave a short review or hit the Star button on iTunes because more reviews and more ratings or more stars will help more listeners find the show. And you can also reach out to me on Twitter and let me know if you’ve got questions or feedback. It’s @bryanjcollins. And you can also share the show with other writers on Overcast, Stitcher, or Spotify. 

Now, let’s go over to this week’s interview with Steve. 

Interview:

Bryan: Welcome to the show, Steve. 

Steve: Hi, Bryan. How are you?

Bryan: I wanted to talk to you today, Steve, to get into the writing process with you because I know that’s your background so I’ve got a few questions to ask you all about that. But before we get into any task, could you give listeners a flavor for who you are and what you do? 

Steve: Sure. I spent the last 30 years, more or less, as a usability consultant and author. Before that, I spent 10 years writing user manuals, I was a tech writer for 10 years. And before that, I was in typesetting for like 10 years. So I’m very old. I actually add it all up. But in terms of the last 30 years of usability, I was a usability consultant when there weren’t very many of us usability consultants. And then I was handed the chance to write a book about what I did and took it around 2000 and have published two books and so that turned me into an author and so I turned into an author who taught workshops for a while.

Bryan: And you’ve actually rewritten that book or republished it three times. Is that right? 

Steve: Yeah, the third edition is now like seven years old and badly in need of revising. But if you’ve ever revised a book, if you’ve ever updated a book, you know that it’s not something you look forward to, yeah. 

Bryan: It’s painful. It’s not fun. 

Steve: It is painful.

Bryan: Yeah, I can imagine with a topic like usability, the content does need to be updated, but some of the principles will be the same.

Steve: Well, I would contend that almost none of it needs to be updated in terms of principles but the examples are so old and it was originally skewed towards usability for websites so it didn’t take mobile into account. So the last update, I sort of updated it to take mobile into some account. But that’s — I think the principles are pretty much exactly the same, which are — a lot of them actually date back to print design too, much older than the web.

Bryan: Yeah. I read your book when I was working for a corporate company as a copywriter because I was working with an experienced design team and I couldn’t quite figure out what they were looking for a lot of the time so the book helped me talk in the language of experience design and usability.

Steve: Yeah, yeah. Good, I’m glad.

Bryan: So, I’m wondering, I mean, we’re gonna talk about the writing process now in a moment, but it’s a lot easier today for content publishers and people with websites. I mean, we don’t have to worry so much about usability because we have the platforms and the premium tools or premium themes, and a lot of this is taken care of, we can just buy something out of the box, or would you say otherwise? Because we’re not building websites from scratch by coding.

Steve: Yeah, yeah, and I think to the extent that they work well, you know, I mean, those kinds of solutions have their own problems and it tends to be hard to get people who build them to make changes as needed because they have a large legacy user base. But, yes, it is much easier in that context of keeping track of things and updating things. And in terms of the web design, we can discuss whether or not web design has gotten more usable or not. I have a theory about that.

Bryan: So if I’m setting up a website these days, I mean, I usually just default to WordPress and buy a premium theme that’s fast and not bloated and, you know, one that’s got a lot of reviews and, normally, I find that’s good enough. Would you agree with that approach or is there something else we should be thinking of?

Steve: No, I actually moved to — I hadn’t redone my website for like 20 years, or, no, that’s not true. I redid it once so it’s probably 15 years and it was badly in need of redoing and there were all kinds of accessibility issues in particular, which is just very disturbing to me, but I had always done it myself and, again, it was sort of like doing a new edition for a book, the prospect of going in and overhauling a website. 

There were other things to do. So, a year ago, a year and a half ago, I guess, I bit the bullet and redid it and I moved it to WordPress, I had been doing it just in Dreamweaver and moved it to WordPress and, yes, it’s great to have tools like that, that takes care of a lot of things, in particular, took care of the responsive design. So, you know, had a mobile site that worked just as well. And it also took care of a certain amount of the accessibility, particularly with some add-ins so that was good. But, you know, personally, I still find WordPress kind of clunky.

Bryan: Can be, yeah, it can get slow and bloated because of all the plugins and popups and advertising inside of the dashboard.

Steve: Exactly, yeah. But it is great, as you say, it is great. It’s a big improvement over, you know, when you start doing it without those tools, but it’s a big improvement. I just know people who have content management systems have always seemed to have large numbers of gripes about how hard it is to get content management system producers to fix things that have been broken for a long time. That’s a whole world that I’m not really in.

