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Ten Secrets Online Writers Desperately Don’t Want You to Know

by | Jul 5, 2021 | Writing

Writers are liars.

This is the advice I once read from writer Niklas Goke. It got me thinking, what do writers not want readers to know? Well, I spend a lot of time around other writers. The patterns are too obvious not to point out.

You will understand writing online when you understand how writers think.

We think about views way too much

Don’t think about the views.
Don’t think about the views.
Don’t think about the views.

That’s what we keep telling ourselves. When our views go down we don’t feel like writing as much. Even worse, if our views really tank we can end up becoming negative towards other writers.

Views are how we measure our reach. Views help us measure our impact. We want readers to listen even if we pretend like we don’t. We do.

We want to make money from our writing

Not because we’re Lambo-loving assholes trying to get rich or die trying.


We want to make money from writing because we love writing.

It’s all we want to be doing. That’s why we try so hard to escape the office cubicle to enter the freedom of our home office full-time. That’s right: we don’t have fancy offices with barista-made coffee. At best we’ll make some money, and then buy a property far, far away so we can escape the noise of the city and write more.

Writing is what we live for. Money helps us pay bills so we can keep writing. No shame in that, is there?

We blame writing platforms a lot

“Why’d they change the algorithm mate? I was going great guns.”

Social media algorithms destroy writer’s lives. They determine whether readers do or don’t see our work based on a bunch of random factors. Or in the case of Facebook, to prioritize ads over content from writers so they can make money.

That’s right — writing platforms are businesses, not writer sanctuaries where we’re worshipped and brought cups of English Breakfast tea on our writing breaks.

We check our stats too much

Commmmmeeeee on … don’t pretend you don’t. We all do. Writers are addicted to stats. Stats are our way of procrastinating. Stats are how we ask ourselves, am I enough?

The funny part with stats is we try and make sense of them. We draw comparisons between certain datasets. We email other writers and be like, “Yo, did you notice the trend with articles that have the word billion in them?”

Stats are the scoreboard of the writer’s game. But hey, who’s counting? Not me. Never. *Nervously smiles*

We try and repeat our popular content

The funniest thing: we have one successful article and then repeat the format multiple times, hoping to tap into the original magic. The truth is, we struggle to repeat the magic of a viral article.

As much as we hate to admit it, it’s not the headline or the topic or the point of the story. Nope. Virality is random. It’s luck.

Maybe you published the story on a good day at the right time. Maybe the advice was timely based on random news events you can’t predict. Or maybe an influencer on social media shared your article with lots of people, without you knowing. Or maybe the google search gods decided to bless your beautifully round, silky smooth butt today with some traffic to your article.

After we wake up from virality, we remember fame is a nightmare. We go back into our little box and pretend not to be introverted more often than we’d like to admit.

We have really bad days

Multiple articles in a row that are ignored is all it can take. Or a family member can die and the last thing we want to do is write. Then there are those days when we think we’ve run out of ideas or got a mysterious case of writer’s block. Thank god for James Altucher and his “write ten ideas per day!”

We think everything is content

Breakup? Content.
Quit your job? Content.
Love your dog? Content.
Bad day at work? Content.
Parents hate you? Content.
Got in a car crash? Content
Suffering from a random illness? Content.
A person you want to date ghosts you? Content.
A stranger calls you a worthless c*nt? Content.

The thing is, creative brains are annoying as shit.

I love ’em, of course, but they cannot, will not, RELAX. There is always something to analyze, unravel, spin into a narrative, or picture in painfully vivid detail at 4 am.

Creative minds have no brakes.

— Emily Sinclair Montague

Comments can be hard to read

We pretend to be Mel Gibson in Braveheart when it comes to comments. The truth is we suck at reading comments.

Readers find our typos, they point out our flaws, they hurl random abuse (because they can), they question our view of the world, they tell us we’re liars, they present a link to a scientific article that rejects our claims and makes us look stupid.

Comments can be bad for our mental health. Most of us have days where we can’t stomach the comments. That’s okay.

Other writers mention us without naming us

The writer’s code we all sign up to is to *not* name other writers when we mention them. Except a few rebels who simply want to light their careers on fire because they’re bored.

But we do reference other writers by mentioning small details. Often these details will come from a recent article they wrote or a headline. Although we do this rarely. It’s not a daily habit, but writers do get to us sometimes and we feel it’s our duty to write about it.

To those who know the writer it’s obvious. To the average reader, they have no idea of the backhander we’re giving a writer who does something silly — like repeatedly spread writing that’s bad for our mental health and destroys our sense of hope after a difficult time in human history.

We don’t write a book soon enough

We write a lot of articles. We know we need to write a book and publish it on Amazon so we go beyond the blogger label. We know our best articles could easily be chapters in a book with the title relating back to the most popular title we write about. But we don’t do it. Why?

I sent a survey to more than 11,000 writers. Why don’t we write books sooner?

We feel we don’t have the time.

We’re so busy on the hamster wheel of writing articles that we think a book is too much work.

That’s until we learn we can write a book in 30 days. That’s until we realize that books are simply longer form blog posts. That books are a lot more disposable these days than our ego cares to admit. Then we finally dare to go to level two and publish a book.

We take too long to get serious with our email list

An email list is how we writers own our audience. When we own our audience no algorithm dictates whether readers see our work.

But building an email list isn’t easy. It takes time. We need a free eBook, course, or checklist we can give to readers in return for them giving us their email address. We get lazy too with sending emails to our subscribers. Or we put in very little effort and send subscribers our most-read article for the week, hoping they’ll love us for the convenience factor.

We feel terrible about unsubscribes

An email list keeps us accountable. If we dare try and sell anything to our email list — like a book — the number of unsubscribes spikes. We start losing readers left, right, and center that took us years to get.

We tell ourselves “see, this is what happens when I sell.” Or worse, we keep selling stuff with every email we send our readers and eventually kill off a large part of our audience, by letting our financial goals and dreams get in the way of giving readers free stuff to help them.

We get frustrated with publications

How dare they reject my work? we think to ourselves in the shower. We grow tired of submitting articles and having suggested edits be made.

We get pissed with editors who have huge egos and talk down to us.

Or that worship the elitist writing culture that used to exist before social media democratized writing and gave a voice to indie writers, who don’t have a byline in the New York times, and frankly, couldn’t give a f*ck about writing for the New York Times.

We want to say whatever we want

We want creative freedom. We don’t want to water down our headline or be told what topics we can write about. Occasionally we want to be a little controversial. Or tell a story that makes our heart bleed, without breaking some random editorial guideline that isn’t written anywhere and feels like stepping on a landmine.

These are the secrets I’ve learned from being an online writer and hanging around so many writers over the last seven years.

Can you relate? I bet you can.

Now writing isn’t so lonely. You know what all of us writers are thinking. You’re welcome. Now go write your little heart out because your words matter and the world needs your stories.

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