If you think you’re going to champion truth and criticism straight away

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I read a piece recently. I’m sure it was meant to be biting, witty, and critical. An advisory, piercing voice that would take a piece that had been done a thousand times and flip it into a wry analysis of life today.

I’m sure that was the intention.

What I don’t think writer’s realize, is that creating great sarcastic pieces takes the work of an almost expert. Or at the very least, not a beginner.

I’ll tell you why this is.

When you write something, and you throw in witty critiques of people and institutions that you believe are fresh, jolting, and insightful, often something completely different happens.

You sound like an asshole. It takes a very, very good writer to make the voice of sarcasm not one of spite and scorn, but a voice of clever truth.

I’ve been guilty of doing this kind of writing when I was younger, and hell, I’m probably guilty of it now. I’m not special, and whenever you write consistently you have to know that at some point, something is going to come out of your mouth that makes you look like a straight up dick.

But I try to minimize it, because I know the tendency is there.

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So, if you’re a beginner writer and you feel like you’re going to champion the voice of truth, insight, and wittiness that you see a dearth of in the world of writing, hold the hell up, Tonto.

Don’t start with the difficult stuff. Because you can have the best advice in the world, but if you sound like an asshole, who’s going to listen?

Start with being helpful first. If you’re writing an advice post, write as if you were a nurturing older brother or sister that only wants the best for your reader.

Loving advice, giving advice, going, I know, I know, it sucks, but this is how life happens, man. Come here, you need a hug, dude. And then say what you know that will actually help them.

Start with that. Start with just being helpful and kind.

Then you can work in the wit and biting criticisms.

 

Were you good the first season you played a sport?

Were you good the first season you played a sport?

The first time I played soccer was at a friend’s scrimmage. They let me play with their team. I was so fucking bad. Missing easy shots, losing control every time I touched the ball, it was terrible. By the end of the game, my teammates stopped passing to me when I was wide-open in front of goal because they had a better chance of scoring trying to dribble three defenders.

And I remember my friend asking me after the game how I liked it.

I fucking loved it. Playing soccer was so much fun even when I was shit and I remember thinking, Damn, I need to get better at this, I fucking love this.

Seven years on, I went to a drop-in game at my local Futsal place last night and had a great time. It’s still something I love to do.

But I’d count myself shit for roughly the first three or four years I played. And although I’d beat myself up in games, I was out every day because there’s nothing I enjoyed more than kicking a ball around with some friends from ten am to nine pm during the summer, interspersed with some local river swimming activities.

 


The very first company I started failed with a great bang. The second one failed a little bit less, but still failed. The third one, you know, proper failed, but it was kind of okay. I recovered quickly. Number four almost didn’t fail. It still didn’t really feel great, but it did okay. Number five was PayPal.

– Max Levchin, former CTO of PayPal


 

Were you good the first season you played a sport? Maybe some freaks of nature.

What about the second season? You got better didn’t you? Knew the lay of the land somewhat.

And so it went – the third, fourth, or fifth season came. After a while, you were better than most of the people you played with.

It’s a shame the people who quit in their first season. They got discouraged, so they quit.

So it is with sports, and so it is with writing. Or entrepreneurship. Anything really.

You started your first blog and after a few months, maybe even a few weeks you thought, this is difficult. Fuck it.

What makes you think your first blog, your first season, is going to be anywhere near successful?

Or your second? Everyone wants to be gifted right away. But you’ll never be gifted at something if you don’t enjoy being shit at it first.

Don’t expect to be the magic success from the start. Not in business, not in sports, and definitely not in writing. If you’re writing for fame, if you’re writing for money, if you’re writing for a reason other than the enjoyment of expressing yourself in an increasingly more eloquent way, something is wrong.

And something definitely needs to change.

 

If you want to become a great writer

If you want to become a great writer

You don’t have time to read, right? You’re too busy. That guy over there is also too busy. Everyone’s too busy.

Bah-humbug.

Here’s a post by Ryan Holiday on why you don’t have time to read, why you should read, and how to read more.

Nobody has time to read. If you did have time, it would quickly be used to further some other productive goal.

The premise behind Ryan’s article, is you don’t have time to read because it’s not seen as important. It’s kind of important, you know it’s sort of a good thing you should be doing, but it’s not vital. 

Read the article. Seriously, those are just the broad strokes that tie into the point of my post. It’s a fantastic article that will definitely get you thinking, and it’s more important than watching a cat video on Reddit.