Bryan: Have you looked at a static content website? Are you familiar with those on the likes of Ghost or React, out of curiosity?

Steve: No, you know, it’s like, again, I sort of do it myself so the least I can do is best so I sort of — I did search around for a while for tools and possibilities but not for terribly long because it seemed to home in on. I actually use WordPress with a style called Divi. 

Bryan: Yeah.

Steve: It does — it takes care of a lot of things that otherwise I would have to take care of or have more plugins or whatever.

Bryan: So I’m always interested in hearing how non-fiction authors use their book as part of their business and did you use your book as a way of, I suppose, providing consulting work to clients or did you write the book solely to sell the book? 

Steve: Well, there is a story that I’ve told many times about that, which is, I, this was around 1999, a long time ago, ’98, and I had been consulting for, you know, 10 years very happily and I would get passed from client to client, I was never waiting for another job and had a very happy client base. But I had no public reputation at all. I hadn’t done presentations. I didn’t have anything published and whatever. And I was reluctant to raise my consulting rates, you know, so I’m looking at somebody like Jakob Nielsen whose consulting rates at the time were probably 20 times my hourly rate. I’m thinking, “Well, I could at least, you know, be 10 times less than him.” But I didn’t have the nerve, you know? Not having any standing out there. So I was offered the chance to write the book. My story was completely, oh, it’s not of my doing.
 
All these wonderful people have always — I’ve relied on the kindness of strangers, as they say, over the years. Met a fellow named Roger Black who had a very big print design business and who was himself a very famous designer of print publications, magazines and newspapers. He did the first design for Rolling Stone, I think, and he redesigned some of the biggest newspapers in the world. And he happened to be consulting on something I was consulting on and we got to be friends and he had written a book about web design like very early on, like ’96, that actually did well and got his company business and he decided he wanted to do some more books so he set up a deal with a publisher that he would find the writers, design the books, and provide them to them and they would publish them. 

And so one day over lunch, he said, “You know, you could write a book about usability,” and I said, “Yeah, that’s nice but I, you know, couldn’t take the time off to do it.” And he said, “Well, I’ll get you an advance.” So he got me a ridiculous advance, which was truly ridiculous. I can tell you how much it was. 

Bryan: Yeah, if you’re happy to share, yeah.

Steve: It was $40,000. And that’s $40,000 as an unpublished writer —

Bryan: Wow. Impressive. 

Steve: — to do a fiction book about what —

Bryan: That was 20 plus years ago as well.

Steve: Yeah, yeah, it was. And God bless him, he’s a great guy, actually. And so I figured, well, okay, I’ve got time, I can take the time, because I knew myself and I knew that if I was doing consulting and writing that it would take me like nine years to do it so that was why. And so I had this deal and I wrote the book and the idea was that I was doing it not with any expectation of making any money from the book itself, because I had learned enough to know that you are rarely gonna make money off a book like that, you know? You’re certainly not gonna make a living off of it. And it’s nice supplemental income. But — and then two things happened. 

One, I discovered after I was finished, I had a miserable year, whole year, whole calendar year writing it and getting everything nailed down, I discovered through various sources that I actually could have raised my consulting rates without it. No problem at all, I just didn’t have the nerve. And, two, after about a year and a half or two years, it started selling dramatically via word of mouth. There was very little publicity for it at all. And I certainly wasn’t pushing it. I wouldn’t exactly have known how and it was pre-social media.

Bryan: And was it selling on Amazon, do you know, or was it selling traditionally? 

Steve: Yeah, it was selling on Amazon and it was selling almost entirely by word of mouth, and it got great Amazon reviews and it got many, many great Amazon reviews,

Bryan: Because Amazon would have just been selling books back then. They didn’t have any other products, really.

Steve: Yeah. And I had been a longtime supporter of Amazon, a fan of Amazon, and became even more of a fan. So all of a sudden people were buying it. And also there were only — the only other books about web usability, you know, everybody was having to start doing web was starting in like ’96, everybody had to start doing web, the only other guidance about usability out there were a couple of books by Jakob Nielsen, who had been in it for a very long time, who I admired and learned a lot of what I knew from his books and so there wasn’t a whole lot of choice and my book had a reputation for being pleasant to read. 

Bryan: It is, I can vouch for that. 

Steve: For a non-fiction book, and short. 

Bryan: And for what could be quite a technical topic. 

