10 Wise Writing-Tips I’ve Learned From Blake Powell
I’ve read a lot of writing advice. I’ve read Steven Pinker’s Sense Of Style and Stephen King’s On Writing. Books are my go-to resource, but lately I’ve been reading some helpful blogs right here on Medium.
Blake Powell writes many of those posts. As he says, “I help writers create great art.” Whether they’re from his Medium posts or e-book Bulletproof Writer’s Handbook, here are 10 lessons on writing I’ve learnt from Blake.
They’ll help you create great art.
1. Build a strategy to fight your self-doubt
“Always be mindful of your own doubts and reservations, and develop a solution to move past them.” — Blake Powell
Blake reminds us it is okay to have self-doubts. It’s normal. But it is not okay to let them rule you. They key piece of advice that helps me is to recognize I don’t have to fight against it, I can develop a solution to move around my self-doubt.
One solution I now use (as discussed in the next point) is taking inspiration from others.
2. You don’t always have to draw inspiration from within. You can take it from others.
“Give yourself a healthy dose of inspiration.” —Blake Powell
In The Bulletproof Writer’s Handbook, Blake quotes this scene from Rocky. My favorite line in it is; “You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”
3. Your bio on Twitter doesn’t make you a writer. Writing everyday makes you a writer.
“So every morning look yourself in the mirror and say these simple words: “I’m a writer, and writers write.” — Blake Powell
Many people want to be a writer. Many people think they have interesting ideas and strong opinions that would make them a great writer. That’s a lie. The only thing that can make you a writer is having the discipline to write every damn day.
4. Have a writing room.
“However, I know better now, because now I write in a room I like. Here, the words flow freely even though I have bad days like everybody else, because it’s somewhere where my creativity can thrive.” — Blake Powell
Writing, at least for me, like running 5km is mostly an unpleasant experience. Sure, it feels great when I finish, but it’s a tough slog. Blake used to write on a cheap desk in bad lighting where he could see the TV. But by setting up a new comfortable office he feels “more committed to my craft.”
In creating my own writing room that I keep free from all distractions, writing is still unpleasant — but it’s less unpleasant. And that has helped me become more productive.
5. Know your why.
“‘What is the end-goal I want to meet?’ (Are you writing to release pain, to gain pleasure, or to get money, fame, or for something else? If you know your end destination as a writer, it’ll be easier for your writing to take you there).” — Blake Powell
It doesn’t matter why you’re writing, but it matters you are self-aware enough to recognize your motivation. Why? By focusing on your ‘why’ you can instantly tap into a source of motivation.
Reading Blake’s series How to Be Unstoppable and Write Every Day forced me to articulate my own why. I suggest you do the same.
6. Turn off your internet.
“Turn off your internet before writing. Even better, disconnect the modem entirely. Do you really need it to be a creative machine?” — Blake Powell
The internet is a quick and easy escape from the pain of writing, just as to a junkie heroin is a quick and easy escape from the pain of life. While unlike heroin the internet won’t completely ruin your life, it can ruin your writing career.
The internet is a powerful writing tool. It helps us research. It helps us connect with others. But if we let it get in the way of our actual writing time, the most important thing, all those other benefits are wasted.
7. Create social pressure through public deadlines.
“Like any reasonable writer trying to finish a project that feels out of their control, I started emailing back my readers with a simple statement tagged onto the end. It read something like ‘hey, just so you know, I’ll be uploading this post by Thursday next week and it’ll be all about building a consistent writing habit you can start implementing in your life immediately.’” — Blake Powell
By sharing with his readers when he would release a piece of work he put pressure on himself. Things feel a lot more intense when you know others are counting on you. You’re putting your word and reputation at stake — that gives you no other option than to finish your project.
The deadline is an example of Parkinson’s Law, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”
Relying on peer pressure is hacking our brains. We humans are deeply social creatures. The simple fear of letting our tribe down (and risk being kicked out of that tribe) will motivate us to finish our project.
8. Focus on your behavior not your feelings.
“Be prepared to ignore your feelings (they don’t matter).” — Blake Powell
If we wait until we feel like writing, our page will remain blank. It is better to focus on our behavior and let our feelings follow. We must force ourselves to write, whether we feel like writing or not.
If we’re lucky, by the end of our writing session we may even start to enjoy it.
A successful life comes from behaving first and letting our feelings follow. An unsuccessful life comes from feeling first and letting our behavior follow.
9. Focus on the process and catch up with your dreams later.
“Instead of wanting to be successful, you need to learn to enjoy the process itself. Revel in the act of creation, accept good things will come if you do good work, and just breathe.” — Blake Powell
If I were to focus on being successful I would be miserable. Why? I’m not successful. Yet. But the process is within my control. My discipline is within my control. My appetite for risk is within my control. By focusing on the things I can control — I can succeed at them.
I may not be able to drive a Lamborghini, but I can wake up at 6 a.m and write.
10. Work where you can make a difference.
“I’m doing it for the one or two people who read my content and love it. I’m doing it for those people that will read this and actually take action, not read it and say “Oh, nice article” and then move on to the next one with no hesitations or second thoughts.” —Blake Powell
If you want to make an impact with your writing, you should focus on the people who will then change their behavior. It’s not interest that drives change. It’s action.
I could keep going with this list. The above ten lessons are a fraction of what I have learned. Hopefully they’re a fraction of what I’ll continue to learn. Hopefully they’re a fraction of what you will learn from Blake too.
One last thing I will say; many of his points can make me feel uncomfortable. Do I really want to turn off my internet? No. Is ignoring my feelings and focusing on behaviour easy? Hell no.
But in those moments I think of a quote from Josh Waitzkin, “When uncomfortable my instinct is not to avoid the discomfort but to become at peace with it. My instinct is always to seek out challenges as opposed to avoiding them.”