Your Questions Answered

Recently, I’ve been asked a few questions, about things I use / do in my work.

I answered the questions directly, then thought it might be useful to share those answers more widely. Here they are.

What do you use to edit video?

The simplest thing I use to edit video (just cutting things out, not doing anything decorative or fancy, or clever) is a desktop Mac app called MPEG Streamclip, from which I made the screenshot above, featuring Kris Dyer.

How to use it? I highlight the bit of video I want to keep and press “trim” (leaving only that bit), and/or highlight the bits I don’t want and press “cut”.

How do you manage your different guises (artist, writer etc)?

Edit: This question was about the awkwardness of sharing things beyond the narrowly professional identity that we sometimes create for ourselves.

I too feel uncomfortable sharing things that are a bit different from what I’ve shared before, and sometimes I take them down / hide them / run away screaming.

But usually I realise that the world hasn’t ended, and probably nobody even noticed.

How do you record podcast interviews?

The simplest way to record them is on Zoom. I then upload the audio file to Anchor, where it is extremely easy to create a free account.

You can cut the audio within Anchor, once you’ve uploaded it, and add jingles and sound effects etc – but if you want to make the sound quality slightly better, you might run it through Audacity (desktop Mac app, pictured below) before uploading it to Anchor.

Again, it’s not particularly complicated. I usually apply the “effect” called compressor (to even out the quiet and loud levels) and maybe through the effect called leveller (ditto).

It’s also very easy to cut audio on Audacity, using the same process as described above, re video.

How do you approach writing a book proposal?

I think the most important thing is to start with a powerful sense of the book (I gave a couple of thousand words, maybe up to 5,000, that more or less became the beginning of my book).

Then write a bit about what you actually want the book to achieve, who the readers are.

In my last proposal I dropped in a list of some other books in the same space, noting what they do well and what they don’t do (to indicate that there’s still room for mine). I put tons of books here, but Jaime (my agent) said I didn’t need them all.

Finally I gave a breakdown of the chapters. The table of contents has to be persuasive, show an arc, Jaime told me. You should aim to get it right, but the editors know it will likely change. (It did.)

How did you write your first book?

I wrote some bits of a book, and sent them to an editor, hoping that he would say yes, here’s lot of money.

But he kept asking for more bits of book, and still more.

Eventually I’d written about half of it, and I more or less knew what I was doing – and he left his job, so I went to another publisher and they said, here’s a little bit of money. And I finished writing my first book.

What makes an effective website?

I personally like a website where I can follow my interests easily, where there’s a rabbit hole or two for me to fall down, and I suppose I would also feel quite excited if I knew there was likely to be more and more interesting stuff coming soon (because then I’d want to return).

What this means, is that a website that attracts me is one that has some fixed, apparently timeless material in it – like a library – but also the turnover and novelty of a newspaper.

Edit: I should add that I’m currently investigating how to create more rabbit holes on my own website. One obvious way is to use links to related ideas, similar posts (see below). And to be clear: there’s nothing wrong with being obvious.

I’d like you to teach me drawing…

Name a time!

Edit: we have put a time in our calendars.

How to plan a podcast?

I did originally draw up a long list of people I’d like to talk to, but didn’t want that to be binding, because binding can become a burden. (Ooh, lots of lovely alliteration.)

I tend to find that somebody often just pops into my head when needed, usually because whatever I did before has prompted me to think of something closely related / opposite.

Also, the sheer fact that there is a podcast creates an opportunity, so other people sometimes recommend possible guests.

I should probably try to sound a bit more professional about “how to prepare” but, again, I tend to trust that if I’m having a conversation with somebody I’m interested in, everything will be fine.

This is not as risky as it may sound: I can (and do) also cut out bits of the audio.

Having said that, I did prepare before I went on somebody else’s podcast.

The people who asked me these questions are the same people for whom I wrote this, about how I manage tasks, appointments and ideas.

Thank you for your questions. Please don’t hesitate to ask more / each other.