Neil Strauss Interview (Full Episode) | The Tim Ferriss Show (Podcast)

mogari maka bochi bochi Dena hello ladies and gentleman this is Tim Ferriss and welcome to another episode of the Tim Ferriss show and holy guacamole do I have a treat for you I had so much fun with this interview the guest is none other than neil strauss a close friend of mine seven-time I think New York Times bestselling author he has written many books including the game for which he’s best known perhaps emergency for which I was a proofreader and there’s a hilarious story behind that that we get into and many many others he is these written what many considered the definitive rock memoir or biography which was the dirt about Motley Crue he has written with people including Marilyn Manson jenna jameson on and on and on rules of the game the guy is prolific and he is also and has been contributing editor at Rolling Stones staff writer for The New York Times why am i listing off all these credentials because the conversation that I have with Neil is about the creative process how do you become a creative powerhouse what are the methods that he uses what are the tricks that he has up his sleeves when times get tough when he’s on deadline when he wants to create the next best-selling book when he wants to write a book that can become a movie when he wants to create a business and he’s built some very very profitable businesses which is something not many people know so this entire conversation I hope you enjoy if you want a part too if you’d like to hear a part 2 please let Neil and I know on Twitter and two other things number one this episode is brought to you by you guys I’m not going to browbeat you with advertisers I want to avoid that but this thing has to be self-sustaining the podcast takes time and does take money to put together so please visit the Tim Ferriss book club go to 4-hour workweek com forward slash books I’ll give you a second to write that down it’s 4-hour workweek com forward slash books this is a book club kind of like Oprah’s Book Club every month or two I put out a book that I think I promote a book that has changed my life that really never made it into the limelight a book that never got the attention it deserved and this range is from books on investing to learning to travel to philosophy they’re super fun so check them out for our work week com forward slash books and please take a look that would help the show last for show notes all of the links URLs book recommendations and so on from this interview all you have to do is go to 4-hour workweek comm all spelled out no numbers for our work week comm forward slash podcast for all the goodies and without further ado I’d like to juice you to Neil I hope you enjoyed the show and thank you for listening at this altitude I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking can I ask you a personal question now it is soon I’m a cybernetic organism living tissue over metal endoskeleton Neil my good man welcome to the Tim Ferriss show thanks for making the time cool thanks for having me and congrats on the podcast by the way thanks I am selfishly bringing you into the fold in part because I want to pick your brain on creative process and interviewing but we’ll get to that for people who may not be familiar with your work how many New York Times bestsellers do you have now 6 7 12 20 um yes 7 that’s incredible lucky number 7 3 of just about killed me I’m not sure I have more books in me but I you didn’t start off writing books as I understand it where did you what was the path that you took to get to writing your first book you know what’s funny is I recently had my family send everything I’ve ever written just all my old by kind of you know grade school stuff here and I thought I just hadn’t written my first book later in life and I actually did it turned out when I was in second grade I wrote a book and I try to get it maybe it might have been a little later than second maybe fourth grade however old you are when you’re 11 I actually wrote a book try to get it published send it out to publishers the note saying a center and two agents can wrote an entire book which not as long as you get rejected but I never got a single response back from a single agent or publisher so it really injured me to rejection which is cool like who would not send a letter back to some poor kid that’s really it makes me it makes me have even less sympathy for the traditional publishing world than I already do grads but you you really sort of honed your teeth or cut your teeth I guess the expression is as a journalist right in New York Times and other places yeah yeah work for the New York Times for like ten years in Rolling Stone for like ever and speaking of rejection you have I remember a letter I believe from Phil Collins framed on your wall yeah yeah yeah I had a review to Phil Collins concert and it wasn’t that great it was it’s at the New York Times and I was really trying to be gentle in the review but I guess he got upset by am I getting a mail this two-page handwritten screed and the last words are Romeo you Phil Collins and it was my hotel stationery murmur correctly or something it was from the Peninsula Hotel if I call his publicist just to make sure that it wasn’t like a fake and know he was there staying at dependence the hotel I think later on TV he said that he had like someone told me Oh son have you ever regretted wishing that writing writing this letter and it’s funny because you know I did a book my interviews called everyone loves you when you’re dead and it just really goes to show you that everybody everybody out there who’s succeeding on a high level in this culture has a persecution thing going on no one I’ve interviewed doesn’t feel if you really get down to it feel like they’re not respected by their peers are not respected by the press nobody understands them no one understands we’re doing and we’re talking about you know even beyond Phil Collins level like Chuck Berry level who invented rock and roll like and it seems that that you know as long as you’re living and it depends what you pay attention to you will you will always get criticized as you’re doing great pen from the greater they get that greater the criticism becomes how have you or rather how is your approach because I’d love to dig into the nuts and bolts of how you approach the creative process how is your writing changed if at all from when you’re on deadline writing pieces for the New York Times and let’s just assume they’re the pieces on the shorter side and book-writing because one thing that’s always struck me and it’s given me a lot of insecurity is that I do feel like I get writer’s block and it can last for extended periods of time but when I talk to my friends who are trained journalists they have just seemingly eradicated the belief the concept of writer’s block from their minds they’re like look I don’t have a choice I have to have this in by five o’clock I don’t have the luxury of thinking about writer’s block I mean how’s your process changed and what are your recommendations to people who are trying to really write something substantive for the first time so I will say something which is just which is writer’s