Grace Slick’s “White Rabbit” is one of my favorite songs from the Sixties. Among the lyrics that play in my mind is the line, “Feed your head.” It’s good advice for you, even though the feeding for your head is very different from what Grace was advocating.
Nutritionists tell us that we are what we eat. Computer people remind us that if you put garbage in, you’ll get garbage out. And farmers know that bad inputs can mean failed crops. For you, the quality of what you put into your head, affects the quality of what you put on the page. Here are some ideas about how to increase the nutritional value of what you feed your head.
Read things that prod you to think. History and biography are good choices because they describe real people acting in real situations. You’ll get ideas and examples you can use in your books and blog posts. For a good example of how that can work, check out Stephen Lynch’s Business Execution for Results.
Talk with people who disagree with you. I don’t mean the “Is not! Is too!” shouting matches of cable television. Have real conversations with people whom you respect but who differ with you. You may not change your mind, but you’ll learn a lot.
Read the news, but read the columns, too. They present reasoned arguments and the best of them illustrate an easy mastery of language. The late Bill Safire was my favorite. Today, I think Maureen Dowd, who writes for the New York Times, is an example of how good that kind of writing can get.
Don’t just read, listen, too. With audio material you can feed your head while you do something else, like exercising or driving or chores. Podcasts are a great way to expose yourself to lots of ideas. And audio books can feed you both ideas and style.
When you think about feeding your head, think this way: “Quality in, quality out.”