Bring that idea to writing: recently, I’ve been pushing writing to the back of my priority list. It’s still on there every day, but I would do things like go get coffee first, do my morning routine, but not write my post because I had to go to work or something, and it shows in my latest posts.

These are the two posts I wrote, Sometimes what you should do, and, If you don’t want to be old and unhappy.

I would get home at night, beat from the day, and have to write a blog post. And they weren’t exactly shit, but they weren’t exceptional posts either. They were just short because I didn’t have the energy to write a full-length idea.

Except for yesterday, why, because I wrote in the morning. Go figure.


For a long time, I’ve known that the key to getting started down the path of being remarkable in anything is to simply act with the intention of being remarkable.

If I want a better-than-average career, I can’t simply ‘go with the flow’ and get it. Most people do just that: they wish for an outcome but make no intention-driven actions toward that outcome. If they would just do something most people would find that they get some version of the outcome they’re looking for. That’s been my secret. Stop wishing and start doing.

Chad Fowler


 

If you want to be a better writer, you have to prioritize writing. Half-assing posts at night doesn’t work, because when you’re tired you resort to what you know already works.

There’s growth, sure. If you do any activity you’ll get better. But it’ll be so much slower than if you put in the hours each morning.

You’re not going to get better if you come home from a long day, beat, and then just crank out some alright post.

Prioritize your writing, make it the first thing you do in the morning. Make it something you think on each day, looking for books, quotes, ideas, how to be better. 

And see what happens.

 

 

Write with simplicity

Write with simplicity

There’s an exceptional documentary on Netflix called Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

Jiro is an elderly sushi chef in Japan. His entire life has been dedicated to sushi, and a seat in his restaurant runs over three hundred dollars.

His entire life has been dedicated to the craft, and what he serves is breathtaking. Critics don’t believe it when they dine at his restaurant.

They’re served a piece of salmon, or tuna, or what-have-you, painted with ‘nikiri,’ a type of restaurant made soy sauce, and have a cushion of rice.

That’s it.

Critics can’t believe that something so simple can have such depth.

Jiro has stripped sushi down to it’s essence. And that’s why his plates run over three hundred dollars a sitting.

Take this and apply it to your writing. When you could be writing less instead of more, do it. And take out what you can when you edit.

Strip your words to the core that’s necessary to convey your message.

See if it lends your work increased depth of expression.

When you’re worried about marketing rather than writing

Because I write every day I tend to have an inflated opinion of how good my writing actually is. It’s alright.

But over the past few months writing, or trying to, every day I’ve started to think, Why haven’t more people liked my writing? Where is the sudden outpouring of followers that comes from being a good writer? Is it my marketing, should I start creating social media profiles? What could possibly be the reason?

And I found the reason yesterday. I have one hundred and twenty-six posts up on my blog. The archive system I had in place wasn’t helpful, so I did spring cleaning and added categories. It took my about three hours to go back through all my posts, read each one, and categorize them.

And by reading through all the work I’ve created, two things happened; there was a realization, and a sense hope.

The realization – I have sixty followers, no more, and no less, because I’m a sixty follower writer. Starting at the beginning of my writing, and finishing reading the post from yesterday the veil was taken off my eyes. Just because I write every day doesn’t mean everything is good it just means I’m consistently getting better.

And by reading through every post and finishing yesterday, it made sense why I ‘only’ – I would’ve killed for sixty followers a couple months ago – have sixty followers. My writing is at a sixty follower level. And when my writing gets better, my followers will naturally increase.

That was the realization.

The hope came from the exact same action: reading through every post I’ve ever written. Because my first posts were bad. As in, I gave them their own category called Early work so people wouldn’t judge me too harshly. And I even put posts from a few months ago into that early work category if I just thought they were bad writing.

But I came through the months, and gradually my writing got better. Like, a lot better.

And that gave me a sense of hope. I have made progress. A ridiculous level of progress.

I’ve written before about how not to care what your readers think – this is kind of along the same lines. How to not care how many followers you have. Or maybe how to stop complaining why you don’t have as many as you think you should.

You don’t have as many followers as you think you should because your writing’s not there yet.

We don’t need to improve our marketing skills – we need to take a writing workshop.

And instead of followers, focus on how to improve others lives.

Good writing, mixed with an insatiable desire to help?