block does not actually exist in and I’ll tell you how I know I was speaking to a group and I thought hey we didn’t exercise and I had them write something really challenging I said your first sentence I can give you guys yeah first sentence I want you to write the most interesting first sentence you can possibly write so interesting phil has to read the second sentence and then and I would and then I took him through maybe five sentence each one challenging this sentence I want you to write some that make somebody feel something emotionally now I want you to tie this and it’s back and I made it I made it really challenging and I gave him just a few minutes for each sentence everybody completed the exercise everybody in the room people even people aren’t writers people were professional writers people who are screenwriters people who’ve you know think that they’re not writers and it proved to me that there’s no such thing as writer’s block writer’s block is almost like the equivalent of impotence it’s the performance pressure you put on yourself that keep you from doing something that we should be able to do interesting okay so writer’s block the reason you don’t get writer’s block as a writer because because you have a deadline and has been and you have no choice but if you sit there and you think this piece has to be the ultimate article or the ultimate book ever been written and and my entire self-esteem is a rap definition and this is me and I’m you know and the more the bigger of a story you make up about what you are doing the bigger the block will get because because it’s all there’s nothing to account the writing the skill of writing it’s all completely a performance anxiety so I really quote recently which I thought was very applicable to be anyway because I have a tendency to put like the weight of the world on my shoulders what I’m trying to write things which doesn’t help and write the quote was the essence of creativity is around and I think there’s I think there’s some truth to that but when you’re writing to avoid some of that pressure I know we’ve talked about this before but for people who haven’t heard this because it was a long time ago you do a number of different drafts or revisions and there are four different people could you just expand on that yeah like I would say that if I can give like one tip that will help anyone get their things done is when you start writing just write to the end just write to the end the only time when I start writing something I try to get a nice first couple pages or a nice couple first paragraphs because just a nice little balance a nice little sort of weight to drop the rest of my book or project on so you can spend some time on ethic when you’re done just right to the end just get it all done get the story out there because the truth is it’s not only til you get the end of what you’re writing that you really sometimes even know what it is or where it’s going or what it’s going to become so you’re just right to get to the end and your first draft is only this is for you no one’s ever going to see it so you don’t have to worry about it you’re not going to turn it in you’re not going to show it to sense to evaluate this is only for you and the fun part about that first draft is when you’re done somewhere in that mess of words you just wrote the entire book the entire book is in there and you don’t have to deal with anything else you’re done with your notes because you put them all in there all your thoughts are and there’s somewhere in that message your book now you just have to carve it and shape into the actual book so my first draft is always for me and and but and that’s the easy part by the way the eerie part is the first draft the tough part is the second draft because the second draft is for the reader this is this what you want me to talk about yeah this is exactly what I’d imagine so yeah the second draft so the second draft is for the reader so here’s the thing your life may be really fascinating to you but most of its really boring to somebody else to know or your ideas may be really fascinating to you and maybe you come by them worked really hard to get to those ideas or you’ve you’ve suffered and agonized and this thing is going to change everything but so it is just boring to other people it’s interestingly a bit boring to other people and you have to have a filter on that says this is what’s interesting and this is what’s boring this is what’s repetitive this is what’s new so the second draft is where the real pain comes and I might literally the book I’m writing I just cut out a hundred twenty-five page chunk that took me months of research and months of writing I had and had to go and it’s a better book for it now the hundred twenty-five that you cut what is the total page count now don’t place none right now is is 675 pages holy okay so but you by the way from if that’s less than a book but that’s how much it is on a computer sting got it all right so you cut out you know good say fourth or third of the book at this point which was my experience with the 4-hour chef I mean I cut 250 pages from the 4-hour chef and it was still a monster way and I was just that was just a discrete chunk there other parts of tattoos I probably cut out five or six hundred pages in this case it’s usually not that brutal yeah you know what I had a right right up there just here’s the crazy thing and just tell me I’m getting too esoteric because I love talking about the creative process and writing but this is the crazy thing okay and I hope that I can say this in a way to understand will change they’re doing the book is smarter than you in other words all right I’ll sit down want to write a book with an intention to write a book about a certain topic and I’ll sit down I’ll start writing it and I’ll read it not because you know what when I write the truth down on paper and I look at that I get a kind of clean perspective and so a book I’ll sit down with the intention to write that book I have to let that book become something else sometimes and that’s the right book definitely no that’s I’ve been looking at screenwriting a lot recently and I heard a quote which is not always true of course but I found it very insightful as sort of a fortune cookie concept which was you you don’t know the first sentence of your book until you’ve written the last sentence and you’re let me drill into one of the things you said which is the second draft is for your reader are you actually taking the first draft and allowing other people to read it or are you putting on your hat of the reader and pretending to be the reader with their eyes as you read what you’ve done yet no no one will ever see the first draft and I hope if someone saw it I mean I think what I would think would be unpublishable and embarrassing and and yeah I would never just first draft nobody sees okay and the second the second draft is I mean here’s the other thing I think the art of succeeding in anything at life is the art of empathy and this is your empathizing with whatever your general idea of a reader is and my readers never somebody who is a already a reader my idea is just who is way or what if somebody my reader is me of the reader