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The Psychology of the Greatest Writers Online

by | Oct 10, 2022 | Writing

Great writers don’t write well. They think in a beautiful way.

This thinking is a result of their psychology that they’ve carefully refined, like carving a sculpture out of a wooden log for 5 years every day.

So much of the writing world doesn’t make sense.

It’s a psychological game, not a technical one. You have to understand how an online writer thinks, if you ever hope to earn a living doing it and maintain a writing habit.

I’ve been lucky to work and speak with the best online writers of our generation (you know the big names I’m talking about but can’t name).

On every call I take notes.

Here’s what I’ve noticed about great writers’ psychology.

Focus on the habit, not the results

The greatest online writers treat writing like the gym. It’s not about what they get out but what they put in.

I have my favorite writers across all the major platforms bookmarked. The frustrating part is these writers make it into my bookmarks by writing a life-changing story.

But within a few years they get deleted from my bookmarks because they stop writing. I’ve kept this practice up for 8 years.

Only around three writers from the day I started this practice are still publishing. These same writers have earned 6–7 figures and gone on to have enormous success.

Even if you’re not a great writer, it’s hard to suck forever if you stick at it.

Writing is mental training masquerading as physical typing.

They hit publish regardless of outside circumstances

Great online writers always hit publish.

They have no idea of the outcome because virality is obviously random. All they can count on is their writing finding an audience.

The strange thing is the times when they’re most afraid of hitting publish, often, go on to become their most successful stories.

The same is true for me.

If a story I wrote makes me want to delete it or hide from my wife, I know it’s a banger … so I feel the fear and hit publish anyway.

Don’t blame the algorithm

I’ve never heard a great writer blame a social media algorithm.

Most of them don’t know how algorithms work (and will never know), so they spend zero time thinking or talking about it in free Facebook groups full of amateur writers.

Here’s the crazy part: the more people enjoy a piece of writing, the more the algorithm shares it. Because highly read writing is good for the platform, therefore, it’s great for getting your work widely distributed.

So flip the narrative.

Ask yourself, “how do I write better so my writing is good enough to be read by others so the algorithm will share it more?”

Low views aren’t the algorithm’s fault. It’s yours.

Don’t think they’re experts

There’s this bizarre narrative that you have to be an expert to write about a topic. Nope.

Welcome to social media. It exists for the general public to write on and share their thoughts. (Some call it citizen journalism.)

We’re tired of experts.

They have huge egos and get their powerful buddies to get them opportunities they often haven’t earned.

Writing belongs to the people again. The crowd decides what writing is good or bad. Then the share button amplifies the story automatically.

Great writers think they can be experts in any topic if they do some basic research and craft a good narrative or share a kickass story.

The business of writing has nothing to do with money

Even the greatest writers need to eat.

Business school owner Tom Bilyeu recently said, “I thought I was teaching business but I realized I had to teach psychology.”

The same happened to me. I started an online academy for writers thinking they needed to learn about writing platform features. LOL. Nope. 99% of them just had the wrong psychology.

Once I learned how to fix their thinking the writing came easy.

If you want to use writing to earn a living, you must first expand your mind and learn about the psychology of writing.

Photo by Persnickety Prints on Unsplash

They’re super-approachable

The bad writers I’ve met over the years think they’re King Richard.

If you email them you’ll likely get their virtual assistant or some snobby reply that says “I’m so busy, doncha know, how dare you contact me.”

Great writers are psychologically wired to interact with readers and make friends with other writers. Deep down they don’t want to be another lonely writer, trying to figure stuff out on their own.

You can approach them and ask questions.

And they’ll happily tell you everything they know about writing or post it on their social media accounts. They don’t have some wimpy mindset that makes them think what they know about writing is secret — or special.

They don’t have sketchy-as-hell shallow goals

Let me tell you a secret: many writers want to be famous.

They want loads of attention and they’ll say or do anything to get it — even if it means hurting others or throwing false accusations in their writing at innocent people.

The psychology of great writers I know is to do the opposite. They think fame is a nightmare.

They don’t want loads of attention like adult babies. They just want to make a small difference in their corner of the internet, then go home and spend time with their family.

Maybe they write a book. Maybe they don’t.

Their writing careers aren’t built on top of Hollywood mountains that require permission slips and millions of eyeballs.

They don’t constantly look at stats

Ryan Holidays doesn’t look at his email list stats. He doesn’t even have the login to ConvertKit, according to recent reports.

That’s how great writers are. They know stats can be addictive. They know stats are unpredictable and produce a rollercoaster of emotions.

So they don’t obsess over them.

In my case, I’m 4 months clean of stat-checking. It’s an insidious past-time that rots your soul and makes you do dumb stuff as a writer. You probably have enough readers already.

Take a chill pill from the stats page.

They don’t think about how they look

The moment you picture your boss or parents reading your work, your writing dream is dead.

Great writers don’t think about a dumbass boss (if they have one). Every boss is on notice.

People are quiet quitting the sh*t out of them, so who cares if they fire you? Go on LinkedIn — there are jobs everywhere begging for you to apply. Maybe people close to you will like your writing. Maybe they won’t.

If they ask about it (which they won’t) tell them, “My job is to make you think. When you don’t agree it’s beautiful.”

They know how to ask readers to take action without dropping their underpants

Every great writer wants readers to subscribe to their work.

Rather than have ten different calls-to-action at the end (or god forbid, throughout their writing), they have one ask: join their email list.

They don’t have a bunch of softcore asks that feel like begging, either:

  • Buy my book
  • Buy me a coffee
  • “Tip me stupid”
  • Buy this membership so I get an affiliate commission

Short-term financial rewards don’t build the careers of great writers. Email lists do.

“Trust small things will lead to big things”

(James Clear)

Tweets are small. They seem silly. But they can lead to big things.

Great writers understand this. They’re okay to start small with a tiny following on a lesser-known platform. They don’t need a million followers on day one to feel like writing.

What’s bizarre is most great writers love writing. They’d happily do it for free or for zero readers.

Writing is oxygen they can’t breathe without.

They’re not always thinking about themselves when they write

Thinking can hurt. But thinking about yourself too much causes mental torture I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

Great writers think less about themselves and spend most of their time thinking about how they can be helpful to readers.

They write for readers, not their fragile ego.

The cheesy mindset they all have that’ll melt your heart

A growth mindset is required to be a great online writer.

A fixed mindset has killed more writing dreams than a lack of talent. If you don’t think you can be a successful writer, you never will be.

Where you are today isn’t where you can be in 5 years by writing on the internet. The trouble is you need an imagination and a dose of optimism to believe it’s even possible.

Great writers don’t feel good all the time

Here’s the final psychological insight great writers taught me.

Sometimes depression or anxiety kick in.

Or a tragedy enters their life and messes up their mind. But they know that psychological resilience isn’t created by feeling fantastic every day.

They know that some days it’ll feel bad to write, yet those are the days their writing career grows the most.

Because if you can write on sh*tty days, you can write on any day. And 99% of writing is just showing up daily to do it.

Writing online is a marathon, not a sprint.

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