Steve: Yeah, yeah. And profusely illustrated, you know? So that’s why people — so many people wrote to me glowing reviews, which was great. Helped a lot. So that was how that all happened. And then, as a result of that, I, after a couple years, I turned toward — I started teaching workshops and I enjoyed teaching the workshops so much more than the consulting, because it’s not real work and I had always wanted to teach from the beginning, like if I ever had any career objective at all, it had to do with teaching but I had veered away from that so that’s where I went.

Bryan: And was it business owners coming into your workshops for advice?

Steve: It was the whole spectrum. So, in a given workshop of like 30 people, I might have two companies that had sent six people each, I might have 10 individuals with their own website, sole proprietors, a couple of higher-ups. It was always a mix. 

Bryan: And had they read the book?

Steve: Not in the beginning. As time went on, they had. In the beginning, I think I gave out the book, but it turned out they had read the book and so I had to figure out how to do an interesting day. It was a day-long workshop that took into account the fact that some people would have read the book and some people wouldn’t have. That was a little tricky, but it seemed to work. 

Bryan: And I’d imagine many of the principles are the things that people liked to debate and talk about, that was something I noticed when I was working with experienced design teams.

Steve: I guess, you know, I think because the people who can’t — so many of the people who came to read the book, that wasn’t that true. A lot of them came because they read the book and they liked the principles and they bought into them. So I didn’t have — I hadn’t thought about that but I didn’t have a whole lot of arguing about principles. It was more they wanted to hear about what I did and how to do it. And I ended up turning it into a workshop that basically was much more hands-on, that taught you how to do a usability test. So, it went from — actually, that’s true, I hadn’t thought of that for a while, but then in the early years, like the first six or seven years of doing workshops, I would ask people who wanted to submit something from their site or something that they were working on that I could look at online.
 
In the afternoon, I would do mini-reviews of what they submitted, which both gave them valuable input but also kind of showed what my process was and the kinds of things I was thinking about. And that worked quite well. And then later, I switched the workshop to just teaching people how to do a usability test because it felt like that was so valuable. At that point, I had written the second book, which was basically a how-to manual about how to do your own usability tests. 

Bryan: And you don’t host workshops anymore, you’re focused on writing. 

Steve: I don’t, yeah. I mean, I will do — if somebody wants to give me a big bag of cash to do an in-house workshop, I will do it. But it’s not easy to do online. I have done them online on occasion but since there’s a whole hands-on component during the day, it’s much more suited to me being there. 

But, yeah, but I’ve turned to hopefully writing and doing the maintenance that’s required when you have a book out there, you know, answering mail and — and we’ll do the occasional podcast. Actually, also, the thing I do more of than podcasts, because I’m kind of selective about that, is if people asked me to do a Q&A, a few people that have these book clubs where they read technical books, book groups, you know, and so it turned out there are a lot of book groups that have been reading my book so I made the standing offer that if somebody wanted to, if they were doing a book group like that, I will be happy to drop in at one of their sessions to do some Q&A. 

Bryan: Nice.

Steve: Been doing that. Yes, it’s nice. It’s fun. I think people get something out of it.

Bryan: Are you dropping in virtually or in person?

Steve: Oh, just virtually, yeah. 

Bryan: I was thinking they could be anywhere. 

Steve: Yeah, exactly. That was kind of what drove me to make the offer was you could do anything virtually. 

Bryan: Yeah. So what are you writing today? 

Steve: Well, today, I’m answering email, you know, and trying to fix what’s wrong with my cable TV bill and a lot of the writing. But what I’m trying to do, I’m sort of amidst three possible projects: updating the two books, of which the do-it-yourself testing book would be much easier to update because not that much has changed and it’s not really full of examples, it’s full of technique, and the only thing that has to really change is talking much more about doing it remotely. Not only is that what people have been forced to do but it’s the direction everybody is moving anyway and that book is like seven years old or maybe more. Maybe that’s 10 years old. I only did one edition of that.

So that’s easier but sort of less people read it. And I could update Don’t Make Me Think, that’s a ton of work but it would probably be a really good thing to do. But my passion project, as it were, is for years I’ve been working on a book about writing.

Bryan: Which you alluded to mysteriously on your website.

Steve: Yes, I did. I did. Well, it wasn’t meant to be mysterious. I mean, it’s honesty.

Bryan: I was looking for information about it but I couldn’t find any apart from the fact that you’re working on a book about writing.