probably me reading a book and thinking oh my god with this guy just get on with it or reading a book and thinking you know what this guy is like not even living up to what he’s writing and saying he’s doing is a total hypocrite or whatever I’m thinking when I’m when I’m reading to my reader it’s just kind of almost me the way I would read a book critically got it and what’s the next revision yeah so so yeah so that draft and again that’s that’s a tough draft that’s WHMIS all those phrases kill your babies and let go of these that’s I think the art of writing is a really integrins for me and and then I’ve done I’ve got a book and I feel like it’s a great story the third draft is for the haterz mm-hmm so the idea is with the third draft is no cat written the story the story is really interesting but there may be people who have an opposite viewpoint they’re going to be press and critics reading it there’s going to be is that I’m never I’m never going to cater to them I’m not going to change my point of view I’m not going to change my ideas I’m not gonna change what I stand for I’m not going to censor myself ever well I will do is make it do my best to make it immune to criticism in the sense of hey I’m gonna make sure that my facts are ironed tight I’ll always hire maybe one or two or three fact checkers because if somebody can just find one weakness so that’s it they can just because they’re out the baby with the bathwater he was wrong about that he knows nothing more yes so but the second more important thing is I was used mmm as an example you can’t really criticize Eminem because he’s already in his songs he already sort of impersonates the critics and then answers them so I really want there’s nothing that anyone said many people have said about in my books that aren’t already really actually answered in a book or accomplished in some hopefully self-aware way so I really want to sort of answer their critics or questions they’re the critiques in their in a way that’s still kind of fun and entertaining so that’s sort of that I give maybe hater proofing it so I always get haters but you want your haters to be wrong right you have to have a fortified defense against criticism warranted and unwarranted right unreasonable reasonable and unreasonable criticism when could you give an example from one of your books I know how secretive you are so you’re not going to tell me about you’re not probably not going to dig into the details of the new book but blitz may be a historical example example writing the game which is the book of where I spent two years in his secret subculture pickup artists and obviously you know I’m writing it I’m writing the book for the book that I would have needed you know in college in a high school and the book that I that maybe would have made me feel a little less lonely growing up and also know try to making fun and entertaining and mythological and all that kind of stuff mythological no sense at all my books I try to have an underpinning that’s a that’s a game we can get back to that later I try to have underpinning in the books it’s a great story arc but then I read it I want to read it from the point of view of of somebody who maybe is not my audience of a woman who’s found it in her show husband’s itch or or boyfriend’s closet or maybe just a someone on reading for Jezebel or one of those blogs and to think okay if they actually read the book can I write in such a way that they really don’t find fault with the book itself there can be a fault with the characters but not the book itself right and so I went through and any time alone is referred to in a way that I thought was objectifying you know we just kind of make it make sure that there was nothing that felt you know that women if somebody was not rated by fate of numbers or every time you described them you’re not describing a certain body part and it’s actually just smart yeah because nobody wants to read that right definitely is that so that was one way of going through and just saying hey you know what let me read it so so you’re kind of like the first book you write from your perspective the second maybe you write from your perspective as a reader even more so that idea later I think as you vanish near you it’s going interesting to nobody and the third you kind of put on different hats okay what’s a you know a feminist reading reading reading a game and another example is I read through the game I thought I wish there was a female character in this book but it’s based on my life and I really wasn’t in that community there wasn’t really a strong female character I had a relationship outside of the woman I ended up dating at the end so I couldn’t do that so I think you know it needs a female point of view so but for each section I put a kind of a counterpoint quote from a feminist thinker did you say hey there’s another point of view and this is what it is so in that last year after putting on different hats of if you before now your audience and how are they going to read the book that makes that makes perfect sense and I take a similar approach I often try to address as many of these points as possible in my introductions or preface –is right that is to say for instance the 4-hour body or the 4-hour chef I’ll say many of my conclusions are based on the following assumptions and the following process like and then – at least for that type of book to say it’s very likely almost certain that not everything in this book is a hundred percent accurate so this will evolve as the book evolves and reaches more people just again to deflect the criticism that it hasn’t been let’s say a hundred percent verified because in some cases there is there theories or speculation whatever might be but addressing that early because realistically like if people start reading the book where are they going to start typically in the beginning right how do you incorporate readers your and just justit’s just to sort of clarify something which is when team is doing this or I’m doing this what you’re doing is a book is like a little world or it’s like a software program you’re debugging it it’s not we’re like we’re like oh no we don’t wanna get criticism of course we get a lot of it and it’s on the deserves on it not deserved but what we’re trying to do is create a screed a program that doesn’t have bugs in it because you know at least in the old book model you didn’t get to do a version two now now you can do that with Kindle and stuff but we’re trying to create a you know trying to create a completely self-contained world that has no bugs yeah definitely and I think just like software you know if you want everyone to be your fan no one’s going to be your fan because you’ll have to go true dilute it to the point like if no one is going to have a negative response to your book it’s very unlikely that anyone will have a strong positive response and you have to kind of defend against that and make sure that you’re focusing on how many people get it and not how many people don’t get it but to that point how do you currently incorporate feedback from other readers say writers people who are proofreading and the reason I ask people might find this amusing is I remember proofreading parts