#3: Writing about a Web of Questions

If you're getting this, you must have signed up for my newsletter. I'm taking a year or two to do R&D on community living, and seek to build a neighborhood for friendly ambitious nerds - including young families - in a major US city. You can read previous issues here: month onemonth two.

Hello friends! Rose and I are finally back in SF for the first time mid-July! We've moved into Crest, an elegant 10-person coliving house in Twin Peaks, and I'm very excited to host you all in our fabulous HOT TUB. Rose and I also met each other's families for the first time last month - visiting hers was like living in a gourmet restaurant, and visiting mine was like "stepping into a sitcom". Honestly, as much as I dearly love SF and our life here, I'd be open to moving to the East Coast/NYC in the next few years. It'd be wonderful to be closer to our families.

It's now been three months since I started on this quest. My first mission, on the advice of experienced independent researchers like Ben R, Nadia E, and Andy M, was to simply "explore my curiosity", without setting goals, to allow myself to discover what I REALLY want and find interesting. This was harder than I thought it would be. My self-worth is unfortunately linked to my productivity (I'm working on it), and so embracing a state in which forward progress is impossible to measure has been uncomfortable at times. But don't get me wrong - it's also been lots of fun. In the last quarter, this directive has taken me across the East Coast, introduced me to dozens of new friends and acquaintances, prompted hundreds of conversations, and inspired lots of creative ideas, including many community formats other than SF-style coliving or the type of labor-intensive cohousing described in Creating Cohousing.

This last month I've primarily spent doing user research and interviewing parents. I also think I've got a decent strategy for assembling a founding group of folks who are roughly aligned on a vision and have a little skin in the game (like putting $1k down on a Tesla Model 3). And I identified the questions that need preliminary answers before I shift into execution mode. Exploring these questions via user research and writing will be my next focus, and you can view them here: Web of Questions.

To that end, I've been writing more. I've also been REALLY enjoying a collaborative writing game I adapted from a writing workshop a few years ago with Jasmine W and Taylor R, which I've been calling Writing Sprints. It's simple: two friends spend 1-4 hours together, broken up into 10-55 minute chunks of focused writing, and trade feedback or set goals between sessions. I've tried it in a variety of forms and have learned a few things:

  • It works beautifully for outlining. Explaining a messy body of ideas to a friend forces me to linearize my thoughts and helps me discover what's interesting or confusing.
  • It works OK for writing a first draft. It's better to just exchange goals instead of feedback, as the accountability and focus is more useful than early feedback.
  • It's not particularly helpful for researching new content. I've found that it's less meandering to bring a body of ideas you're ready to write about.

I was also surprised to discover that the context switching wasn't overly disruptive, so long as I made my goals for each deep work session appropriately atomic.

I'd like to spend most of my afternoons in the next month in these writing sessions. If you'd like to try it, I'd loved to do it with you - just DM me! I'm happy to collaborate with pretty much everyone, though preference will be given to people interested in writing about topics relevant to my Web of Questions.


— Jason

PS: comments can go on this public FB post.