Write like a Plumber. Tyler Cowen’s interview with Ross Douthat

Conversations with Tyler is my must listen podcast.

Tyler’s interviews have introduced me to disciplines I’d never consider exploring.

He speaks with urban planners, novelists, economists, tennis players, journalists, doctors – an incredible array of minds.

The final part of his interviews is called the Production Function. It’s where he asks his subject – What’s your productivity secret?

I found journalist Ross Douthat’s response helpful:

But there is a sense in which writing a column is — it’s like you’re a plumber. The toilet has to be fixed, so you fix the toilet. The column has to be written, so you write the column…

On approaching journalism with a tradesman’s mindset:

But journalism is a trade, right? I mean there is obviously an intellectual component. And we wouldn’t have been able to sit here and have this conversation with me babbling at you if I didn’t have intellectual pretensions. But the work of journalism — this is less true in the age of the internet — but it is linked to a very physical thing that comes out every week, or every month, or every day, and it comes out and it has to be filled.

And when there’s space to be filled, you write the column:

There is a place on the New York Times, on the printed New York Times, that would be blank or have an ad stuck on it if I didn’t write my column. And so you write the column. You write the column. And it’s useful for journalists to think about it this way — it’s useful for anyone inclined to over-romanticize or over-admire journalists to think about it this way.

On not sitting around waiting to become the next George R.R. Martin:

Certainly I like to imagine that — or at least something that sold as well as George R. R. Martin. But it also might be the case that if I had spent my life sitting around with my unfinished novels, I never would have produced anything interesting. And so it’s better to be a tradesman, and that’s at least part of how I think about my job.

Listen to the interview in its entirety here

Or read the transcript here

The Struggle

BRIAN KOPPELMAN: Was it important to you to become a better writer?


KOPPELMAN: Like, were you aware of that? Like I want to be better at this?

HILL: It was, it was everything.

KOPPELMAN: See this is huge for people cause’ everyone’s always asking how do I get connected? How do I get an agent? How do I get the next thing? That’s only like this much of it. Little tiny bit of it.

HILL: Yeah.

KOPPELMAN: The thing is like, how do I get good?

HILL: Correct.

KOPPELMAN: How do I keep going? And so you attacked that part with rigor you think?

HILL: Yeah, that was, I mean, I’m such a journalism nerd in general, but a writing nerd also, and so I was forever trying to connect, you know, how do I find my voice, you know, I acted like you know, I was a detective looking for it not realizing.

KOPPELMAN: So inspiring.

HILL: Yeah.

KOPPELMAN: You were consciously trying to find…

HILL: Oh totally.

KOPPELMAN: What’s my original sound?

HILL: Yes, yes.

KOPPELMAN: How do I get the sound in my head, the sound that’s with my friends. I mean you know, it’s what Emerson, Ralph Emerson talked about, like if you, you know, the secret voice that you hear, that you know is out there. That if you can somehow get that expressed.

HILL: That was my struggle.

KOPPELMAN: The battle all writers go through.

HILL: That was my struggle.

Attention writing nerds! Journalism nerds! Story nerds! Nerd nerds!

Brian Koppleman’s The Moment interview with Jemele Hill is on point. Encouragement and truth, all in around an hour.

Listen to conversation in full.

Writer’s Inspiration

“When I took this decision, I imagined, “OK, what’s the worst possible scenario? What can the worst happen to me?” In that time, my books were not like they are now. They were handmade, photocopied books, just a bunch of A4-size papers stapled together, and I would sell them around in bars and hostels.

I decided, OK, it cannot get worse than that. If the worst possible scenario is I would be an old hippie going around Southeast Asia, sharing inspiration with his younger travelers and making a living out of it, welcome. I can go for that. It will look nice in my biography. After that, I never again had fears of the future, retirement.”

Juan Pablo Villarino


An excerpt from Tyler Cowen‘s interview with travel writer Juan Pablo Villarino.

Read the transcript or listen here.


Football Pods – The Sumptuous Six


The modern radio show reigns supreme. Give these six dandies a listen.

Men in Blazers – If Walt Whitman, Lena Dunham and Richard Pryor had two football obsessed lovechilds this would be their podcast. Vulnerable and insightful, U.K. expats Mike Davies and Rog Bennett bring an American perspective on the EPL and a British outlook on MLS, complete with a pair of irresistible accents. Their analysis reveal poetic truths while reminding us why we love football to begin with. And when you hear the pffffsssttt of Guinness cans you know you’re about to enter a football pleasure dome that will massage your eardrums.

Football In Europe – Newest to the bunch. Like a high speed rail, Rob Daly and Chris Parrott will take you on a tight, humor packed tour through Europe’s top leagues. Along the way you may find yourself sharing a cabin car and sipping tea with top football minds Dermot Corrigan and Andy Brassell.

Hand of Pod – Brilliant name. Brilliant show. Hosted each week by the peerless Sam Kelly, Hand of Pod feels like you’re hanging out in Buenos Aires under a dim kitchen light talking football with your friends – if your friends were Argentine football experts. Hand of Pod is a reminder there’s wonderful chaotic football bleeding and breathing outside of Europe.

The Football Ramble – The Sunday League team of football pods. The fabulous 4 of Jim, Pete, Luke, and Marcus, turn the redundant football podcast format into a weekly variety show featuring strange travels to hair islands, provocative questions and highlights of the week. And if M. Speller is feeling spicy you’ll journey north to the Scottish Premiership for some darts and dallies of his beloved Hearts.

The Game – Cerebral.Dignified.Revealing. Gab Marcotti and friends bring both the human and tactical elements of the English Premier League to light. Also, it’s the only pod that includes a qualified referee, a handsome renaissance man and two previous top flight players. Friendly tension drives the show with each guest bringing conviction and thought to the forum. Plus they have the best super sub in all of football podcasts – Max Rushden.

The Spanish Football Podcast – Come for the weekly La Liga analysis and stay for the shit jokes. Sid get-Lowe baby and Big Phil Kitromilides bring you all the La Liga happenings, without things completely turning into a Real Madrid or Barcelona podcast. Take them on a date, and if you enjoy their company buy them a coffee here.

Football Weekly – Podcast godfather (no he really is. Pick up his book Podcast Master) Producer Ben spinning on the ones’ and twos’ provides top production value for each week’s lineup of world eleven football writers. Legends like Horncastle, A.C. Jimbo and Glendenning grace the mike, waxing you with football knowledge and making even the worst Mondays bearable.

There’s plenty of footie pods to devour each week. More than you likely have time for. But whether you’re walking the dogs or groping a metal tube pole on the way home from work any of these six podcasts will make life a joy, for 45 minutes or so.