of emergency and the lengths that you went to with me now granted we’ve known each other for a long time now and I remember going to like this hotel I don’t know why you were working out of a hotel we can talk about that and the only reason that you gave me parts of the book were because I said you wouldn’t tell me what the book was about and then I that I just threw out a Hail Mary and it said what’s the book about something related to five flags and that’s it do you have and you’re like wait wait so we tell you and then you would give me something like forty to fifty printed out pages at a time and they like a FedEx folder and then I would have to bring those back before I can have the second like set of fifty pages so how are you currently doing that are you doing it in a very and by the way I agree maybe you can expand on this but like that memes get released accidentally and you have to be very careful about that because books takes a goddamn along to make right you don’t want to exactly like you prematurely release this idea virus so that you can’t harness it later but how do you have people other people if you do proofread your stuff and provide feedback and just funny things I’m doing right now which is they come over to the house and they read it as much as they can tolerate to then they come over the house another day and and the second reason for that is the books haven’t had illegal haven’t had the legal read yet so a lot of you know a lot of us are stories or to the life stories and when I’m writing from life I really use the real names when I’m writing the first draft and the real identifying details and characteristics yes before the lawyers get their hands on it so I don’t want it to float around because I didn’t want a big thing right now so hopefully no and my book listens to this but of course so my great cop-out of writing about somebody I usually oh don’t wear your top as a character that I’ve used pieces of you and pieces of someone else so that when they read it they can say all those good parts must be me and the bad parts are obviously the other person but you know I I just kind of write it all down with me opieop people’s names identifying details I don’t want to that to get out because I either am respecting their privacy or their or don’t want to see me got it the people who come over and read as much as they can tolerate so I remember doing something very similar for one of your books but I’ve in your last book right how are you choosing the people you have proofread your stuff like what maybe just give us the interview guys name mostly don’t like what types of people do ask to read your stuff yeah what’s your process yeah so the truth is it doesn’t matter it doesn’t have to be say someone like yourself was an accomplished author and has been on the bestseller list I’m just trying to get as many different people to read it as possible who who are willing to who are willing to read it so a lot of people think you know I’ve ever hired let’s say at you know they’re hired the hardest and I think a harder thing to find than a writer but writer to find a good at yes so as you know so I really just have as many people read as possible I have a process and I’ll share this process with you because I think it’s good not just for writing but for getting any kind of feedback and criticism in life not just about a project you’re doing but about yourself which is the way they’re the best metaphor for it if it catches my train or who told to mething with a guy named Brent and this is he kind of had this basic concept which is into catcher’s mitt so when someone gives you feedback you catch it in your catcher’s mitt then you look at it and one of three things are possible its true if it’s true then then I put it in my head right the secret to life is not to take it personally obviously so any criticism is criticism on your technique not on you you have people personalized stuff so easily so you catch it before your do you take it in you look at if it’s true you inserted it’s not true you throw it away as if you’re if it’s a maybe – not sure if it’s a maybe you just keep them in you show – a couple other people go hey Tim hey so-and-so what do you think of this and then you denne reevaluate and decide yes or no but here’s the best of the best f is you get a piece of feedback say you read the book you tell me something I’m like you know what I don’t think that’s true then whatever my wife reads it now you know what I think that she’s wrong then I give it from one or two other people and then I then instead of throwing away I’ll look at it again and that’s when you get the real truth is so the more people you can have to give you feedback and there’s a piece of feedback you were jet that keeps coming back to you it’s time to reevaluate that and then you can get a real real epiphany that changes you that’s where growth is how many people do you typically have proofread a given chapter in a book before it goes to say before you get to kind of pick lock you know before you before you get in the book being locked and done as a manuscript yeah so yeah so they’re two phases it’s so fun because it really is like people think I’ve written a book at the end and it’s done you’re really only like a quarter done at that point yeah but it feels good it feels good you can have a small celebration and by the way when you’re done don’t take too much time off with it you got to get right back to it right away because otherwise you’re going to forget you know doing a book or a screenplay big projects a lot of information you’re holding their heads yeah threat it’s a lot of connective tissue that you forget that isn’t in the book but that you need is glue to kind of hold it all in your head exactly if you go away first day three weeks to get back I’ll take you a week or two to get that get those connections going again and let’s talk about a little time management later because every time you’re interrupts when you’re doing something creative it takes you 20 minutes to get back to the state before that phone ringing that person asked you that question so but that’s what if you saw there’s two stages one is in the early stages maybe when I’m still in the second variation the reader variation I’ll have a couple people just read it through so I can to see if it’s as kind of test reader so I can make sure it’s engaging and not boring or maybe there’s a part I’m not sure about man this feels too long so I have a few people two or three people come in and read it but then when I’m feel like I’m all done it’s being edited at the harpercollins in my case and it’s being edited then I’ll kind of print it out fully and have some people read it from front to back and really as many people as will tolerate and gives me as many feedback and comments and criticisms as I can and their few people like yourself and a couple other people who I will always give it to as sort of like kind of people whose opinions I might take a little you know a lot more seriously than my cable repairman so I’ll give it to him and you know what it’s more important if it works for him it may be more important if it works for say you or another authors are definitely because it’s tough