I desperately want to be a better, more renowned, better read writer with a massive audience and reach. So like everyone else that has the same ambition, I not only write copious amounts of words (with the belief that I'll eventually get there), but I also find myself being a dedicated student of how everyone else has done it.
The sad thing about this is that it has mostly not helped me at all.
Yes, writing more has helped me to refine my (writing) voice and style. But I'm not necessarily that much of a better writer and I'm definitely not more renowned or better read than I was a month or a year ago.
Plus - don't even get me talking about about my reach, because my new-to-returning visitors ratio keeps sagging towards the returning part. That's awesome for "reader retention", but sucks when you're trying to grow an audience.
Today, as I was "taking a huge bowel movement" (as James Altucher recommends), I realized one thing about my ambition to be a better writer: I needed to stop being the writer that I'm not.
As I mentioned above, I've been a good student of the following topics:
- What I should write about;
- How I should write about those things;
- How I should structure and A/B test my headlines for improved traction;
- When to publish these things for optimal results;
- How to tweet these things to get better engagement; and
- How to build a profitable audience as a result (or by-product).
My problem hasn't been to find great content (from great writers and educators) on these topics. Instead my problem has been that I can never really follow the blueprint perfectly, because I'm just not that kind of writer.
Here's a couple of examples:
- I absolutely love both the blogs by KissMetrics and Buffer. And every time that either of these published a lessons learnt-type post I'd on it in seconds in the hope that it would reveal that secret lever which will take my writing (and reach) to the next level. The problem is that whilst I love reading the kind of content that both these blogs publish, I absolutely despise creating and publishing content like this myself. I simply can't be exactly like either KissMetrics or Buffer.
- Nathan Barry's adventures in self-publishing prompted me to finally get my ass into gear and publish a book of my own last year. The thing about Nathan's major successes however is that both books were pretty technical / How To-ey in nature, whereas Brandiing isn't (partly by design and partly because I didn't do the work for it to be more practical / actionable). Again, I'm just not the kind of writer that enjoys writing down a step-by-step blueprint or a How To tutorial. Brandiing ended up selling pretty well, but simply pales in comparison to Nathan's success.
If I look at my most popular articles last year, none of them were "How To"-type articles or articles that were extensively researched with pretty graphs and / or other images.
These are however articles that I really enjoyed writing, especially since it felt natural and the task of putting words on paper didn't feel like a chore.
That is what being a writer (good or bad) is about.
It's not about being a writer like someone else. It's about finding your own voice and writing about the things that you care about, the things that gets you excited or the things that you can write about easily. I mostly write about myself and if anybody else reads what I've written after that, I consider it a bonus.
My best stuff tends to be opinionated, one-sided and impulsive; not objective, well-researched and perfectly refined. Whilst there's no excuse for spelling mistakes in my writing (thanks Spellchecker), my grammar isn't always perfect and my use of the concord is 50-50 at best. Yet these imperfections are still a part of my best writing.
So why do I harbour the ambition of contradicting this fact? Why would I veer away from just continuing to produce more of my best stuff?
Writing isn't about following a blueprint; especially not someone else's. If you're gonna create a blueprint, let it at least be your own rules and habits (on your own terms).
Stop being the writer that you are obviously not and just be the writer who you are (and can be in future).
Did you enjoy this post?
If you did, here's some related links from my "Best Of"-collection that you might enjoy as well:
- E-mail Isn't Broken, I send a lot of e-mail, because it's part of my job. So I don't think e-mail is broken.
- What Running Has Taught Me About Entrepreneurship, Running has taught me so much about running a startup.
- That Little Bit Extra, By doing just that little bit extra, you could be generating so much (unexpected) value.