Shit (and Sometimes Okay) writing.
This article is about me trying to create again. Or in this case, specifically about me trying to write good stuff by writing a lot (of bad stuff.)
This year, I started this publication with the intent to post a new article every week and I did…
For the first couple of weeks.
Then I stopped.
Since March, I have had a sporadic posting schedule. Posting once in April, once in May, twice in June (which was one article broken into two posts), once in July and zero times in August and September. You get the drift. The consistency I was aiming for has long since flown out the window and that was partly because I might have jumped into this project with wide-eyed naivete.
Writing and publishing the quality of articles (very good) I want to, at the length I want them to be (10 — 20 minutes) on the topics I am interested in (there are a lot) isn’t as easy as I thought it would be. It got especially harder when I took up a fulltime job so I could survive and feed myself (we will come back to that at the end of this post)
At the same time, while I have fallen terribly short of my New Year resolution to write 50 articles on this content site (this is number 16), I have already this year out written myself in comparison to other years. It would take you roughly 163 minutes to read everything I have published on this publication this year and that accounts for only about half of my total medium posts this year.
Needless to say: I have written a lot.
I like to think that I have always written a lot but in truth, I haven’t always written this much and more specifically, I haven’t shared nearly this much. This year, I experienced a shift in mindset where I was willing to think of something, write it and then share it.
The fear I had to be overcome for that to happen was:
“A lot of people think you need to be writing or talking about something important and meaningful. For you to do something, that thing needs to be important, it needs to stand for something.”
The thing about me now and for a long time is that most things I want to do, I only do because I feel like they are cool. When I first started writing and I compared my writing to writings of people who were getting published in places, those stories were thought-provoking. You could talk about what the story meant, who the protagonist was and what they stood for. My stories, on the other hand, weren’t deep and intellectual, they were things I thought were cool. Oh, it would be cool to write about Artificial Intelligence, oh it would be cool to write about someone with Bipolar disorder. With every story rejection I got, I tried to adjust what I wrote to make it more likely to get accepted and at the same time, it felt like I was changing who I was and what I wrote. Rejection meant, I wrote differently and thought differently. At some point, it meant that the cool things I thought to write didn’t feel good enough to even share.
What has changed?
As someone who (likes to write) calls himself a writer, I have seriously considered doing freelance. I still consider doing freelance but in my previous search, I haven’t quite been able to settle in. Here’s why:
The most popular tip to becoming a freelance writer is picking a niche. Everyone says that one, you need to decide the one topic you want to write about. This year, I have written about space, the origin of a phrase, the population of the world, the psychology of road rage and so on. It is obvious that I am not big on settling down. Probably why I have such terrible commitment issues.
Another pretty popular freelance tip is “you’ve got to hustle.” You have got to be able to write 5 articles in one day. That’s the way you can be a successful freelance writer bringing in the dough. As we can all attest to, I can barely keep up with one article a week.
Freelance hasn’t felt very wired into the writing I want to do, (Don’t get me wrong, I am available oo. Book me!) I want to be in control of what I write and when I write it. Which isn’t a recipe for success in writing. Writers who go around wanting things often end up broke and homeless and that’s why I got that fulltime job that took away time for me to write what I wanted. A paradoxical situation.
But this year, I have consumed a lot of content from other content creators on the internet. The thing that got me about these creators was that they were creating for themselves. They weren’t freelancing in the shadows. They were doing their own shit and they were not dying of hunger. Which of course led me to believe that I too could become a writer whose primary content was controlled by his mind and also was getting fed by that writing. How do I become that? How do I gain the visibility and following that all these other creators have? Well, they were creating trendable things so that’s what I had to do. I had to write something that would trend. Except of course I didn’t know what would trend.
In my years reading on the internet, I have only ever seen one written story really trend and that’s Cat Person by Kristen Roupenian. Creating a trend or going viral is really tricky especially in today’s world where everyone is trying to go viral. There are some people who are viral making machines but going viral is totally accidental 60% of the time. No one knew Cat person was going to get so big but it did. How do I create something that 1000 people read? I didn’t know and there was no amount of thinking that would make me know. So I decided to write a lot and find out.
And that’s why there is so much mostly shit and some times okay writing. The idea is I want to gain visibility and to gain that visibility, I have to write one thing that goes viral and there is no guarantee that any one thing will go viral so I am shooting a lot of bullets and hoping that one will hit the mark.
The point is that I want to get good writing out there, get visibility and then grow an occult following. I consider that maybe this method will change if (And when) I do get the attention I am seeking. Will I stop writing so much shit so that I can grow a reputation of only writing top quality? Maybe. But that’s too far in the future to know for sure. Right now, what I need to do is write a lot (of shit).
