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What I Wish People Knew About Online Writers

by | Jul 4, 2024 | Writing

Online writers are apparently the start of a new pyramid scheme.

We’re called influencers, bloggers, audience builders, or digital writers. We’re part of this thing called The Creator Economy.

Some hate it. They think it’s about nothing more than clickbait and gaining attention any way possible.

It pisses me off.

As someone who has been an online writer for 10+ years, let me tell you what most people don’t know about us.

The world doesn’t want writers to earn money

They’ll let some suit on Wall Street make $5M a year for doing nothing.

But the world doesn’t want online writers to earn a living. Almost every platform that’s claimed to help us writers has secretly exploited us. They’ve quietly tried to turn us into Uber drivers.

Imagine getting a job and finding out the salary was variable. You could earn anywhere from $1 to $50,000 a month.

That’s what it’s like for us online writers at the start.

If we try to make money we’re called make-money-online gurus. We’re apparently sellouts. We’ve cheated on the craft of writing.

We’ve destroyed the overly romanticized notion of a writer, which is a person who writes for love and one day gets discovered by a book publisher that makes us into the next JK Rowling.

It’s a lie.

The real truth is those up top don’t value our craft — and they hate free speech. It’s weird because writing is thinking, it’s creativity at its finest.

Creativity should be worth more than any other skill, including business.

We‘re not needy for attention

People think we writers are desperate for attention.

That’s not true. Most of us aren’t chasing fame. It’s actors and musicians who chase that toxic goal.

Writers just want to help people with words. We love to tell stories and dig up nuggets from history that most people have forgotten.

We want writing to be the dominant media because audio and video has become a toxic wasteland, thanks to platforms such as TikTok. Writing is the original art form. It’s pure. It’s clean. It’s accessible to anyone.

It’s not about attention. It’s about storytelling and wisdom.

We’re always thinking about writing

24/7. Every. Damn. Day.

Even while on holiday. We keep thinking about the next big writing idea. The next story. When we see a weird situation take place, we’re already thinking about how we can write about it.

Everything is content to a writer. Our brains never switch off.

Critics think it’s bad. But we love it. We’re slightly ADHD and we’re okay with it. A little manic too.

Writing is free therapy

Many of us have gone through some sh*t.

We’ve tried therapy but it hasn’t worked. So we use writing online as a way to process all our bad stuff. We try to take a dark time in our life, and turn it into a lesson or some inspiration.

Through the process of writing we change.

What we wrote a year ago is embarrassing compared to what we’re writing today. When I read my old “wake up at 4 am articles” I laugh.

I have a one year old daughter now and there’s zero chance I can wake up that early lol. My wife would chase me out of the house with a broom.

10 years ago writing helped me rewire my brain. It’s not just me either.

Writing is how we program ourselves. It’s how we question everything and decide what we believe in. Through the research process we learn we don’t know as much as we thought.

We get humbled all the time

Maybe it’s a spelling error.

Or a bad stat. Or forgetting to link to a source. Or changing our mind on some big idea we had. Or realizing our political beliefs need to change — or the whole damn system needs to change.

If you hate being humbled you’ll hate writing online.

We work long hours

Good writing takes a lot of time.

To the reader it just looks like words on a page. What they don’t see behind the scenes are all the revisions, edits, and external feedback we get.

Great writing is highly edited. But you can’t see the edits. Only we can. So it looks easy when it’s incredibly hard.

The typical writing session is long. Many of us batch. Some of us write all day, or in between meetings at a 9–5 job. We write because we’re obsessed. We can’t stop.

We have to release what’s in our mind even if no one reads.

We all have a book in our heads

The idea of a book in the modern world is odd.

It takes on average 10–20 hours to read a book. We writers are delusional enough to think strangers who’ve never come across us before will go from not knowing us to a 20 hour love affair with our book.

It used to be possible — before the millions of AI-written books.

If readers won’t read our essays, newsletters, or tweets, what the hell makes us think they’ll read our book?

Now books are more of a fantasy.

Unless we have an audience online we’re unlikely to publish a book anyone reads. Some of us still cling to the old book ideology. The rest of us have moved on and plan to publish a book when we have a big enough audience.

You can still make a lot of money, though, by going meta and selling book fantasies to other romantic writers. But it’s highly unethical.

The brave new world of online writing is incredible

Wait, what?

So far this story might seem sad. But it’s the opposite. The internet is continuing to democratize every part of society. AI is continuing to devalue generic and unskilled work like banking.

This means we’re heading into a digital renaissance. The value of creativity is making a huge comeback — and that includes writers.

So for many of us, we’re right on time with our writing. It does require a mindset shift though. Just making money from the writing itself isn’t enough anymore.

Writers now have to become semi-entrepreneurial, otherwise they risk being replaced. This creates a lot of noise and turns nice writers into angry little devils. Such is life.

The final thing I wish people knew about us weirdos…

Writing online is hard.

You’re literally signing up for one of the hardest games in the world. You may as well tell mama and papa that you’re going to win a gold medal in the 100M sprint at the Olympics…because the difficulty is the same.

But that’s the opportunity.

Writing online is hard and that’s why it’s so damn rewarding. And the opportunities are so insane that it’s crazy not to try it.

Even if you fall short as a writer, you still have a library of content that creates social proof, increases your credibility, and makes you look smart.

I wish more people knew there was zero downside to writing online.

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