I’ve thought a lot about why I started writing in 2017. More importantly, I’ve considered what’s allowed me to continue to write for years thereafter.
First, I had something to say.
Back in my college days (I can say that now ha), I started putting thoughts on paper because I had important things to say.
My first pieces were targeted at revealing my inner voice, addressing social propaganda, and capsulizing my entire college experience up to that point. Not exactly insta-influencer type blogging about fuzzy scarfs and velvet pastries. I wrote because I had something to say. And it mattered to me.
I wanted to expose myself. Well, my conscience. Mainly that.
I wanted to voice the voice inside my head. I felt like most of the crap I put on Twitter and Snapchat was mostly shallow and bounded by social stigma. With writing, I wanted to explore deeper parts of myself and address the more meaningful conversations I was constantly having internally.
Writing is like a shovel for your psyche; it allows you to dig deeper and discover what’s going on beneath the surface.
I think most writers would agree they’re first pieces are intentional and purposeful. When I think back to my 2017 blog (which now resides in blog heaven), I was precisely aimed at topics I thought were relevant and serious. In a sense, this justified my whole motivation for writing and allowed me break through my initial fear and hesitation about “going public.”
So, you should have something to say if you want to write.
Don’t do it to look cool or seem interesting. Don’t do it for the money (that’s not a thing anyway). Do it because you have something useful to say.
I figured out the marketing stuff.
The point of writing publicly is to have other people read what you write. I’ve argued about this before. Some say they don’t care about views, or fans, or readership. But they do. Otherwise they wouldn’t make their writing public.
No, I don’t think your whole motivation should be about getting views. But there’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting other people to read what you write. After all, if you believe your words are useful and meaningful — which I just talked about— you’d be pleased to know others can hear your message.
But it’s balance; you have to balance intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.
In the beginning, writing for yourself is easy. There’s lots of self-discovery and every article feels groundbreaking. Eventually though, this honeymoon phase dies. And that’s when you have to start thinking about your impact. Do you want to help people? Entertain? Maybe you just want to share your intuitions.
Regardless, you want to reach people and affect them.
Online Marketing 101
It helps to know how to get people to read your words. There are some very, very basic things to understand if you want to market your writing online.
- Headlines: Everyone and their mother will tell you headlines are important. They are. I used to write vague, mysterious titles because I thought they made my articles attractive. I was wrong. Learn how to write specific, useful, enticing headlines.
- Word choice: Write like you talk. Keep it simple and don’t use fancy jargon. I used to Google huge words to try and sound really smart. This usually just confuses people and makes you less relatable.
- Audience: When I’m writing, I like to imagine 5 of my friends are waiting to read it. This adds a bit of healthy pressure to be honest, practical, and engaging with the ideas I’m conveying.
- Aesthetic: Your work should look neat and organized. Take advantage of formatting, photos, structure — all that good stuff.
- Network: There are tons of ways to share your writing after you hit publish. There’s the world of SEO, but also simple stuff like tags and social media can expand your reach.
I write what I see, think, and feel. That’s it.
This seems obvious, but one reason I write today is because I like it.
I write what intrigues me and sparks my creative juices. I don’t take it too serious and I refrain from trying to make this my job, which writers are in the habit of doing.
I don’t want this to be my job.
Because then I’d obsess over stupid stuff like output and stats and views and I’d lose sight of the reason I’m writing in the first place: to say something useful and meaningful to me. I don’t want to pander and cajole people with clickbait. I don’t want to focus on cheap premises because I know I’ll get paid.
Writing is basically a hobby and I’m okay with that; there are perks to this.
First, I get to be as creative, weird, and random as I want. Over the years, I’ve written satire, fiction, self-help and I’ve touched on a myriad of topics like dating, careers, and universal basic income. Because I don’t take this all that serious, I get to explore my ideas and experiment with concepts.
To me, this is the best part.
I like going out on a limb. Yeah sure, sometimes the branch breaks and I get hurt… other times, I strike gold and discover a new perspective. I don’t know. It’s fun. It’s fun to try new things and take risks with writing. Creative freedom is more important to me than monetary reward.
The lesson here is to write because you have something to say and you want to say it. Then you learn how to connect it with people.