Why should we write?
My mum is an author.
Writing is her lifelong passion. She has poetry from when she was 6 years old. She’ll stay up late, writing for hours and hours, often until sunrise. She claims it’s the most peaceful time (in other words, the child free hours). I remember proofreading her books when I was as young as 9 years old.
I definitely recall her complaining frequently about the industry and how even if a publisher deigned to print your book, as the author she got paid about $10,000 for a year’s worth of work. Despite that, she has 25 published books.
My mum has told me on multiple occasions ‘don’t be a writer’.
And yet, she still taught me how. And I’m very glad she did.
I have no plans to write a novel (and I doubt it’d be as good as my mum’s anyway!) Still, writing has been invaluable in my life.
If you don’t write regularly, let me try and convince you that you should. (By the way, I’m not talking about writing tweets or status updates, but something more substantial… like the blog you are currently reading).
Writing forces you to learn. Even to write this blog I spent a considerable amount of time researching different viewpoints on whether writing was important, and the value people have found in it. Without the impetus of this blog, I might have spent the time scrolling rather than learning.
Writing also acts as a filter for your learning. Every time I listen to a podcast, read a book, have an interesting conversation, experience a problem… it’s a potential idea for a post. Not only do I pay more attention when I’m learning, but I’m also putting my own spin on ideas I hear.
As an example, my blog post on ‘The Stupidity of SMART goals’ came after hearing a (very boring) corporate presentation on the topic, and thinking to myself, do I really agree with this system? My thoughts on going first, came from the awkward silence you get in a meeting after the boss asks the whole team to give feedback. I was the first to break the silence, and I noted how hard it was to go first.
Even Jeff Bezos agrees: ‘People who write a lot, also listen a lot. They also change their mind a lot. Not necessarily with new data, but sometimes re-analyzing the same data. They also work hard to disconfirm fundamental biases.’
When you have a commitment to writing, it means that you have a commitment to learning.
There is nothing like having to explain your ideas to someone else to force you to make them clearer. When you write, you don’t have the benefit of seeing the confusion on someone’s face, and having the chance to explain your idea again in different words. You have to get it right the first time.
I have found, over and over again, that after writing something I will forever be able to explain that idea with clarity.
‘If you want to learn something, read about it. If you want to understand something, write about it.’ ~ Yogi Bhajan
You need to be able to write.
To interact on the internet, you have to use your keyboard. To convince your company to do something, it’s likely you’ll have to write a report or presentation. To protest a parking fine, guess what, you’ll have to write a letter. To apply for a job, that’s a cover letter. To make your partner feel loved on their birthday, you better not forget to write a card.
‘Demand for quality writing far exceeds the supply of it. Good writing is rare. There may be more writing than ever, but most of it is shallow.’ ~ David Perrell
Like any other skill, you can’t get better at writing without practicing. You can take lessons, you can study other writers, you can learn different techniques.
But at the end of the day, if you don’t get the reps in, you won’t be a good writer.
‘You may not write well every day. But you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.’ ~ Jodi Picoult
Writing lets you scale yourself – to more people, and across time.
David Perrell puts it like this: ‘writing online is a guaranteed way to shrink the world. A well-written article can change your life because the internet rewards people who think well… In any field, the most successful people double as writers. Chefs write recipes, comedians write jokes, and entrepreneurs write business plans.’
To share my ideas, I can only have conversations with a few people at a time. With writing, hundreds, thousands, or (if you are lucky and skilled enough to have a post go viral) millions of people can hear your ideas. They can write back. You can have a conversation with anyone in the world through writing.
Similarly, writing stretches across time. We are entertained by the works of authors long dead, we look back on the wisdom of philosophers, and we might even look back on our own writing from a few years ago and get some perspective on how far we’ve come.
Sometimes writing leads to an instant opportunity, but usually it’s more of a slow burn.
Because I write I’ve…
…been offered speaking engagements
…been offered jobs (both writing jobs and jobs where they like my ideas)
…been offered sponsorship as an athlete
…been able to meet a range of accomplished people around the world
…had the chance to interview superstar athletes and industry leaders
…and been featured in the media
Without writing, many of these things would not have happened. Think of it as a long term investment in your future. When you least expect it, your written words will start to pay off.
‘The coolest people I meet are the ones who find me through something I’ve written.’ ~ Derek Sivers
When writing doesn’t lead to an opportunity, it often cements it.
What’s the first thing you do after meeting someone you may want to hire, work with, or learn more about? You google them. And if your search results in finding that person’s thoughtful and in-depth writing, you immediately know they are credible.
If you write, you look legitimate. You come across as an expert in your field. It’s a signal to people that what you are doing is your life’s work.
Writing gives you credibility.
‘Writing a book makes you an expert in the field. At the very least, when you hand someone a book you wrote, it’s more impressive than a business card.’ ~ James Altucher
7. Body of work
There is something to be said for having a body of work (the official word for it is oeuvre but who can even pronounce that?)
Your past writing is always there for you to draw on. For instance, I’m often asked about confidence – because I’ve written about the 4 types of confidence, I have a passionate and in-depth answer ready to go. When I get injured, I have my blog post about recovering from snapping my achilles tendon to draw on, to help me with my mindset going forward. When I’m asked to give an impromptu speech, I have a stack of stories that I’ve carefully written and edited that I can use. It might sound off-the-cuff, but 95% of the work was done when I wrote my stories down.
As you get more experienced and recognised in your field, you’ll get asked many of the same things, many times over. Writing down the answers means you’ve got the perfect answer ready to tell them (or I guess you can just send them off to read your post).
Finally, I look back at my body of work and I’m proud of what I’ve created. We spend so much time consuming, that to see what you’ve created over the years is incredibly fulfilling.
Are you convinced yet?
Hopefully my writing skills have convinced you to write. If not, I guess I need more practice.
If you are convinced, then the next best step is to simply to start writing. And stay tuned for an upcoming blog where we will dive into how to write better. (Most of which is stolen from my mum’s teachings of course).
My final challenge, is that when you write, write publicly.
It’s scary to put something online, but it’s real. It will make you better.
‘Writing in public is like inviting guests to your house for dinner. You have to clean and double check everything. Just like when you cook a meal for your guests, you try harder when others are watching and your reputation is at stake.’ ~ David Perrell