Advice For Aspiring Writers

I was self-conscious when I began writing five years ago. I thought, “just what the world needs, another blogger.” This same thought was front and center when Ben and I were deciding whether or not to start a podcast. The biggest lesson I learned from producing content is this: Don’t worry about what the world needs. 

It’s important for writers to understand their strengths and weaknesses. For example, it took me a while to appreciate that the reader wasn’t inside my brain. My posts made perfect sense to me, but over time, I’ve become much more aware of the fact that even though you might be writing for yourself, you’re wasting your time if the reader doesn’t understand. One of my strengths, I think, is that I respect my audience. I understand very well the point that Steven Pressfield makes in Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit

When you understand that nobody wants to read your shit, your mind becomes powerfully concentrated. You begin to understand that writing/reading is, above all, a transaction. The reader donates his time and attention, which are supremely valuable commodities. In return, you the writer must give him something worthy of his gift to you.

Nobody wants to read your shit is probably the best advice that writers, both new and experienced can receive. I thought I’d expand that list with some of the things that I’ve learned along the way.

  • Make your point fast. The audience has the attention-span of a tsetse fly, so if you don’t hook ’em, they’re onto the next article.
  • Less is more. If you can condense a powerful message into five hundred words, you’ve got a reader in me.
  • Don’t send your stuff to people you hope will share it, at least not in the beginning. Send it to family and friends for critiquing, but you only have one shot with a stranger, so make it count.
  • Be patient. Don’t worry if you’re not an overnight success. It certainly didn’t happen for me that way.
  • If your writing is good, it will get found. Look at my friend Nick Maggiulli for example. In just one year, he’s cultivated a dedicated following. I read every word he writes.
  • If you want to be a good writer, you have to be a good reader. The genre doesn’t matter, nor does the format, but if you want to write well, you have to immerse yourself in other’s words.
  • Patrick O’Shaughnessy likes to quote Emerson: “Imitation is suicide.” He’s absolutely right. Find your own voice and develop your own ideas.
  • I’ve never sat at a blank screen and wondered what to write about. My best ideas have come when I was in the shower or taking a walk, but never at my desk chair.
  • Every post doesn’t have to be your magnum opus, but don’t hit publish unless it’s worth somebody’s time.
  • Don’t force it. I’ve gone weeks without writing anything. It happens.
  • Determine what you’d like to get out of writing and then go after it.

There is no limit on how many good writers the world can handle. Saturation is impossible. So if you feel like you’ve got something to say, then say it, but keep in mind that nobody wants to read your shit.