for a lot of authors to take off their editor slash book writing hat they go into the weeds right from the outset as opposed to just reading the book as a reader if that makes sense but one approach that I took with the last two books that seemed to work pretty well I do think the 4-hour chef tried to do too much I think it could have been four or five books very easily and it would have made the positioning of each of them a lot easier but right but that’s my thing I’m so upset he didn’t take my feedback on it and one big piece of people too hard you were too invested in it yeah I mean not they were too far along in it I always think I really feel I feel like yeah it should have been multiple books and who knows maybe they’ll get split up at some point in the future they could be but where I was going to go is I typically give proofreaders three to five chapters my chapters tend to be pretty short and they’re modular so that’ll usually suffice and then I’ll always ask you know what was your favorite chapter if you had to pick just one to stay in the book which would it be and why and then if you had to get rid of one which would it be at why and what I found really helpful personally is if anyone loves a chapter it stays in end of story like if someone over the top loves a chapter it’s stay at it if someone dislikes a chapter I then need a consensus justify taking it out unless I feel the same way does that make sense yet I always do that too it’s so good because you’re looking for criticism also say mark what you thought what really moved you if I was funny or you wanted to underlined and then I’ll be careful about throwing the throwing that out that’s a that’s a great point and it’s true also with a which everyone loves you when you’re dead which was an anthology it was an ontology all my favorite moments for my favorite interviews and with that I’m probably holding a once again had maybe a thousand interviews that it cut down and I’ve had people come over and have them give them away to a rating system and I had a whole tile because I’d see what rated the highest and here’s the thing that people often don’t get and tell me this is true for you as well you know you often talk about testing a title on Facebook or Google AdWords back when that made more sense and you talk about testing it but tell me if I’m wrong here but this is how I do it which is that’s just one variable doesn’t mean oh this tested the best I’m going to do this it’s one input okay there is testing there was there’s your own intuition there’s your kind of what other experts think there’s what friends think and put that all into the into the mix versus saying hey this just tested well fee-only and then that must be right and I’m sticking with that no matter what oh definitely and I think because the testing was maybe unique at the time that started spreading around as as a story about the 4-hour workweek I think people miss the context which is I only tested titles that I could live with from the outset so you shouldn’t test like a cyborg and end up with the title that you hate and then use that because that will ultimately affect the success of the book and secondly most books fail you could do everything right and the book could fail do you want can you live with the title you hate even if the book might fail and the answer is you shouldn’t have to so you need to first pick sort of a subset before you test of titles or content or chapters that you can live with and then you do the testing the other thing that just on the on the time management for a second that I want to ask about interviews is like you said it’s not a question of do you have the time to do something like run to FedEx and mail something off the question is can you afford the interruption right and there’s there’s a great article by Paul Graham you’d call it the essay I think it’s just the makers versus the managers schedule and how for maker whether it’s a programmer or writer or musician if you’re in the flow and you get interrupted it might take you like you said 20 to 60 to 90 minutes just to get back to the place where everything that’s spread out around you makes sense again there’s a huge cost interruption and I mean you go pretty much completely off the grid and have some retreat spots and I mean we actually remember when you were working on your last book and I was working on the 4-hour chef we had some some retreats which were really really helpful on the interview stuff because I’m of course trying to get better at energy imagine a couple things for time management there’s a couple things that are so good yes yeah basically an okay time add no wit investment and whatever in this bed is one computer program that’s probably saved my life it’s going to beckon Desmond I’ve ever made the 10 bucks or whatever it costs okay I don’t know if you have it to Emmet you have freedom freedom I use something called rescue time and a few others but freedom is a fantastic app absolutely it’s it’s so simple I think the great thing about it’s my favorite part of the world which is it says how many minutes of freedom do you want you put in whatever it is 120 minutes of freedom and then you’re completely locked off your internet no matter what for that amount of time so as soon as I sit down to write the first thing I do is I put on freedom because you’re say you’re writing you’re working you want to research something right you research something and then you get stuck in a clickbait single rabbit rabbit hole and and what you can do is you can save up all the things you want to research and just research when that when that time expires and you’ll find it’s so much more efficient and now I go a little more hardcore which is because I’m on a real deadline and I made an even bigger heavier deadline which is using I think right now he’s in tego family protector that they’re quite a place there that you know those those children’s monitoring things and basically I might like put in the password and I can only get online from 5 to 6 p.m. every day and from 11:00 to midnight that’s the only time that can get online period and it is great you will never answer email faster and more efficiently and productively we know you only got an hour to do it that’s amazing that’s AG what was in T go family protecting ago yes family protector and again I don’t know the password so there’s some other emergency that comes up like we were going to son Skype I would have to have her go type in the password not go away yes I was wondering why you didn’t want to do this on skype that’s hilarious ok now it makes a lot more sense so the bigger problems that other people interrupting you it’s you you are you at the enemy you’re fighting because as soon as something gets challenging the first thing you want to do is go to is go do something else and if you stay there you can work through it or pop through it but as soon as something gets tough or challenging the first thing we’ll do is find something else we have to do that’s not as big or not as important because we just don’t want to we’re trying to conserve our energy that’s where we are is health well I’m ready I was looking at a book on nonfiction writing written by ein Rand and I