Jesper Bylund, Co-Founder of BlankPage: 'There’s nothing I’ve been helped by more than reading'
If you’re an aspiring author, struggling to turn writing into a habit and finish your first book draft, BlankPage might be just what you need.
BlankPage is a writing tool and motivational service that has helped thousands of writers since it was launched, guiding them through the writing process, keeping them motivated to write every day.
It was developed by Jesper Bylund, an experienced UX designer and front-end developer living in Stockholm, Sweden. He started making websites since he was a teenager, did video game design for a few years, and switched to working on web apps in 2010.
BlankPage started as a tool that would help one of Jesper’s friends write more and finish their first manuscript. Jesper saw it as a challenge and hoped that his experience from game design and motivational psychology could be of use – and it sure was!
We had the opportunity to talk to Jesper about the books that an impact on him: the most important ones he ever read, the ones he’d recommend to young people, and even the ones that saved him from the brink of depression.
What’s your favorite book and why? Business and non-business, if possible.
My favorite book on business is Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Which might be a little cliche. But for me it’s exciting because it really reaches the fundamentals of what all business is about; discovering ways to create value for people.
My favorite fiction book however is The Truth by Terry Pratchett. It’s a fantastic fantasy satire in which the printing press is just being invented, and all the political upheaval that is caused by it. You’ll laugh out loud. Trust me on this.
Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you? Can you tell me about it?
There’s nothing I’ve been helped by more than reading. That also makes it hard to narrow down…
One of the most important books I’ve ever read is A Theory of Fun by Raph Koster. It creatively describes how “fun” is created and what it is. Which might sound trivial, but as a designer and developer of tools, this is by far the most important design principle I’ve discovered. Basically, why would you do anything if it wasn’t fun? Thankfully, this book describes how to make anything fun.
What books had the biggest impact on you? (perhaps changed the way you see things, dramatically changed your career path)
I grew up in Sweden, which was a very socialist country and in some ways still is. So I had a very warped view of how the world worked, and I felt hemmed in and caged by it. Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged saved me from what I think was certain depression. The book has not aged well, and is usually misrepresented, but growing up close to the iron curtain it clearly described why some of the odd things in centralized organizations and governments work the way they work.
What books would you recommend to youngsters interested in your professional path? Why? (no number limit here)
There are so many. But I’d start with some easy classics that get you excited about what you can do in the world: Rich Dad, Poor Dad & The 4 Hour Workweek I think are excellent places to begin.
I’m interested in finding out more about your reading habits. How often do you read? In what format?
I read every day, ranging from 1 to 3 hours depending on how much I procrastinate. I read mostly on my kindle, but I also get through quite a few articles on whichever screen I’m closest to at the time.
How do you make time for reading?
I read every night before I go to bed. But I also try to make time to read 1-3 interesting things every day. We’re surrounded by so many information sources, so just pick something you’d like to learn more about and set aside 20 minutes every day. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you consume information.
Do you take notes or have any other technique for conquering the torrent of information?
I copy everything I think is actionable or worth being reminded of into my commonplace system. Basically I use Bear.app and a ton of tags to save everything that’s ever been interesting. But I also try to be very discerning. It is a torrent. And we’re not doing ourselves any favors by adding notes to it. Keep it simple. Keep it actionable.
How do you choose what books to read next?
I used to have a long list. But I recently realized making lists of things to read is just vanity. So now whenever I finish a book I try to look at which topic interests me and find a well talked about book on the subject. I still get many recommendations from podcasts and friends.
Do you prioritize those recommended by certain people? Is there anyone that you consider a book-recommendations guru?
Definitely. Some thinkers are just more interesting than others. Anything Naval Ravikant recommends I will read.
Last question: what book are you currently reading and what are you expecting to gain from it?
I’m currently reading Hitch 22 by the late, and amazing, Christopher Hitchens. And I’m expecting to be blown away, because he was a spectacular author. But I have no idea how. Not sure what the book is really about. He’s just that good.
Links where you can follow Jesper Bylund or find out more about his projects:
All books mentioned by Jesper Bylund in this interview:
- Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
- The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Tim Ferriss
- Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
- Hitch 22 by Christopher Hitchens
- Theory of Fun for Game Design by Raph Koster
- The Truth by Terry Pratchett