People will do your marketing for you.

 

Hey guys, if you read all this I really appreciate it! 

So I’m eighteen and poor. I’m trying to own my blog domain but it costs eighty dollars – boo – and like I said, I’m poor with barely enough money for marijuana and gas and insurance. 

What do you guys get if I own my blog instead of having a .wordpress connection? Lots! I’ll be able to take my blogging to the next level, and if I own my blog I can start making products like eBooks, sending out newsletters, and the like!

Only $5 donations are accepted, the website is weird! Anyway, that’s it. If you don’t donate, that’s all good – I’ll still be writing every day because I like it. 

Have a great day 🙂

Here’s the link.

Do yourself a favor

There’s a documentary on Netflix called Somm – it’s about three young wine tasters preparing to take the Master Sommelier exam. The exam has a pass rate of less than ten percent.

Note that: three young wine tasters. Some of the most promising young Sommelier’s in the United States when the film was made, just happened to be friends. Two of them passed the exam and became Master Sommelier’s.

Don’t think this was by coincidence.

No doubt these guys were all exceptional wine tasters, but when you watch the documentary the guys are relentless. They hound each other, they stay up until four am studying note cards of different wine regions together, they do blind tastings together – a tasting when you don’t know the wine and have to identify it by taste – and they compete with each other.

It’s not a mistake two of the three passed one of the most difficult exam’s in the world.

They had a network. A network of people to work with is vital – people compete with each other, critique each other, praise each other, and give each other shit. Sharing tips, being there when you feel weak and vice versa, setting challenges for each other. Having friends who do what you do is a fast-track to getting better.

This is true for any branch of creatives: photography, art, writing, design.

So do yourself a favor – if you know someone who’s been trying to get into vlogging, or you know a photographer who just shoots things every now and then for fun, reach out. Start hanging out with creatives. Go on shooting projects. Do photo-a-day challenges or post-a-day challenges.

And if you can, go deeper than just general creatives – go to writer’s workshops and make writer friends. Writer’s you can personally talk to and compete with is almost like cheating on your learning curve.

And in the spirit of this post – if anyone likes my writing, has any comments for me, or maybe wants me to take a look at one of their pieces, shoot me a comment.

I’d love to take a look at it.

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Image by Alessandro Trapasso.

 

Help send me to Southeast Asia! Here’s the link to my gofundme page, any help is appreciated. And if you send me your email, I’ll write you a personal note thanking you for your contribution:)

That is where the art lies

Yesterday I wrote about how if you’re unsure of what to write, just resolve yourself: this is going to be a shitty post.

That way you’re always pleasantly surprised. And if it really is shit? It just lived up to expectation.

There’s a reference in that post to a writer named Anne Lamotte. I know her from a book called Bird-by- Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.

If you’re interested in furthering your craft as a writer, pick up that book. Read it cover to cover.

In the book, she talks about shitty first drafts. Basically, every piece of work you’ve ever read, seen, or heard about, from Hemingway to Kurt Vonnegut, started as a really, really shitty first draft.

I remember reading a book called On Writing Well by William Zinsser. Clear, concise, and actionable. In a passage about shitty first drafts, he showed the reader his shitty first draft of trying to explain shitty first drafts. It was quite meta in retrospect. There were crossed out lines, meandering thoughts, and non-descriptive adverbs that would just creep in. In a book where the writer was respected enough to write a book explaining how to write well.

And through editing, Zinsser’s book melted pleasingly into a concise and clear book of guidelines.

Anne Lamotte did the same thing in Bird-by-bird. Showed her first draft. It was also shit. Less shitty than my first drafts, but still pretty bad.

So resign: whatever I write is going to need revision. Hemingway revised, and we’re not special enough to be exempt.

So we go back and get rid of all the unneeded words. Maybe delete whole paragraphs, even though we like them, just because sometimes don’t fit.

Whatever you do, revise. Because somewhere in that word vomit are diamonds. Surrounded by a lot of shit. But there are diamonds in there. Our job is just to vomit on a page and then clear away the shit to get to what matters. Maybe the one or two kernels that are great concepts in a five hundred word piece.

And once we get there, it’s our job to take away as much as we can without rendering the piece senseless and without structure.

That is where the art lies.

Help send me to Southeast Asia! Here’s the link to my gofundme page, any help is appreciated. And if you send me your email, I’ll write you a personal note thanking you for your contribution:)