The writing advice from James Altucher that changed my life

The most important lesson about writing and life in general.

Written for Quora: What are one or two sentences that someone has told you that changed your life for the better?

James Altucher.

I have been following him for about a year now. And if you are a regular on Medium like me you maybe also wondering how is this guy could be so omnipresent. His voice seems to be scattered all over the internet. The simplistic almost minimalist style of his writing peeled off the layers of my stereotypical thinking about the craft of writing.

I was born and raised in Kazakhstan and brought up in Russian culture which naturally made me consuming the Russian classical literature since the age when I wasn’t even able to fully comprehend it. Pushkin, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Chekhov, Bulgakov and many many others have forever shifted the way I perceive the world.

When I became a teenager I have discovered the world of unconventional writing. I was reading Haruki Murakami, Umberto Eco, Stephen King. I started to immerse in the literature dedicated to self-development, spirituality, esoterism.

I have developed an image of the writer’s profession that was surrounded with a mysterious aura that sometimes looked like a cloud of smoke from countless cigarettes and burned draft pages of the masterpiece that is not destined to be read slowly floating above the typewriter, and sometimes it seemed like a mist of romanticism that might have blinded me from seeing what’s the actual future behind the career of a writer. Either way, this image was an unbreakable wall. I have myself started to write many times and never got anywhere with that.

I was writing and didn’t publish anything. I was struggling from so-called “impostor syndrome” — a feeling that I am not worthy, a feeling that I am not a real writer and that I will never make it even if I fake it for a long time.

It was a paralysis. I was writing “into the table”. My essays were stacking up without the slightest hope to be meet the eye of a reader.

Until one day.

I read an essay by James Altucher which, to be honest, I don’t even remember was about.

But there was one single sentence that slipped into my mind:

I paused. I looked at it and reread it several times. The brilliance of the formulation started to precipitate in my mind.

“The process is the goal”.

This is it. This is the best piece of advice I have ever got from a person I never met.

I suddenly realized that every time I was starting my new challenge I was never focused on the final goal. I was never tied up to the destination point. In fact, every time I started something I ended up in a different place from where I originally aimed. I never get the intended result.

Serendipity. This is what happens in the process of my every endeavor but never reveals itself as an original purpose. I internalized something that I knew all along.

The objective of reading a book is not getting to the last page.

I started to work out so that women liked me. Did that. I persisted with a different goal of getting other men’s respect. Did that as well. Now, I ended up at the point where exercising became my meditation. I don’t need to prove anything to anyone. I never could imagine that I will feel how I feel and look how I look now back in the days when I started. The process transformed me.

I stopped eating meat as an experiment. I was curious to see what is going to happen. It has been more than 3 years since I touched a piece of meat. The little adjustment to my nutrition over the course of 3 years significantly contributed to the change I experienced. My taste evolved.

I started to meditate with something like “I have no idea what is going to happen but let’s see,” in my head. And what happened in the process of 4 years have transformed me beyond any expectations. I started to see things I was never able to see.

My first fasting was 60 hours long. The taste of the break-fast meal was not from this world. But experiencing the meal was never the goal. The goal was to live through this suffering and discomfort of food deprivation, rewire the brain and pop out stronger from another end of the wormhole.

Thank you, Mr. Altucher

You got me into writing. This one sentence became a primary piece of domino that started the chain reaction. The day I read these 5 words became the Day 1. Since then I never stopped writing. Writing became my new meditation, my new consolation, my therapy.

These 5 words became the cure for my curse — “the impostor’s syndrome”. I stopped to care that English is not my first language. I stopped to care about that little whining bitchy voice inside telling me that I am 30 and I am too bloody old for that. I stopped to care that many writers end up broke and suffer from doubts seeking for Muse all the time. I stopped to care that someone will say I am a copycat if I repeat after you and say that “I turned myself inside out” and there are words and words and words pouring from my guts.

Today morning I read your latest article. I believe it was some sort of resolution for the upcoming 2018. There are many things that I agreed with but most of all I liked the following. I sign my name under what you have written: “I will not outsource my self-esteem.” Amen to that. I promised myself not to.

I understand. The Reader is the King. I will let him judge my words. I write for the people to hear me out and use it in order to become happier and better because if I don’t I must be just another grey shadow in the army of faceless narcissists competing in their flexibility to reach and kiss their own asses.

I have decided to commit to writing for as long as I can. And longer. I will be getting myself into the zone and deploying for the war with my own demons who, honestly, intimidate me. But I will stay in the game. I will let serendipity to happen once again and let it surprise me. The process is the goal.

Happy New Year, James 🎅. Wish the best for you and your family ⛄❄️

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *