James Altucher is not just a man with a killer afro.
In an interview with blogger Jon Morrow, James gave this advice:
Be afraid to hit publish.
His words resonated with me. Vulnerability is the superpower I discovered, that helped me reach millions of people online. Without vulnerability, your stories won’t resonate.
It will just be you quoting other people and letting their smartness rub off on your writing. People will get tired if you don’t fuse your own stories into your writing.
Writing without vulnerability is soulless.
You’ll have to hand back your avatar at some point
Your current life is nothing more than a name, date of birth, profile picture and a postcode somewhere on Earth. You are part of a game called life and you currently have an avatar — for how long, nobody knows.
At some point you will leave this world and have to hand back your avatar. If there is no afterlife, then you’re done. If there is an afterlife, then maybe, like me, you can hope to be handed a ladybug avatar and live a different life, where vulnerability doesn’t matter.
I explain life and the person you are as an avatar to give you perspective.
You’re not going to be here for a very long time. Your days will pass. So what the heck are you afraid of? You can hide behind an avatar or step into a faint spotlight and publish your words. Your words have power. Your words can help so many people. The trouble is, many people just like you, are too afraid to write a story that reveals their weaknesses and hit publish.
Hitting publish when you’re afraid is like an arm wrestle.
“Yes, I will hit publish. No, I won’t hit publish.”
This recurring thought happens in all writer’s heads. No writer is immune from feeling afraid when they utilize vulnerability.
Shatter your fragile ego into a million pieces and share those tiny pieces of yourself with millions of readers all around the world, who could do with a piece of you to help them.
I often wish I didn’t use my real name
Part of being afraid to hit publish has to do with your name. I decided early on to use my real name as a writer. This can be both a blessing and a curse.
You can hide behind a fake name or a stage name, but your stories won’t land the same. People want to know you are real. The hardest choice you can make is to use your real name when you write.
The huge advantage when you use your real name to write is that you have leverage on yourself.
I used a stage name when I was a musician signed to a record label. It was a bad decision because I never put all of myself into the music. I didn’t care about the outcome or try hard enough because the fake name meant I could always walk away with my ego intact.
When your ego is on the line, your words tell a different story. A story that is raw, and perhaps, breathtaking.
The best stories are the ones you feel like deleting
Last week I published a story about how life is like porn. Having my name show up in google with the word “porn” seems like a poor decision for a corporate man by day, and a writer by night.
I nearly hit delete on the story. I read it back and it sounded scary.
Publications, platforms, and readers could really get angry with a simple word like porn. It was a risk. And many people found the story helpful. By supplementing the word addiction for porn, it changed how the lessons came off. People could suddenly relate to it the story.
Had I have deleted that story because of a tiny little word that offends many people, I would never have got to sit back and see the beauty of people discovering their own version of porn in their life.
Holding back stories out of fear
I have a story I can’t publish.
I have been trying to publish this story for months and can’t bring myself to do it. It’s deeply personal, and I hope, helpful. Most of the time I succeed at publishing vulnerable stories or getting over my fear. But not this time. I’m afraid. Trapped. Alone with this boogie monster of story looking down at me and saying “who are you, you little punk?”
That’s why James Altucher’s words cut deep when he said “Be afraid to hit publish.” Somehow, he guessed what I was facing and became an unofficial coach in my battle to protect a figment of my imagination: my name.
When you hold back stories, you stop them from setting you free. What do I mean? A story that makes you afraid to hit publish, if you face it and defeat it, is a triumphant win. Every time you feel the fear and hit publish anyway, you win against yourself. The next time you have to do it, it gets slightly easier.
The rawer your stories the more people want to hear from you. Vulnerability can take you to the highest places as a writer when you unlock it. Why?
There is so much fake nonsense disguised as content on the internet.
A lot of content is purely selfish. It’s content published for the writer, not the reader. It’s content designed to feed a writer’s ego rather than help a reader escape a bad day or a tragedy.
Facing your fear as a writer and hitting publish makes you helpful. If you’re helpful for long enough, you have the potential to be a guiding light through all the darkness the world is facing due to an invisible illness.
Maybe you need to be afraid more when you publish
If all the stories you write are safe and easy to publish, and you feel you’ve hit a plateau as a writer — or worse, nobody is reading your work — maybe being afraid of the words you type is the answer.
My own writing sucked when I published ridiculous startup press releases and made entrepreneurs out to be superheroes in capes saving children from burning buildings.
The highest level you can reach as a writer is to feel afraid by what you write.
Jump in the deep end and let your writing scare you. Pretty soon, your writing won’t scare you as much, and you’ll have a new level to aim for.
Raw, unfiltered writing is life-changing.
There is one lesson I have learned after six years of writing online: Choose to be afraid to hit publish and you’ll reach millions of people.