think one of the chapters was called the white tennis shoes and basically the point was writers will do anything to avoid writing and if she said if there are white tennis shoes and like within your visual field that have one blemish on them you will find a way to rationalize cleaning those white tennis shoes instead of doing the writing you’re supposed to write yeah so you have to sort of build systems to protect against your lesser self right now you have to find out so yeah and it’s a great analogy I can’t define your weaknesses our so whatever your white tennis shoes are you have to make sure they’re nowhere in your eyesight in that space in which which you write you have to have the sacred space the cave you go to and this is your sacred space what at some points and whatever I can afford it I like the met anyone in that room I want to energy in that room no one’s you know bottom there whatever it may be you have to create your sacred space and o’clock’s in your sacred space because there’s no time in your sacred space no one’s allowed in there if there’s something really important they can slip know it under an examiner when you want no one’s allowed in a sacred space so on the subject of productivity and we don’t want to write when we’re done yeah yeah sure to everybody I mean the first piece of advice I get contacted by a lot of it would be writers who are actually good writers in shorter form oftentimes and they’ll ask me most so this is where I know things are headed for for problems is they’ll ask me about all the marketing stuff first and then they’ll tell me that they’re gonna write a book part-time in three to four months right and I try to discourage everyone from doing a book unless they can allocate at least a year to it assuming full-time Monday to Friday I’d be curious to hear your thoughts because I think a mediocre book is more of a liability than notebook at all one hundred percent agree I think that first of all yet their greatest distraction people have it I’m glad you keyed into that is when they start think about the marketing while you’re still writing don’t even I never think about the marketing or ocean or any of that stuff until the books actually create a partisan issue don’t that’s just a distraction for creativity and it’ll hurt your creativity because that’s when I start giving writer’s block as you’re thinking too much about the audience the reception is significant thing is I was always inspired when I was working with Judith Regan at HarperCollins there’s a writer she had that did a book ton like it was one of whatever what maybe it’s ten years ago whatever there’s some famous court case um Amber Heard is that amber now amber said I don’t know what it I don’t remember the court case but I’m sure thousand listeners know know what it is something anyone knows horrible court case there were some of those famous for five minutes and she had to get the book out never heard I think of the model I’m the silver so uh so they she had a writer he wrote it he literally wrote it in a week justice challenged me so so he literally wrote the book in a week he just typed it out as she was talking he just typed it out then he edited it got it in hit the New York Times bestseller list and so it inspired me to think how fast can I write a memoir so Joel Stein from Time magazine was running with a Sarah Palin book she called me up he’s like I want you to read my member on a quick stem out of time possible that’s just awesome we’re gonna do this in half a day come over for a couple hours alright as he talked I’m a centimeters I had the cover to book the design book by the end of the day and so I’ll fine I’ll get you to link it but he she did we put this in time and he put the link on there I mean it’s a short 25 page book but it’s actually pretty funny and and that not bad so so so the answer is it’s it’s focused time versus just say so you know say the amount of time you can still light something rape you have to sit down really focus and we want to kind of write something great versus saying I just want a book to book to help my brand or whatever yeah writing a book there’s so many bad reasons for writing a book but on the subject of writing I mean of course with most of your books and certainly all of my books the books start with personal experience and a lot of interviews or interacting with experts of various types what have you learned as an interviewer obviously you did it for the rolling stone you’re tossing first of all you should mention some of the people you’ve interviewed I mean some of the more the better known folks because the list is super long but a few examples and then what have you learned about interviewing the head I might be able to use on this podcast other people might be able to use for all the various projects and whatnot sure yeah I mean I love I love interview and I mean basically like I’ve done tons of what roles you know Rolling Stone cover story I’ve basically kind of any definitely any musician and most actor that probably interviewed that at some point so yeah you know it’s interesting a rolling stone or an article or a book interview is different because you have time to play with right so that’s like the in a wait it’s a waiting game I can talk about the details of that and you can choose which want to talk about but then I got to show it serious radio and I just did the show as an experiment or a challenge to think can I get material I get something with someone in the rolling stone interview can I get that in it you know in just a one-hour amount of time but that area of you takes and so I actually created a bunch of techniques for the live interview that helped me get to that core really quickly you said you want to talk about yeah I’m happy for that let’s talk about the live interview because I think it will translate I think the the principles are probably quite flexible so why don’t you talk about the live interview well some of the techniques you’ve developed and they’re using booster booster was prep and this is for any any interview it’s tough to do whenever you want to do a really really great interview and you and I have a awesome rapport and we can just kind of talk riff and talk about anything but when I’m preparing for an Avery with somebody I will go research everything they’ve ever done I’ll try to read this book set them up they’re musicians I listen to everything they’ve ever done I’ll try to watch every interview because I just want to make myself an expert in them and I’ll write down as many questions that I can think of maybe for some say well when I did Rolling Stone interviews but I’ll write down hundreds of questions literally and I’ll study them like I’m studying for an exam you know and I’ll mark the ones that I really make sure I ask and then I’ll get to meet them I’ll take those questions I’ll fold them up I’ll put in my back pocket I’ll never look at them again huh and then and I’ll let it flow but I’ll know what do I need to go what do I need to go here’s what they said but what have they never said what about them can I show that’s a side of them that’s never been seen by anybody else and I’ll know I’ll the conversational never hit a dead point will feel