Steve: Yeah, right. Well, no, I haven’t. I mean, I haven’t put anything out there, which is the interesting part because I’ve actually been working on it — I’ve been working on it in a sense of sending myself emails with notes, which is my note-keeping methodology, because I can do that from anywhere, anytime. And for probably six years now, at least, I’ve been doing that. And then I sort of understood what it was that I wanted to do. Maybe I’ve understood what I wanted to do for even longer, but I’ve been actively working on it, if you put quotes around actively, for a long time now and then, a couple of years ago.

Bryan: What type of writing does it describe?

Steve: Nonfiction. The elevator pitch is if you are forced, for some reason, to do nonfiction writing.

Bryan: I see. I can fit like that sometimes…

Steve: Here’s how you can make it somewhat less miserable. So it would be anybody who has to do non-fiction writing, whether it’s, you know, writing reports for work or writing in school or, you know, so it’s definitely non-fiction and it’s definitely — this is like not necessarily your first choice of what to do. So the idea is I have always said that I found writing incredibly hard, you know? I’m on record everywhere. 

Bryan: It can be, yeah.

Steve: For me, it’s torture. And so being by nature lazy, I’m always looking for things that can make it not quite as hard. Same way — do you know David Allen? Do you know the Getting Things Done?

Bryan: I do. I interviewed him a few months ago for the show.

Steve: Oh, right. Right. I listened to that. Yes, yes, of course. That was like six months ago.

Bryan: Yeah. I was curious to see how he’d apply Getting Things Done to writing and creative work. He had a good answer.

Steve: Yeah, yeah. Well, he has very good answers for everything. He’s a really great guy. I actually took his course like in the late — one of his first workshops, because by accident, on a way to a consulting in LA, I sat on a plane next to him and he was using a piece of software that was not like — that my boss had been tech writing consultancy had been using and so I asked him about it and we started talking. And he had just started teaching workshops and I took his workshop and I use his stuff all the time. I mean, there isn’t a day that I’m not in some way using…

Bryan: You use the Getting Things Done methodology,

Steve: I use some of the principles, yeah, and I have found that they were very helpful. So, the reason why I brought him up is because he said he is on record as saying that he developed this because he’s lazy so he was always looking for easier ways to do things. And I sorta feel the same. I feel like our careers will parallel apart from you have to put several more zeros after his revenue from his work, which is —

Bryan: The thing he said to me that made an impact and he says in the book is your mind is for having ideas, not for holding them —

Steve: Yeah. 

Bryan: — so you just write it down and it sounds like you’re doing something similar with sending email notes to yourself. 

Steve: Yeah, yeah. 

Bryan: Rather than thinking you’ll remember when you open up the word processor or the writing app.

Steve: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. It just gets nothing down. So, how do we get there? Oh, the proposed new book and I always say it’s a proposed new book or a purported new book about writing, it’s about — basically, the elevator pitch, if there is one, is that I’ve spent many, many years writing non-fiction for work and it makes me miserable and so I’ve always been looking for ways to make it easier and here are some things that I have learned over the years that I wish somebody had told me 30 years ago.

Bryan: Is there anything you can share? I know the book isn’t out.

Steve: Yeah, yeah. One of the problems I had — well, here’s a simpler one. If you’re spending a lot of time looking for the right word and you’ve spent a bunch of time looking for the right word, then the problem isn’t that you haven’t found the right word. The problem is you don’t know what you wanna say. You’re not trying to say exactly the right thing. 

And I had this experience a lot with usability and, in fact, there’s a lot of parallels between the usability and the issues that I’m gonna be writing about where people would say, “Well, what should we call this menu item, you know? Is this careers or is this jobs?” And there’s enormous debate about what the right word is and yet nobody actually feels like any of them are exactly the right word and if you’re not finding exactly the right word, then it turns out the answer is it’s because your understanding of what the thing is that that word is supposed to accomplish is wrong. So go back and think again what it is you’re trying to say or do.

Bryan: I’ve been in a few of those conversations when we were designing homepages. 

Steve: Yeah, exactly. 

Bryan: We’d have a debate over what labels to use —

Steve: Yeah, yeah.

Bryan: — on menu items.

Steve: Go on forever. But there’s some pretty, you know, that’s kind of a service one, there are some pretty deep principles, like when I was taught in school writing and the idea was very clear, it was you write an outline, if it’s nonfiction, you write an outline of what you’re gonna write and then you write a draft of it and then you polish the draft. 

