Tag Archives: writing

Write About Something Important

For the past two weeks, I’ve been writing and posting an essay on this blog everyday. I started this with the intention of writing and posting something for everyday in July. I tried it last year in July, and wanted to try again this year.

I’m discontinuing this practice of posting everyday, and will most likely not practice this again in the future (on my own time, at least).

I started it with the intention of following my own advice, writing everyday to build a writing habit, and to get to a million words faster – the idea being that you need to write a million (low quality) words before you can master writing. While writing everyday is an excellent habit to have, and getting to a million words might be a great goal, it doesn’t replace something very important for great writing:

Having something important to say.

Out of everything I wrote, probably the two posts most worth reading were a reflection on patriotism, and reflection on using disagreement to become mentally stronger. Everything else was either a continuation of similar themes, or ended up as generic self-improvement advice I’ve been thinking about lately. Helpful for getting my thoughts in order, but maybe not as much value for other people.

There’s value in lowering your standards, and just publishing as much as possible to see what works. Quantity is great, but you need to balance that against a genuine pursuit of Quality. There’s stuff that helps you (essays that get your thoughts in order, or reach a writing goal faster), and then there are things that have a chance of proving massive value to everyone who reads it.

Publish a lot. But try to make sure it’s something worth publishing.

Write Lessons for Your Younger Self

Chances are that right now, you are at the wisest you have ever been.

Whatever beliefs you might have had when you were younger, you’ve had time to reflect on them and change them to beliefs that are better.

You’ve had experiences your younger self didn’t expect, and you’ve hopefully learned from those experiences.

You’ve read books your younger self wouldn’t have enjoyed, agreed with, or known about.

You’ve gone through education, both formal and informal, and that has changed you.

All of these things have (hopefully) left you wiser than your younger self. The question is: what do you do with this wisdom?

Write it down. Write down the lessons you’ve learned that you wish you could give to your younger self. Figure out what lessons would have given your younger self an edge, or allowed them to avoid critical mistakes. Turns these lessons into concrete principles that you could teach your younger self.

Obviously you can’t actually go back in time and give these lessons to a previous version of you – but you can teach them to others. Whether it’s “students” learning something you have experience with, friends and family about to make a mistake similar to ones you’ve made, your children, or simply random readers of your blog, figure out the lessons you’ve learned and teach them to others. Get feedback. Make your ideas better. Reflect on your principles. Make them even better. And even if no one listens to you, you can at least try to make yourself a little wiser by having concrete lessons and principles to look at – and improve as time goes on.

You can’t change the past, or give the lessons you’ve learned to your previous self. But you can reflect on what you’ve learned, and make the world a tiny bit wiser.

Forget The Word Count

When writing, the temptation is always there to meet a certain word count. It’s tempting to believe that length is equivalent to importance or value, and only when the thing you’re writing is long enough, it will be worth reading.

Forget it.

Forget the word count.

The word count is the least important part of writing. Some of the most profound ideas ever communicated are as long as a tweet. Some of the least important or most damaging philosophies are found in books hundreds or thousands of pages long.

Your goal is not to meet a word count. Your goal is to communicate important ideas to the world.

The right word count, or page length, is whatever is necessary to communicate your idea clearly. If that takes 10 words or less, great. Brevity is the soul of wit. If it genuinely requires more than 1000 pages, fine. Some ideas and philosophies are genuinely complex, and require hundreds of pages to fully explain.

Maybe you’re a journalist who has a daily word count they have to meet, or an author with a specific contract – even then, you should consider writing first, and THEN meeting the word count. If the thing you write is too short, you can add to it later. If the thing you write is too long, you can remove and revise later.

Forget the word count.

Writing Consistently No Matter What

The point of a blog is to create. Produce. Write. I talked about this a little bit in the Intro, but I’m not very good at writing consistently.

