The Challenge Isn't Writing. It's Learning to Look
Look with your special eyes
It doesn’t take a big change to look at things differently.
Last December, on a dawn walk on the beach in Wilmington, NC with my Mom and my son, the outbound tide was perfectly timed to let me see sand I’d never seen before.
I had to explore it.
Phone in hand, I hopped over tidal pools and rivulets, going farther and farther out—just because I could. Water and wind were all I could hear. The occasional seagull overhead.
I was born in Wilmington. But I’d never been on that end of the beach, nor out there at that time of day.
And that morning, a place I’ve seen my whole life as routine was totally different. Extraordinary.
Two tiny changes = a whole new view.
So much of learning to look is just small changes. Different angles.
A while back, Todd Brison tweeted a question: did anyone ever go back to their bookmarks?
They seem like such an afterthought. A way to look at something later, used without strategy.
The Twitter equivalent of something pinned up with a fridge magnet.
But bookmarks and lists are two small changes that can help you see Twitter as less time vampire, and more creative partner.
Years ago I had a folder. It was called “Bookmarks.” I dumped things into it and scrolled it a few times a year to catch up.
What a waste.
Bookmarks are a key player in your curation system: whatever it is you’re building, learning, or looking to remember, they can help.
All you have to do is set up folders. For example, here are mine:
Funnies: just what it sounds like. I have an 11 y/o son and things often get put here to share with him.
Learned / Loved / Curious (not shown): as you’d guess, one of the ways I spark thinking every week for my time here with you.
Poetry: I’m picky but when I see a good one I want to save it. Side note: if you like poetry too, follow Dr. Maya C. Popa.
Resources: anything helpful for learning or improvement goes here. I review these once a week, and do one of three things:
Add the topic or learning to my to-do list
Make adjustments to my system if it’s a simple tweak
Delete the bookmark (if you decide it’s not a fit after all)
Do you use bookmarks differently? What did I miss?
Using lists was one of those things that, when I learned about it, both felt like an epiphany and something awfully obvious I should have known sooner.
Here’s what to do:
Decide the lists you want
Add accounts to lists (whether or not you follow them)
Pin those lists so they show at the top of your feed
Scroll your lists instead of the “For You” algorithm feed
This way, you see only the accounts you want, broken up by the reasons you want to see them. Here are my pinned lists:
Anchor Accounts: large accounts whose content I might want to see or engage with, either to learn or to broaden my audience.
Web3 Anchors: I have a side gig moderating a web3 community, so these are accounts to help me stay abreast of that space.
My Interests: my interests, plain and simple. Science, books, poetry, art, humor. Things I love but may not engage with go here.
Like Me: accounts similar to me and size and interest, that I don’t want to lose in the feed of big accounts.
Engage: midrange accounts I might also want to engage with.
Don’t let Twitter’s algorithm decide everything you see.
Use lists to look at only what you want.
Diversify what you consume—
And consume with intent—
and you’ll find ideas you never expected.
The more you look, the more you’ll see. Two supporting statements from physics and theatre:
Light is thus nothing more than a rapid vibration of the spiderweb of Faraday’s lines, which ripple like the surface of a lake as the wind blows . . . If we see a child playing at the beach, it is only because between him and ourselves there is this lake of vibrating lines that transport his image to us. Is the world not marvelous?
Peter Shafer, “Equus”
Every time I watch Silo I pinky swear with the show.
Watching anything, reading anything—I make pinky swears.
Be worth it, I think.
But when things aren’t worth it, we don’t always know quite why. If we’re paying attention—really looking—maybe we find an unexpected idea that opens up a whole new way of thinking.
Just by looking at it differently, through the lens of a term I’d only recently learned, Silo taught me something important about how to define “worth it.”
Here’s a book to help you learn to really look at what you read:
The Art of X-Ray Reading: How the Secrets of 25 Great Works of Literature Will Improve Your Writing. It digs into things you probably missed in grade school about famous books whose authors include:
F. Scott Fitzgerald
This is a slow read for me, since I didn’t enjoy most of these books the first time around.
But learning to look—really look—is a developed skill.
We lose nothing, and gain so much, by understanding more about how to use words to move people.
Bonus links before you go
Here’s what a few other people saw, when they looked with special eyes:
🧠 and ❤️