in Writing

Writers, Stop Sabotaging Yourself

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

I wasn’t formally trained to be a writer.

Like most marketers, I got exposed to the super scammy world of “internet marketers”. You know the ones — private jets, mansions, girls in bikini’s. Make money online and travel the world!

I must admit; without those vain prizes, I wouldn’t bat an eye to learn what internet marketing is.

But overtime, I found marketing not to be my cup of tea, compared to writing. As much as I hate to say it —on average, marketers make more than writers.

So for the longest time, I was agonizing what best to call myself — a copywriter / content marketer / content strategist?

After my recent revelation — I’m proudly calling myself a copywriter now.

That relevation happened after talking to a Singaporean blogger, listening to Stephen King’s On Writing among other things.

Their words pierced me through like I was one ply toilet paper. But first…

How I Used to Hate Writing

What I discovered after many failed attempts at blogging was I was under this highly-marketed impression that I needed to create world class content (that’s what the SEOs taught me). They also told me to aim for more than 2000 words per post.

I would compare myself with guys like Brian Dean and Derek Halpern who publish just once every two weeks or once a month and yet gain massive followings in a short amount of time. They were playing it smart and publishing world class content.

I also learned that if your bar is set so high… you start viewing writing as work. Work that you will avoid at all costs. Work that makes you procrastinate. Work that invites The Resistance, as Steven Pressfield calls it.

You start thinking about creating content, instead of crafting stories or interesting ideas. It takes the whole fun out of writing.

As predicted, I stopped writing altogether and gave it a break…

Until recently, I started to do something different.

The Breakthrough that Made Me Publish Everyday and Enjoyed Doing It

“First, write all you think is necessary.

Then, take out every sentence which could have been written by someone else.“
— Seth Godin

Being super frustrated, I started looking for answers and came across Alden Tan. Spoke to him about his journey in becoming a writer. He is by no means a megablogger like Mark Manson or Ryan Holiday. But he is someone I can relate to.

He started in Internet marketing (and got successful at it!) but ultimately, he was killing his soul, so he dropped it and went into what he really wanted to do — just the writing.

He told me:

“I was so sick of it, it crushed my soul. In the end, I decided I was still going to do it, but I was going to it my way.” (Que Sinatra).

And that’s it isn’t it?

When you’ve become the student of most of the instructors online, when you’ve taken all their advice, succeeded and still feel unfulfilled… the only thing left to do is to do it your way. Do it in the way that’s true to you.

Because once you do that, something magical happens. You actually start enjoying writing again. The mere act of it makes your heart sing. You feel pulled to do it. You would write even if no one is going to read it. You do it because it feels true to you.

But this doesn’t come with its own set of hiccups, especially when you’re writing non-fiction, particularly personal development / borderline life advice stuff.

The Mindset Shift that Kills The Imposter in You

If you ever felt like a fraud, especially when publishing about personal growth and self improvement as a 20 something writer… you are not alone. (Insert virtual hug here).

I used to too. But now, the view has been different. Whenever the feeling creeps in me, I heed the words of Stephen King:

“Now comes the big question: What are you going to write about? And the equally big answer: Anything you damn well want. Anything at all …. as long as you tell the truth.”

I used to think the idea of writing about self improvement and giving life advice as a 20 something was ludicrous.

But then I got a perspective change from observing Stephen King’s writing career. He drafts a new story every 3 months — he has written 60 full length novels and 200 short stories so far.

He would talk about how he gets his ideas and mixing two wacky things together e.g. A rabbit and other animals in a truck going on an adventure.

The same way fiction lovers (which includes all of us) are looking for interesting novels, stories and movies, non-fiction readers are looking for interesting viewpoints and ideas on stuff.

Sure, your post on what sandcastles can teach you about publishing your first book isn’t earth shattering or transformational — but so are the 126529th story about two lovers who can’t be together or the 26853th story about kids exploring a haunted house.

We are street performers. Giving what we got each day. And as long as we write what we know to be true. We’re in good hands.

The Two Prong Dating Approach to Writing and Building Your Fanbase

The way I see it — there’s two ways to play this game.

    1. You can follow the blueprint laid out by others and reach success quicker — you may need to fake it along the way. Much like a look super polished version of yourself & on your best behaviour on your first date.
      OR
  1. You can be yourself. Be the original, everyday self. People may not like what you have to say. But those who do — will follow you long enough after you’ve consistently showed up.

Much like the friends we make, we are not in it to see how many friends we can make — but only the friends that matter.

Being yourself in your writing is just that — organic. Being you and let others decide if they like your stuff. And if they do, they will follow you on their own accord.

Build your 1000 true fans, one at a time. You’d prefer fans who like you the way you are, than when you’re putting on a persona, don’t you?

The Most Asked Question About Blogging

The lifehacker in me has a lot of things to suggest , especially after reading so many posts tackling this question.

There’s one thing to keep in mind when chasing metrics —

Do more of what works

And for me, the biggest ROI has been guest posting.

(Guest post on other blogs with a larger readership that you want.)

Now that answers the tactic question — the what and how to do.

But what about the why?

For most of us, writing is something we want to do full time — why? Because we love to talk about things. Life changing ideas, interesting ideas. And putting it on paper helps us organize our thoughts in a coherent and clear fashion.

But the moment writing starts to feel like work… we start to dread it completely. I did. My blog was deserted when I saw it as a place to “create content” to capture “leads” into my “sales funnel”. >.>

The cure to make it not feel like work lies in being unapologetically — you.

Call to Action

It’s time to be unapologetically you.

As Srivinas Rao said, only is better than best.

There is only one of you in this world, so be like it — be the only You in the writing world. Let the others do their way and let you do you.

How do you do you?

My simple formula is:

Freewrite for yourself + edit for others.

When you start to write unapologetically yourself, you unlock the greatest gift of all in any profession — enjoying the craft.

“Do you do it (writing) for the money, honey?” The answer is no. Don’t now and never did….I have written because it fulfilled me…

I did it for the pure joy of the thing. And if you could do it for joy, you could it forever. — Stephen King

***
This post was first published on The Startup on Medium.

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Comment

  1. Hey Ben,
    Thanks for the parts I felt hit home for me. The one I really liked was “Be the original, everyday self. People may not like what you have to say. But those who do — will follow you long enough after you’ve consistently showed up.” I also like your formula under Call To Action, and how you’re honest about not blogging because you started thinking of it as work. That is as real as it gets!
    Cheers,
    S