completely natural to them but I’ll know where I’m shaping and structuring it and every now and then if ever tough one I got to do Taylor Lautner for Rolling Stone who is like that you know the werewolf kid into a light or something yeah right and like I actually thought it was assignment for someone else so I say yes I didn’t realize who left I’ll have to work them in I realized I got to talk to this guy and so actually my goal always as the writers just to be interesting you know if you bore someone you’ve committed to me the cardinal sin writing so I would actually walk him into a place where I knew I had a series of five or ten questions and would lead him somewhere really fun or funny or entertaining or interesting or or somewhere as a part of it where you’re actually the little segments we’re all all mostly like a lawyer where you’re walking somewhat down a chain it’s going to end up with a unique revelation it’s moving example or examples of some of those questions or it’s against this couple different ways that or just questions that are not person specific like at it I tell us about this incident that are just good kind of can openers for getting people to riff and tell you something interesting yeah you know what’s funny like at one point I started making a list of that someone was about that retro still wants interview Bob Dylan anyone says Bob Dylan who tells you when you’re wrong Bob Dylan got upset and left the interview that’s a good question and I use that question a lot but you know what I did I was I was gonna try and do those kind of canned questions I cannot like those cards you get in a game that are fun right good questions but what I always think about is here’s what I’m thinking about is now what is what do I want to know or what does the audience want to know I’m trying to it’s again that art of empathy I really wanted to think about how from their perspective is life live how can I get inside their head understand what are the things that they wrestle with or they struggle with like the conversation we’re having as writers it’s easy to empathize because as usually to talk about it and you’re hitting in kind of a nerve with me because these are the things I talk about if you want to talk to me about you know is the game good or bad you’re going to get a horrible interview because you’re doing two things one is you know maybe I’m interpreted as judgment new is it’s just sort of a stock answer you know three is it’s I’m re I’m a defensive and that’s going to be boring but you’re at your questions you’re asking are the things that I wrestle with and things I think about the things I probably talked about today and yesterday so even see I’m interviewing celebrity and there’s a scandal or want to find out they’re dating somebody or something like I’m not gonna say are you dating that person I’m going to say what’s it like for you when everyone’s always trying to speculate about who you’re dating and you know private life or you want to keep so I’m empathizing with how they see the question how they see their reality not how you know whenever TMZ sees a reality right right and at the same time you’re sort of opening your like soft balling the topic in if they want to chew if they want to hit it if they want to swing for it they can go for it yet the real real chicken I’ve give away too much to the real trick and this is again kind of split interviewing types of stuff the real trick is there’s a topic that’s like you know that they that you really want but they don’t want to give or share you wait for them to bring it up once they’ve mentioned it it’s like they’ve open the door to it if you want to get it it’s almost you know it’s like anything it’s like a game it’s like getting funding it’s like dating it’s like if there’s something you want from someone they’re not going to want to give it to you and hence the idea is so you wait for them to bring up the elephant in the room right what are there any ways to sort of leave the gingerbread trail to get them closer to that any particular examples that come to mind I mean I know one thing that a lot of journalists do which sometimes drives me nuts but I recognize why they do it is they’ll deliberately give false facts to try to get a correction so they’ll say so you know rumor is that you’re dating whatever Taylor Swift you know and then you hope that they’ll come back and say Asha is completely you know I’m dating so and so on you’re like okay gotcha now we can go down that trail right but are there that that’s weak because it is we you showed you because you show a it’s kind of a little too tricky bu sure you’re kind of ignorant about them and see you’re trying to like kind of capture them see if I can get that one answer but you’ll have a shitty interview yeah no exactly but it is a common technique that journalists use right I mean right yeah I’m not sure very very common the other one that makes me kind of crazy and if I had to learn how to defend against sticks it’s so easy to be misquoted in print is the so I guess what you’re saying is fill in the blank and then all of a sudden you’re quoted as saying yeah okay whatever I guess pretty close and then also you’re quoted but what are some and that kind of quiz I was sitting down to write a book and not letting the book tell a story of you trying to force your story in a book if you try to force your story on the on the subject so so yeah I’m not sure that’s a way to get it’s a short term gain for a long term loss which is you know untruthful congressional ISM husband men not having a good reputation go ahead taste of Taylor when you wanted to sort of be interesting and have a series of questions that would lead somewhere interesting for the piece itself how did you go about doing that I mean yeah it’s basically like there’s a technique it’s like creating a yes ladder yeah it’s a fun camp it’s that it’s same as run a persuasion technique which is you know ask them something safe and it’s yes and then a little bit safer in SES and then would you ever do it with this you know you know like you know it was just an example and it just is not far off I’ll find a different someone we you know you know you seem like you’re helping guys not smoker right you know you don’t smoke he’s like no I don’t smoke in the men’s everyday you obviously never smoke pot right you know getting some was very interesting that there’s a lot of smoke pot in that and then we got down to like traffic tickets and then we had this fun game with me trying to like find something he’s done like wrong or illegal like you know never even double parked or whatever and it was a kind of fun you know and so it’s walking into a natural way that’s fun for them versus like I want something from you and I’m gonna try to get it and I’m gonna try to hold it and keep it from you another secret for interviews that are and I’m sure is a the idea of fractionation right fractionation and hypnosis is if you are hypnotizing someone a bring them out of trance and they put them back in transit going keeper the second time so whenever I’m interviewing somebody especially for Longstone or anything I always try to break it into a couple little pieces we do a little bit of