Monday Musings (The City-Country Spectrum)


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Hi friends,

Greetings from Austin!

I'm launching a Write of Passage newsletter. It’ll be 100% focused on the craft of online writing. Every edition will be devoted to helping you become a better writer and find your people on the Internet, so you can build a Personal Monopoly.

If you want to receive the first edition on Wednesday, enter your email here.

Here’s what I want to share this week:

1. Podcast with Danny Miranda: This was one of the most enjoyable podcasts I’ve done in a while because Danny is an exceptional interviewer. I talked about how I got into college, why writers should coin terms, and the challenges I’ve faced injecting personality into my writing. (Listen Here: Apple | Spotify | YouTube)

2. Girard Lectures: This weekend I'll release the first video in a 7-part lecture series I co-produced about the philosophy of René Girard. It’ll provide a full overview of Girard’s work. Here's an in-depth look at the lecture series.

3. How Kendrick Lamar Takes Notes: Kendrick’s new album is #1 in the world right now. I want to re-share one of my favorite video essays about the note-taking process he's used to climb to the top of the music world and win a Pulitzer Prize for his lyrics (and the Twitter thread I wrote about it too).

The City-Country Spectrum

Note: This short article is a preview of what the Write of Passage newsletter will be like: actionable and focused on writing. Don't worry. I'll be back to my sprawling intellectual explorations soon.

In New York City, everyone lives at 3x speed and intensity. Between the parties and the concerts, the meetings and the museums, and the festivals and the sporting events, life is defined by constant stimulation. To cool off, people commonly take weekend retreats. Away from the bustle of Manhattan, they slow down at lakes, mountains and beaches.

I call this balance the “City-Country Spectrum.”

The need to balance the chaos and the calm in our life also holds true for writers on the Internet.

— —

Life on the Internet

Twitter is like city life. Scrolling the feed gives you a machine gun stream of random ideas, the best of which become little earworms that ring in your mind like a pop song. If you want to write regularly, Twitter will give you a continuous stream of inspiration.

It’s become fashionable to rail against social media, but those articles are mostly written by people who’ve already made it. Social media is a great place to be when you’re starting out. Historically, people have always flocked to cities to build their careers. That’s why industry towns exist. The examples of Detroit for cars, Paris for art, and London for theater come to mind.

The Internet is no different. The same phenomenon applies to social media niches — it’s the place to be if you want to build a Personal Monopoly.

Just as city dwellers engage with the fringe groups of their choice, the Internet cultivates subcultures that are too niche for television, newspapers, and even magazines. The modern world rewards people with strong Personal Monopolies and the Internet makes it easier than ever to build one. If you’re good at curating your feeds and finding the experts within your area of interest, you’ll learn extremely fast.

But living such a connected life has downsides. People are constantly telling you who to be, how to live, and what to do with your life. It can be hard to hear yourself think. A society dominated by the Internet can become a Tower of Babel where everybody sounds the same.

— —

Differentiating Yourself

If you want to differentiate yourself as a writer, consider intermittent shifts to the country side of the spectrum. People book retreats for a reason! It can be hard to write long-form essays while living in the scattered, high-velocity flow of Internet ideas. Furthermore, becoming a successful writer starts with having something to say. To do that, you need the kind of differentiated perspective that only comes with swigs of solitude and introspection.

Based on the City-Country Spectrum, I’ve developed some simple rules for myself that I encourage you to steal. If you lose momentum or want to be prolific, go to the city. But if your thinking feels stale or you want to work on longer-form pieces, consider a retreat to the country.

Both strategies have a time and place. Life as a successful writer means oscillating between the extremes of the City-Country Spectrum.

Photo of the Week

While traveling through Marseille, I visited the place where Paul Signac created my all-time favorite painting: Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde.

Signac was part of the Impressionist art movement, which moved from realistic displays of the world into interpretive ones. Compared to the actual setting, the painting has all kinds of discrepancies. As the title reveals, the image is centered around the basilica on the top of the hill — even though it's out of focus. Almost all lines point to it. Our eyes are led to the basilica by the angles on the left, and the verticals on the right. Furthermore, the steepness of the hill in the background is extremely exaggerated; the basilica is ~150% bigger in the painting than in real life.

The city has changed since Signac visited Marseille in 1905. The steamboats are gone, but the sailboats remain. All kinds of high-rises have been built. The energy has changed as well. The colors and composition of this painting make Marseille look calm and peaceful, when in fact, Signac captured this moment in the heart of a bustling city center. Signac succeeded in capturing the majesty of that basilica though. It's marvelous. The ethereal and god-like qualities of the setting are captured in pink and purple pastels.

Have a creative week,

David Perell Logo 2x

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