Author and projecteer Steve Sammartino talks LEGO, zeitgeists and lightbulbs.

Steve Sammartino is now relieved that he can call himself “an author”. Because it’s just a lot easier to explain than his actual life as a “projecteer” – juggling many projects at once, from organic egg farms as a child to marketing roles, advertising agencies, countless successful start-ups, blogging to thousands about business and some crazy shenanigans such as building a Lego space shuttle that actually went into space – and full sized Lego car that actually drives (he likes Lego)…

But now that he’s written The Great Fragmentation, he can call himself an author. Much easier.
In episode 30 of our top-rating podcast, So you want to be a writer, Valerie Khoo had a chat with Steve. Here are some highlights from this eminently quotable human being:

Steve on modern business where big isn’t always better:

“All of the main factors of production are getting smaller, so smaller technology, smaller processes, highly distributed systems. What that means is that small business has as much chance to do well as big business did because all of the factors of production are being democratised and available.”

On the subject of his book, the technology revolution:

“We’re going through a shift really akin to the industrial revolution, only this time it’s three times bigger.”

On why he wanted to write a book:

“I thought that all of the books I was reading were too thin…I really felt as though there was a need for something that really had the breadth of looking at all of the pieces of the puzzle and summarising how they’re different from the industrial era to the technology era.”

On his often unorthodox approach and smart risk-taking:

“I think the one thing for aspiring authors out there is that while there are rules, and often we have to follow them, we can ask the question and say, “Can we do this a different way?” If we can point out to the other party how that might be a benefit to them.”

On ensuring your publisher pitch is perfect from the start:

“We so very often hear about authors who have gone onto to become best-sellers globally, where they say, “I went to 20 publishers before someone accepted me,” or 50 publishers, and I’m starting to wonder whether the reason that their book didn’t get agreed to be published was because they weren’t very good at pitching. It took them 20 times to learn about pitching, and get good at that, before someone bought into it, rather than the book idea not being right or finding the right person.”

On how to get publishers to notice your book idea:

“I think having a clear narrative, like really being able to explain it in a couple of sentences so they can see the start, the middle, and the end is really important. The other thing that I think they’re looking for is, and I don’t use this word very often – zeitgeist – if they can see where it fits, certainly from the business perspective, but even from a storytelling or pop culture perspective or a political viewpoint, if they can see how this has a sense of fitting with ideas the world is exploring at the moment, then I think they’re more open, they’re more attentive to that idea.”

On his publisher’s three month deadline:

“I was panicking. I thought, ‘Three months. That’s nothing, Steve. I can write 60,000 words in three months. I wrote 1,000 a day on my blog.’ Most days on my blog I’ll do 500 words or 1,000 words. I did the old calculation… ‘Well, if I divide 1,000 by 60, that’s only two months’. Then Christmas came, then January came, party time, then I wrote 80,000 words in five weeks. I went a little bit over as well, which was a bit silly of me. But, I didn’t see a friend or family or anything for about five weeks. I was hiding away in a dark room writing.

On the square peg, round hole of writing and deadlines:

“I really think we need to use all of the time available. It’s easy to psych yourself out with deadlines, and to break it down into chunks by day, but I don’t think writing works that way. We need to understand at various points in time we get flow, you get that natural flow, and that’s a non-linear process. If we start straightaway then we give ourselves more chances for those flow days to occur. But, if you leave it too late then you’re kind of opening yourself up to in some ways creative risk, and I think the best way to reduce creative risk is to start straightaway. Then whenever the moment happens you’ve just got to stop and go with that moment.”

On burning calories to light those bulbs:

“My view is I have my best ideas often when I’m exercising. I’m convinced that oxygen flow and the energy from exercise helps you find that stuff that’s inside your mind. Jogging and exercise I think are a super big part of me finding those little bits of inspiration. The ideas are in there, what you need is that connection of oxygen and energy, just seeing different things, being in a different environment sometimes I think opens up the ideas.”

Advice for aspiring writers:

“Don’t think of yourself as a writer. If I were writing in science-fiction I would think of myself as Captain Kirk or a scientist and what I would want science to be like or what I would like science to invent and then tell that story. I think if we can remove ourselves from the ‘W’ word, because it gets all scary, being a writer, then I think it becomes easier to write.”

Love Steve’s advice? Share it around:

Steve quote

To read the entire transcript of this interview, see our shownotes for Episode 30. You can also check out Steve’s book here.


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