interview then we maybe go have lunch go dinner because somewhere else and that second interview is always better huh that’s interesting that’s very very Messing if you would like radio show and this is this is a so this is something for you what podcaster radio shows and again I don’t know how relevant this is to everybody again I love the stuff I love the art of it’s really art of trying to get someone to be themselves right um is really the goal because as soon as someone people go into interview mode in their to try to show you what how they want to be perceived not to not not who they are what so with some radio show the first we pre-recorded and the first 10 minutes were actually complete throwaway we did the first 10 minutes go to a break and that was we record it but that’s always a throwaway because allows them to get a promotional message out and there he’ll feel like they’ve said their message and beyond their message there’s a person and I get rid of the message and gets the person that’s hilarious so a do they end up being able to plug the the stuff that they that they wanted yeah by coming on the show or dude yes correct ya know I always plug for you I always tell somebody and this is true when you’re going on and you know you’re trying to promote your business your brand or your book or movie or whatever you’re promoting the more you it’s that goes back to the philosophy the more you want someone to do something and the more desperate you are the more they don’t want to do it yeah you’re you’re selling yourself if they like you they like what you have to offer you’re not selling your book you’re representing it I know you are absolutely so yeah my thought is it’s tough it’s your job or the host job to do the promotion for you your job is to be the most awesome version of you you can be yeah definitely getting them to trust the messenger not the message first and foremost right because because I mean if you’re somewhere and they keep mentioning you know we listen those interviews right in there and I keep mentioned their website and have input at WWE in front of it or whatever it is and you’re just like I don’t want to coach your sticks website right if you’re interested if someone wanted in me I don’t even mention my book doesn’t mention where they find if I didn’t mention my website because my name’s on the podcast and this is from there’s there’s plenty search engines that will leave leave him there without me having to say it definitely yeah and so that’s where anybody like don’t go on to sell go on to represent that’s excellent advice well I would be cognizant of your time obviously I want to just ask a couple more questions and then obviously we talk all the time so you keep trying about this for hours but the the first is what books if any do you gift to other people the most besides your own books what are there any books resources things that you give to people in the written format so it’s probably when you give away a lot of you give it away in your blog oh is this uh God could be anything Seneca it could yes yeah say that’s it yes yeah I’m a shortness of life that’s my that that I have a stack of those that little penguin edition I think it is yeah so that I give away a lot and the other ones I there are other ones I tend to buy a lot for for people I have a son right now I’m encouraging to read fiction he’s a voracious nonfiction reader and I’m a big fan of reading fiction because you know especially your audience and degree degree my audience you know what a lot of people feel like we got to read self-help books because that now that’s knowledge and we don’t wanna waste any time we want to be efficient but right people learn through metaphor that’s how the first stories we’re told that’s what the Bible is that metaphor and storytelling or how the brain actually learns information we just get it as data not good for computers it’s not good for human learning and so so I really encourage Hillary great works as really good works of fiction literature because it’s an art and B because I learn more about life from from fiction so two books that I told them the book I told them to start with was it’s kind of a deeper one because I he’s a I guess in our he’s an artist and so I thought that that you know Gabriel Garcia Marquez a hundred years of solitude I just think it’s a good book to appreciate you know literature and storytelling in the magic world it could be we through fiction so I give that away there’s a dark dark book by Jerzy Kosinski called the painted bird it’s really it’s really dark but it’s unattainable huh dad I tend to give away a lot Newton bird yeah by Jerzy Kosinski it’s it’s disturbing though so just know it’s it might be put our plane ride not before bed yeah yeah but it’s about I you know what just I’m not gonna I’m not gonna yeah but you learn about human nature to that through through that book for artists there’s a book by Milan Kundera that I give away a lot called life is elsewhere and it’s about this is my interpretation of it which is probably completely wrong it’s been a few years but he’s someone who’s born and he got to become he’s born to be a great artist who’s become kind of become a great poet but his issues his mother issues and the sort of politics and peer pressure’s at the time turn him into a total hack and I think it’s an analogy for that choice we all have in life you know I get a fulfill your potential are you just going to give into the you know the peer pressure of the moment and then become nothing I was talking to this billionaire friend of mine and and I think I really would like to write a book about the way your mind works and he was saying that the difference between someone is say a billionaire and billionaire a sister would even talk about this but so but is that people who really think big are not if you said the biggest mistake you can make is to accept the norms of your time I love it I’m not accepting norms is where you innovate whether it’s with technology with books with anything so not accepting the norms is the secret to really big success and changing the world that’s a fantastic way to wrap up this episode I think so Neil I’m going to ask I know that you don’t have to say because people can just use Google and other tools but where can people learn more about your work find more of your stuff where would you like people to find you I’m gonna attend cheers after that big speech is completely hypocritical to go to go see anything they can take and they can find me on your blog idea for workweek calm appreciate you now throwing the wwa alright man well many conversations to be had to be continued thanks for making the time and I will hope to have some wine with you soon thank you sir I talk to I always enjoy watching alright buddy if you want more of the Tim Ferriss show you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or go to for our blog com fo you rho r BL o t comma where you’ll find an award-winning blog tons of audio and video interview stories with people like Warren Buffett and Mike Shinoda from Lincoln Park the books plus much much more follow Tim on twitter at or Riss or on facebook at slash Tim Ferriss until next time thanks for listening you