Barriers to Writing

Procrastination. Perfectionism. Writer’s Block. Disorganization. I’ve encountered my fair share of barriers to writing. I’m still trying to overcome those, and I bet I’ll encounter more in the future. None of them are fun. And I know there are even more barriers to writing – like deep poverty – that I haven’t experienced, but I’d rather not add them to the list if I can avoid them.

I’m trying not to approach this blog with some ambitious goal at the moment, but it’s hard not to imagine the grander possibilities of what a blog can lead to: millions of readers. Book deals. International fame and fortune. Groupies.

None of that happens if you don’t write consistently, and build up your skill as a writer. Even if you do build up your skill as a writer, that’s no guarantee that writing a blog will lead to fortune or fame. Or groupies.

The Goal of Writing Consistently

Like I said in the Intro, this blog doesn’t have any grand ambitious goals right now, only a few modest goals:

  1. Write.
  2. Write consistently.
  3. Write about whatever is interesting or important right now.
  4. Write in order to clearly communicate what I think and believe.

If anything big or important develops from that, fantastic. If I only build up writing skill, and apply it to something else, awesome. And even if the ultimate path I take through life doesn’t involve writing in any way, at least I’ll take some time to figure out (in detail!) what I think and believe.

The most important thing to do, no matter the outcome, is to write consistently.

As much as possible.

Everyday, if possible.

That’s hard. Really hard. In The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, he calls all of the barriers to writing, and all of the barriers to creativity, Resistance. It comes in many forms, and if you want to produce good work, you need to find the methods of defeating it.

Advice for Myself on How to Write Consistently

I’m not an expert on writing, or productivity. Take any advice I give with a grain of salt. But right now, as I’m in the beginning stages of this blog, I’ve tried to come up with advice for myself on how to write consistently:

Set a writing schedule for finishing each piece or section of writing. Stick to it as much as possible. Right now I’m trying to always post something on this blog three times a week. As my own ability as a writer grows (and I find ways of fitting more writing into the day), I want to increase that.

Figure out when to write, and not just when to finish. People are productive at different times, and you may need to experiment to find when (and under what conditions) you’re most productive. To be honest, I’m writing this section very early in the morning. I’m not a morning person, but somehow I’ve written more in the past hour than I did the entire day before. Writing productively, or doing anything productively, can be tricky to figure out.

Have multiple projects that you’re working on at any time. If you just have one, and encounter writer’s block for that single project, you’ll get nothing done. But if you have multiple projects, you can just work on something else whenever writer’s block happens. I have no problem having multiple projects, since I…

Have lots of ideas to work with. Lots of ideas. Have dedicated brainstorming sessions. Choose the best ideas. If you have too many ideas, either stop brainstorming as much, or figure out a way to sort your ideas by quality and priority. Let’s just say I have no problem coming up with ideas.

Focus on quantity until you get quality. The writing advice I’ve heard again and again is that you need to write a million bad words to become a great writer. A million. At 500 words a page, that’s 2000 pages. If you wrote 1000 words everyday, consistently, it would take you nearly 3 years to get to a million words. Sometimes it’s not exactly a million words, or there’s ways of cutting the number down. But for now, it’s the number I’m going to strive for until I have reason not to.

Don’t worry if your first pieces of writing suck. Chances are they will suck. A lot. But you’ll get better. And over time, you’ll produce so much work that no one will even want to read your early writing. Not only will no one care about your early writing, but chances are the works people love will be the ones you’d never expect. Which is why I’m trying to…

Write about multiple topics. At least until you find the one topic that gives you the most bang for your buck. Write about different things. Write about what’s on your mind. Write about current events. Write the worst short story ever. Write a book review for a book you love. Write about things you would never usually write about to expand your writing ability. And then once you have the one topic or one kind of writing that has the most potential, write everything you possibly can about that.

There’s lots of other writing advice I could come up with. If any of this advice is misguided, I can’t tell you which – but that’s what I’m starting with. Only time will tell if that’s enough to write consistently.