And those are the three stages. And the implication was that when you wrote the outline, you kind of understood what you were going to talk about. And what took me a long time to realize was that those stages, it didn’t work for me when I was in grade school, that was part of the problem. I couldn’t write the outline. I would go in and write a draft and then I would extract the outline from that and I had to hand in the outline first — I mean, I had to write the draft first and then write the outline. 

But the underlying point is that you actually only understand what you mean and what you’re trying to say in the act of writing it, you know? In the act of trying to find the right words to say it, that’s where you figure out what it is you think. You don’t think the things through first and understand it and then sit down and write it.

Bryan: It sounds like you’re describing writing as an exploratory process. 

Steve: Yeah, and a process that constantly loops back to those stages. You may even — even when you’ve got a polished draft, if you have problems, you may wanna go back and re-outline it quickly and that will loosen up your thinking and reveal the problems that you don’t know are there.

Bryan: During the editing process. 

Steve: Yeah. 

Bryan: Yeah, sometimes I’ve finished articles and read them and said to myself, “This isn’t what I wanted to say at all.” And then I’ve gone back and revised them. I do use outlines. I do find them quite helpful. But when I get blocked like you’ve described there, Steve, sometimes I just dictate a first draft because it’s harder to edit when you’re dictating.

Steve: Yep.

Bryan: You know, that works quite well for me.

Steve: And I find that talking through things with people or, you know, even if you can get yourself to do it just into a microphone, if there’s nobody there, saying what you’re trying to write first is often a great way to do it because you do a very different kind of thinking when you’re saying it than when you’re sitting at a keyboard.

Bryan: So you’ve worked on this book now for a few years. Have you been collecting advice and thoughts about the writing process from other writing books? Or are you researching it in a different way?

Steve: I have — well, if you look over my shoulder, which the people listening can’t, you can see part of a bookcase that has maybe 40 books about writing.

Bryan: Any standouts that have been particularly influential for you?

Steve: Yeah, there’s — oh, I won’t be able to think of his name. Zinsser. 

Bryan: Yeah. 

Steve: Zinsser is the best and it’s why he sold like 2 million copies. He died some years ago.

Bryan: On Writing Well by William Zinsser, I read that — no, I listened to the audiobook of that a few years ago. I think he focuses specifically in non-fiction. It’s quite good.

Steve: Yeah, yeah, he’s focused — the interesting thing about the book was the book — for my mind, he’s like the best and it’s very accessible, it’s very well written, and it’s not fussy, but the interesting thing about is he wrote — the first half of the book is kind of general advice about writing, which is great, and then the rest of the book is individual chapters about different genres, like writing for sports, writing about sports, writing about science, writing about whatever, and the funny thing is that there’s a lot of general advice that’s buried in those sections, very good general advice that’s buried in those sections that I’m sure some people never get to. But, yeah, that would be — if there’s one. I mean, they all have something to offer. I’ll read parts of — I’ll read them and scan them and make lots of notes in the margin and it’s more a matter of they encourage me than that I find ideas there that, you know, I’m gonna adopt. It’s more meditative, you know? It gets me thinking.

Bryan: Other writing books I’ve liked is Story by Robert McKee. That’s kind of about screenwriting but he talks about the principles of storytelling, which is quite helpful for nonfiction writers, and The War of Art by Steven Pressfield is good too.

Steve: I haven’t come across that, War of Art

Bryan: It’s quite a good book about the kind of fears that writers have, procrastination and self-doubt and how they can manifest.

Steve: Yeah, yeah. I also have a shelf with like 15 books about procrastination. I do, seriously.

Bryan: You’re well-read up on the subject.

Steve: Yeah, I’m well-read up on the subject because it’s been a lifelong crippling problem for me. When I set out to do the writing book, I thought, well, I’m not going to write about chrismation because, you know, it’s like the old joke. If you look up procrastination in the dictionary, there’s a picture of me so why on earth would I be qualified to write about advice about procrastination. But over time, I eventually realized that actually, even though it’s still a major thing for me, I’ve learned a lot about it and I understand it quite well and it has helped, understanding it has helped, and I thought, I should, you know, again, this is stuff that I wish somebody had told me a long time ago. So I now have like the document, the Word document that’s like 80 pages of notes and draft for a chapter on procrastination, which could be at most like, eight or ten pages.

Bryan: That’s a lot of research for a procrastination chapter.

Steve: Research is kind of putting too nice a face on it. I mean, a lot of it was writing draft. A lot of it was you wake up in the morning and think, “Oh, well, there’s this,” and then jot off a bunch of paragraphs about it. There’s a lot of draft in there.

