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Two Paths to Being a Writer

Question from a reader -

You have maintained your commitment to being prolific which is made even more exceptional by the fact you are travelling around the world at the same time.

I realise your article on being prolific is about this, but accepting that I'm going to release a lot of crap before I realise something good is a tough wall to knock down. My biggest issue writing anything seems to be that it feel insufficent. Naturally no post I write has the length of Steve Yegge, the persuasiveness of Paul Graham, the content of Unqualified Reservations etc. etc. and while I can consciously accept this, there seems to be some mental block. How do you go "that's sufficient" and release it into the wild?

There's two basic approaches to being successful as a writer. The first, we could call the "Paul Graham / Derek Sivers" approach. This is where you explore a lot of ideas privately, go forward with the best ideas you have, and edit and polish the hell out of everything before you release it into the world. If you do this, and you've got talent as a writer, and you've got important ideas - then you're going to consistently only release masterpieces.

The second way is to just write a hell of a lot and know that a number of the things you write will turn out quite well, but your average quality level will be much lower. We could call this the "write every day no matter what" approach.

I didn't write anything for a month and it was great

On minimalift

I was undeniably stuck. Over the past month, I’ve produced a fat zero in typed or handwritten output. It was bothering me - a lot. This site isn’t income generating, I pay to display my wares here. It’s not much - the price of a couple of beers a month, as I’ve mentioned before. Like an unused gym membership, the wasted money was troubling. I’m hardly flush and it does add up over the course of a year.

I decided to turn the absence of writing into a personal experiment. First, a declared halt to all writing and blogging endeavours. By turning an unconscious decision into one that I controlled, the source of anxiety was removed. Now all I had to do was wait and observe. I found that at first, I was quite alright with not writing. I could spend more time focusing on paid work, family and training. I dropped most social network activity and that felt good too. When I did need to write for any reason, it was all on loose leaf paper, and I found myself gravitating towards A3 and up. It’s not practical or portable, but the extra white space gives me room to think. So I acknowledge that and will continue to use it.

I learned that lists were really make my brain seize up. Non-linear mind mapping techniques jolt my mind far better than any todo list. I found myself having ideas again thinking in multiple planes. In fact, just to have ideas again was nice. I started to formulate entire articles in my head - first drafts at 3am in the dark. Over the last couple of days, communication lines resumed again and that feels good too. Now I’m writing this, and it isn’t a masterpiece but that’s cool. It’s here and I’m happy to write it - not through any kind of obligation, but want. This is how it ought to be.

In being stuck I got better at observing myself. Plus I had loads of time to play through Link Between Worlds, which was far higher priority to me than writing any article. If you’re a gamer, you should pick that up.

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