How to Not Suck at Writing Episode #7: What I’ve Learned From Seven Years of Writing
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I’ve been writing for seven years.
I’ve learned a ton along the way.
I wanted to make sure I had a good amount of experience as a writer before I taught others how to do it, and my half-decade-long practice of the craft prior to teaching has led to a handful of useful insights.
Today, I’ll share a few with you.
The 80/20 Rule of Writing
The first 20 percent of your writing career accounts for 80 percent of your results. Once you make it past the first 20 percent of the journey the rest is just a literal matter of time.
At the beginning of your career, you have to fight against inertia. You have to fight against the resistance that keeps you from sitting down and writing every day.
Everything is hard and the prospect of building a writing career seems overwhelming.
You have to learn new technology, get good at writing, and learn how to market yourself. Nobody knows who you are and you have to break through newbie status and start building a bit of an audience.
My advice for you if you’re in the first 20 percent of your journey: grit your teeth and get through this part. I promise it’ll get easier. You’ll still have to do the work, but everything won’t be as confusing.
You Need to Solve Your Traffic Problem
You shouldn’t start a WordPress blog and just post articles there because there’s no way for people to find them. You can write articles that rank on search engines, but that still takes 6–12 months to kick in and it’ll take longer if you don’t have a website with strong authority.
Instead, you want to post your work to places that already have readers.
My favorites are:
- Medium — You can write long-form articles, get paid, and build your audience all at the same time. It’s my favorite option because I prefer long-form over short-form. I think it’s easier to go from long form to short form than it is to go from short form to long form,
- Twitter — I am bullish on Twitter and it’s the primary social media channel I use for writing. Often, I take popular sentences from My Medium posts and repurpose them for Twitter. I like Twitter best because it has capabilities with Medium because the founder of Medium was a co-founder of Twitter.
- Substack — I write a weekly substack newsletter that helps creators of all types build their audience and make money online. Right now, Substack doesn’t have a ton of discoverability, which just means a way for random readers to find you, like Medium or Twitter, but I’m betting that discoverability will grow.
- LinkedIn — I don’t spend as much time on LinkedIn as the other platforms, but a lot of people love it and writers are getting a lot of organic traffic, which means random people finding your writing without having to pay for it.
If I were starting my writing career from scratch I would:
- Write 2–4 articles on Medium
- Tweet or post something on LinkedIn daily
- Keep a weekly Substack letter
I ranked those in the order I’d prioritize them, and I’d also drop whatever made me feel overwhelmed, which leads to my next point.
You Can’t Do Everything at Once
FOMO in the writing world is real.
You see everyone going viral on all these different platforms and you’re tempted to try them all at once. You have a Medium profile, a Twitter, LinkedIn, a Substack an Instagram, a YouTube channel, and a Tik Tok account. You’re doing long-form and short-form writing, video, and audio.
You’re trying to be everywhere at once and it’s hard.
Either that or you’re trying to focus on a platform or two but you get distracted because you go online and see everybody winning and going viral all over the place.
This mental tension keeps you from ever getting good on one platform,
Even as a full-time writer, I have a hard time posting all over the place, and I have all of my time available to do it. Those big guns you see with content everywhere have teams of people working for them. They have the money to pay people to edit and repurpose their work all over the web.
Pick one social media platform to dominate. If you have some time left over to repurpose content, fine, but don’t put yourself under a bunch of pressure to do so.
Speaking of viral influencers, there’s a little secret to their success you don’t know about.
You Need to be a Part of Inner Circles
When you see the same people going viral on social media over and over again, there’s a reason for it.
Their writer friends are helping them promote their writing. They’re re-tweeting, commenting, clapping, sharing on social, and sending out their friends’ content to their email lists.
There are private networks and secret mastermind groups you know nothing about.
At one point, I was in a private mastermind with literally every big name on Medium you can think of. We shared trade secrets, did business deals together, and promoted each other’s work.
If I want to launch a book or promote a product, I know dozens of people I could reach out to for help.
Here’s how you build a network…
Are you ready for the secret?
You have to work hard to get good at your craft so other writers naturally notice you. Once your name starts to pop up over and over again, you’ll attract like-minded writers or you’ll be able to reach out to writers you want to get to know because you’re familiar.
Experienced writers want to see other writers win. We know what it’s like to be on the come up so we will spend some time with you and help you, but you have to help yourself first.
If you do the work, you’re guaranteed to have a network of writers to help you along the way.
You Need to Find a Way to Stand Out
You might want to write in a certain niche but you’re afraid to because it’s saturated.
I start my writing career by writing about self-improvement, which is the most saturated niche you can think of. Now I am in the writing advice space, which might be the second most saturated niche out there.
Writing online keeps growing in popularity, so how do you stand a chance of standing out?
First things first, you can stand out in saturated niches just by waiting out the competition. Most people who try to start writing online quit fast. Each year, 90 percent of the writers who started will quit. Every five years, 99 percent of the writers who started will quit.
The writers with the biggest followings who make the money most are the ones who kept writing and never quit.
Second, you stand out in a saturated niche by the way you position yourself. You want to be known for having a certain style or angle you use compared to others writers.
I developed my style by doing the work, which is what you need to do, but there are a few ways you can start thinking about how to position yourself:
- Think about some of the things you disagree with in your niche
- Talk about your life experiences and stories in your writing because they’re the only things others can’t copy
- Find a smaller subset of your niche you want to focus on so you can become the go-to person in your space, e.g., personal development with an emphasis on mindfulness
Don’t get too bogged down in having the perfect positioning for your writing.
Above all else, focus on getting the writing out there.
Once you get started and build momentum, time flies quickly.
You’ll look up to see you have a bunch of fans, a healthy amount of cash in your bank account, and the peace of knowing you had a dream to become a writer and you pulled it off.
The sooner you start, the closer you’ll get to the place you’ve probably wanted to be in for a very long time.
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