There’s a lot of bad writing advice out there. From self-declared “thought leaders” on LinkedIn selling e-books to amateur writers passionately telling other novices that they “must write 500 words per day!”, it can be relativity difficult to navigate an already complex landscape.
Write all the time. Pay for webinars. Read more books telling you how to write.
When I published my first article on Medium last September, I immediately felt the spark of excitement that comes with pouring your heart into coherent sentences and then releasing that work for others to dissect, judge, appreciate, and form opinions on. I was hooked, and while desperate to continue creating more content, I often felt somewhat lost. I didn’t know whose advice to trust.
Do I comment on an article everyday?
Do I post an article everyday?
Should I respond to every comment?
Do I need my own blog?
No matter what, I never felt like I was doing enough.
Over the past 8 months, I have collected as many insights as possible from other writers, entrepreneurs, and industry titans. What I’ve determined is rather simple; being authentic and interesting is far more important than writing frequently.
None of the extra fluff really matters if you have nothing compelling to say.
I’d rather read a story riddled with grammar errors about someone making a daring career change or dropping everything to travel the world than a beautifully written article with a click-baity headline promising to provide the secret to becoming a successful writer.
Because the secret to being a great writer starts with understanding that there is no secret to succeeding in this cutthroat profession. Writing is only good when it means something.
Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You
“What they want to hear is, ‘Here’s how you get an agent, here’s how you write a script’…but I always say, ‘Be so good they can’t ignore you.’”- Steve Martin
The reason so many articles go unwritten and books go unpublished is that the author either gets lazy or runs out of things to say. There’s been days where I write a killer headline, find the perfect cover photo, then dive headfirst into the meat of the article and realize that I simply don’t have enough au jus to finish it off.
You can tell when an article is using filler to put more words on a page as the diction gets heavy and the central message starts to water down. I don’t want to publish content everyday for the sake of publishing.
Instead of trying to write more, you should put time and effort into the pre-work. This means establishing a great writing system that aligns comfortably with your commitment level and style. Some people prefer to work in open, loud spaces with background chatter and music. If you’re like myself, you need to keep the distractions at a minimum.
Michael Lewsi, an American financial journalist and bestselling non-fiction author (The Big Short) discussed his writing routine when working:
I pull down the blinds. I put my headset on and play the same soundtrack of twenty songs over and over and I don’t hear them. It shuts everything else out. So I don’t hear myself as i’m writing and laughing and talking to myself. I’m not even aware i’m making noise. I’m having a physical reaction to a very engaging experience. It is not a detached process.
Having a writing routine will keep you honest and consistent. I try and sit down every night at the same table with my noise cancelling headphones, a few books, a notepad, and write from about 9:30 PM to 11:00 PM. My focus isn’t on getting physical words on a page. Sometimes great thoughts and themes present themselves and I can finish an article or two. Sometimes I am mentally drained and instead read a completely unrelated article or work on a different creative project.
There’s been periods where I haven’t published anything for over two weeks due to inevitable circumstances- but my ambition never falters. If you’re so engrossed in publishing every single day, and then miss one post, it can feel like you’re failing and losing all of the ground you had made. It doesn’t have to be that way. Writing should be honest and enjoyable, not an anxious and forced act.
I often find that I have a lot more to talk about after days where I don’t write anyways.
As Ryan Holiday once said, “So if you want to be a writer, put writing on hold for a while”. He recommends doing something interesting to create a unique perspective and voice.
For me, it was joining a new sport in college that let me travel the country and take on a leadership role.
It was trying my hand at freelancing and getting my first gig (writing faux Yelp reviews…). It was starting a book, realizing I was in way over my head, stopping, and then picking it up again with 10x more vigor. It was the years of working for a startup sports drink that rapidly grew before my eyes, and then deciding to walk away for a different opportunity.
It was launching my post-college career, taking a leap of faith on a new job, and building that job into a position where my opinion actually matters within the company.
The experiences I’ve had mean far more to me than any writing workshop or daily word count ever will. This might not be the right approach or the most intellectual route, but I know that writing in itself is the easy part.
The hard part is creating work that actually matters to someone.
Join the next generation of hybrid writers who are ready to take over the internet one word, one sentence, one story at a time.