The Power of Showing Up — What I’ve Learned From Two Years of Writing
Read this if you’re interested in becoming a writer
I’ve been writing for two years now.
When I started, I had no idea I’d write as much as I have or accomplish as much as I have.
I had a burning desire to unleash the thoughts I had stirring around in my head. I thought about writing for far too long before I decided to put words on the page.
The problem was I didn’t exactly know how to do it. I knew a little bit about blogs, but I had no idea how to set one up for myself. I skimmed through a couple articles about self-publishing. It seemed awesome enough, but the idea of doing it for real seemed far-fetched.
How My Writing Career Started
I had a tendency to write small essays as Facebook statuses. It was my mental and creative outlet. I’d post about what I was reading, insights I gained, and encouraging words I thought would help my friends.
One of my friends took notice and saw something in me. He was working on a startup — a news website — and he wanted me to write for it.
The first time I wrote was like the first time you hit a crack pipe. Finally, someone had given me the permission I was unable to give myself.
The writing itself sucked at first, but I didn’t care. I was like a rabid dog let out of a cage. I had a lot to say, and I continued to say it to anyone who would listen.
In the span of two years, I’ve written hundreds of blog posts and two books. In total I’d say I’ve written at least half a million words. At two years in, I haven’t even scratched the surface of what I’m capable of, so I continue to show up because I know I’d be doing a disservice to myself — and potentially other people — if I didn’t.
You can start writing today. You can show up today. I want to give you the permission my friend gave me.
It’s strange, how so many of us have this burning desire to put words on the page, but get stuck and trapped in fear and self-doubt.
If I had to pick one reason for procrastination when it comes to writing, I’d choose arrogance — the fact that we place ourselves at the center of the universe instead of realizing we play an infinitesimal role in in.
The Universe Doesn’t Care About You
The main reason people don’t write is because they’re scared. Scared of failure, what their friends will say, or being trolled and subject to scrutiny online.
It’s arrogant really, because when you’re afraid for these types of reasons you’re putting yourself at the center of the universe.
When we’re afraid, we feel like the spotlight is on us. That the world will be ready to pounce on us as soon as we make a mistake. We falsely believe our mental projections have any bearing in reality.
If you decide to publish a post on Medium today and it sucks, nobody will care. They’ll move onto the next blip-in-the-universe-4-minute read.
You can write an entire catalog of books that fail until one does well. James Altucher’s 18th book sold more than all of his previous books combined, and no one cares about his earlier duds. Also, like the rest of us, James will be lost in the expanse of time. But he’ll be able to say he used his time well.
You’ll be able to say that too, if you’d just get over yourself.
Like the famous line in Shawshank says, “You can get busy livin’ or get busy dyin.”
The clock is ticking, and nothing you do matters per se, except it matters to you. The only real risk you face is your own inaction and the regrets it will bring.
When you look at the stars in the sky at night, you’re looking at light that takes thousands of years to reach you. Some of the stars you “see,” are already dead.
In the infinite space you occupy, your moment has kind of already passed.
You’re still breathing, sure, but the universe has already moved on, and in relative terms you’ll be dead very very soon.
I’d been struggling with my writing lately, but then I realized how arrogant I was being in putting myself at the center. Instead of wasting my time stuck in paralysis, I got back to doing what I love.
I try to internalize my own insignificance as much as possible.
I’m a dot, a blip, a fleeting moment. I could waste the time I have worrying about what will come of my writing or I can mash this damn keyboard until my fingers get tired every day, because it’s what I love to do.
The only person in your way is you. Nobody cares about you. Get going.
The Magic of Showing Up
Your first blog post is going to suck, so will your second, third, fourth, and fifth.
I’ll look at this post a year from now and think it’s bad. That’s okay.
I’ll never be an amazing writer who pens everything perfectly, but the more I show up, the better I get.
All the while, I’m learning new things about myself and the world around me.
Showing up often forces you to exercise your brain. It teaches you skills you can use in other areas of your life. When you write often enough, you’ll start to become thirsty for more knowledge you can use in your writing.
A magnificent obsession turns into a cycle of improvement.
If you write every day for a year, you won’t just be a better writer, you’ll be a different person.
I’m not one for mysticism, but when you show up and keep putting your work out there, good things start to happen. You make new connections, people reach out to you, opportunities start to present themselves.
I’ve made money in several ways I didn’t know were possible before I started writing. I’ve met smart and influential people who act as confidants and mentors.
I don’t know where the road will turn next, but I know if I keep showing up, I’ll be able to look back on what I’ve done and smile.
Writing is a “walk by faith not by sight,” adventure. You don’t know what will happen, but if you think about it, doesn’t persistence lead to positive outcomes more often than not?
You Can Start Showing Up Today
Medium is the pound for pound champion of platforms for writers.
It’s like a playground for your imagination, a dojo for your writing skills, and a laboratory for getting feedback on your work.
I’ve seen people find freelance work, get book deals, and get featured in major media publications through Medium.
More importantly, I’ve seen several writers get better. I’ve seen people go from insecure and tepid to confident commanders of language.
Writing is mental exercise and your creative muscles grow when you show up.
What should you write about? Anything you find interesting. Maybe we’ll find it interesting too.
Still, that’s not the point. The point is that your job in this world is to make yourself useful in whatever avenue piques your curiosity. If that’s writing, you should write.
The chances of your sperm cell reaching the egg and your relative importance in the world is one to an almost infinite number.
Get over yourself, and more importantly, get started.