End of part 1
(you can take a break here and read the rest later or jump to the end for an important message)
Beginning of part 2
Different Note (but still completely and totally related to writing shit)
There is this brilliant Designer guy, his name is Opemipo Aikomo. He is building this personal website. The process of building a website (or anything else on the internet ) is one that is usually done in private. People never announce the website they are working on and tell you they are building it. they say “I built this”. There is no glamour in watching a website go from a blank screen and idea to something beautiful, scrollable and clickable. A big part of why that is is that people aren’t very appreciative of the process of creating, they are more concerned with the product.
Take art, for instance, no one really considers the artistic process. Art consumers (or people that claim to be art consumers) are more interested in seeing the art, looking at it for two minutes, deciding if it’s nice and then moving on. Art exhibitions make me feel weird because it feels so social and fleeting the way people look at the painting for a second, make a comment to their companion and then walk away. Artists are so incredibly intentional with their work and any art show you go to has taken no less than a lot of months to put together (I don’t actually know how long it takes). So when I go to art exhibitions these days (and that doesn’t happen a lot), I am often hoping to run into the creator so I can ask a question or two about the process.
Let’s go back to Opemipo’s site https://opemipo.com/. For this version of his website, Ope decided he wanted to build the site on the site and keep a log where he documented the thought process behind the work. The idea really struck a chord with me. Think of buildings in a city. When development is happening on a building, people seldom pay mind to the incompleteness of the work when it is ongoing. They only take notice when a new building suddenly appears in their skyline. The great thing about buildings, however, is that you don’t have a choice. You see that process of building happening. You might notice or not notice it, but you see it. If you are someone that is interested in the work that goes into building great products, then you might find yourself noticing every time the building adds a new floor and takes a new shape. In that way, the process becomes an experience for you. The experience of any product, the experience of any good product, should not be limited to the finished work, I really think it should be inclusive of the creating process.
You can see the log for the website here.
Alex Bloomberg used to work at NPR where he produced “This American Life” and created “Planet Money” both very incredible shows. Then in late 2013/ early 2014, he decided to leave his stable job with a good salary and benefits to pursue a dream of creating a podcast company. With the podcast startup, he documented the process of trying to build that company.
Gimlet 1: How Not to Pitch a Billionaire | Gimlet Media
Published April 5, 2014 This is a series about what happens when someone who knows nothing about business starts one…
This is episode 1.
Fast forward to 2019 and Gimlet is a hugely successful podcast company and recently got acquired by Spotify for over $200 million. Every episode of startup is still up and you can listen to the cofounder have absolutely no idea that his company, this one that he is betting his life on, will eventually become hugely successful. And that’s part of the experience of the company. That you could listen to it and be part of the journey and know everything that went into it becoming the world-class company that it is today.
What does that have to do with Shit (and some times okay) writing? I think becoming the creator I want to become is a process. I think the same goes for you in anything you are trying to do in life. Are you trying to become a lawyer? an artist? a musician? a programmer? There are many jobs that don’t give you the opportunity to fuck up on the job the way creative jobs allow you. So if you are lucky enough to be a creative, fuck up. Fuck up a lot. Fuck up now. The decision to share your fuck up is of course totally up to you. Some people like to grow behind closed doors and show only the great work to the audience, which makes sense. I do that too. But as we established in part 1 of this, I am also trying to grow an audience and I don’t know what will spark that growth. It could be this article or the next or the one after that. So I have to fuck up in public. Each public fuck up that I make can mean one of two things, it can either become the shit writing that goes viral or it can become one of the many shit writings that lead to the one that goes viral.
Thank you for reading all the way to the end. I really appreciate you.
Ps: Do you think this was ‘shit’ or ‘okay’ writing? Leave a comment.
Plug (Cool Stuff On the Internet)
Today, I am going to do a little self-plug. I recently started a podcast “Inside a Bubble”. The first episode is out tomorrow and it is available everywhere you listen to podcasts. It’s a crowdsourced podcast about social bubbles. In it, the hosts (not me, I am not the host) explore how social bubbles limit the way people think and they do this by exploring topics that cut across social strata.
I really love writing these articles guys and I want to keep doing it for a really long time. You can help me keep doing it by clapping if you have a medium account and also by sharing it with a friend. I also have a patreon account that you can look at. I am not going to tell you to donate or not donate, fully up to you. Although I’d appreciate donations but again, no pressure whatsoever. Link