Bryan: Yeah. I used to procrastinate a lot with writing but I think I was actually worried about what people will think if they read it. It was only later I discovered that what people think isn’t the problem, it’s getting them to read it in the first place. 

Steve: Right, there you go. There you go. Yeah, well, the thing about procrastination is there are so many reasons for it, you know? And you can make a list of like 80 different reasons why people procrastinate, one of them being, you know, anxiety about it’s not gonna be good or what people are gonna think about it. There are a ton of them and the problem is that everybody has an assortment of them that they’re subjected to, you know? Everybody has like four or five that can occur to them and slow them down or stop them in their tracks. And there are all these books, I have all these books basically about how to fix your procrastination and they all have methods in them and the problem with the methods is a method will work really well for like a week because it will deal with a particular problem that that method is meant to deal with, but then, inevitably, one of your other problems is gonna say, “Well, okay, it’s my turn,” and you’ll start reading about something else.

Bryan: It’s kind of like tools in the toolbox, you know, you can only use certain tools for certain jobs. 

Steve: Yeah, so it’s handy to have an assortment. 

Bryan: Yeah, I found the same. Steve, where can people find more information about you or your books? 

Steve: Well, the easiest way is my website which is sensible.com. I actually got the domain “sensible” like many years ago so I have an English language word —

Bryan: Which is quite hard to do. One word as well. 

Steve: Yeah, and one word with positive connotations, you know?

Bryan: Especially for the topic that you cover, that you write about.

Steve: Yeah. So I’ve been waiting for somebody to offer me a lot of money for that domain so I can just pack up and leave, but people have offered me money but…

Bryan: Yeah, I had to buy — when I started out, I bought “becomeawritertoday,” which is quite a long domain name, but, you know, I didn’t have much money for domains back then, but a couple of years later, I bought “becomeawriter” which is more sensible.

Steve: Oh, great.

Bryan: But I don’t have the budget for “writer” yet. I think I’d need seven figures for that.

Steve: Well, you know, I think “becomeawriter” is better than “writer,” you know? I mean, “becomeawriter,” it’s easy to spell, there are no tricks to it, it’s, you know, it’s the name of your thing, it’s memorable.

Bryan: Yeah. I thought about getting rid of the today in the URL but, to be honest, I think it would just be more of a headache with the site search and the SEO for the site so I left it but I just redirected “becomeawriter” to the site.

Steve: Yeah, I was gonna say, if you redirect it, then you’re not in bad shape. No, that’s good. The other thing about procrastination is that, you know, I used to say that I hated writing and I found writing to be such hard work that I could understand both why writers tend to drink.

Bryan: That doesn’t help with writing, I found that as well.

Steve: Well, I don’t know, it helps some people, I suppose, but, you know, I used to say that I didn’t understand how anybody could write without having some kind of gun held to their head, whether it’s metaphorical or…

Bryan: A deadline or client or —

Steve: People write and dire consequences and whatnot, but the fact is, I finally realized it really wasn’t the writing that I hated, it was that, for me, the vast majority of what cast for writing on my part was spent procrastinating and I hated the procrastinating so that was a useful realization.

Bryan: Yeah. I do find it’s helpful to read writing books as well when I’m stuck on something, like you said, Steve, there is a meditative quality to hearing other writers talk about the craft, because it’s hard to talk about writing to people who don’t spend their time doing it.

Steve: Yeah.

Bryan: Well, it was great to talk to you today, Steve, and sensible.com, I’ll put the link in the show notes. Well, thank you.

Steve: Yeah. Also, if they can follow me at @skrug on Twitter, but I deliberately don’t tweet very much because I only follow people who don’t tweet very much. Too much work.

Bryan: Good rule. It can be.

Steve: I can’t spend my day reading Twitter.

Bryan: Yeah. 

Steve: All right, great. It was good to talk to you.

(outro)

Bryan: I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. If you did, please consider leaving a short review on the iTunes Store or sharing the show on Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you’re listening. More reviews, more ratings, and more shares will help more people find the Become a Writer Today Podcast. And did you know, for just a couple of dollars a month, you could become a Patreon for the show? Visit patreon.com/becomeawritertoday or look for the Support button in the show notes. Your support will help me record, produce, and publish more episodes each month. And if you become a Patreon, I’ll give you my writing books and discounts on writing software and on my writing courses.