By Tim Denning
Many writers have seen their social media stats take a beating.
My LinkedIn, Twitter, Vocal, and Facebook stats are the worst they’ve ever been. Writers all around me are falling to pieces. Then there are the rare ones like Ayo that keep writing, even when the sky seems to be falling in and there are humans in hazmat suits knocking at your door, and seeing if you’ve been taken down by a mystery virus sweeping the world.
“This ain’t my first rodeo,” as George Bush once said to the former Prime Minister of Australia (who once told me the story). I’ve been living this writing dream for the past six years.
Writing is bloody hard.
It’s also the single best thing I have ever done in my life.
Here are the tips you need to pick yourself off the floor and keep writing.
You can’t rediscover yourself in your stats.
Writing stats do not reveal the meaning of your life. Your writing stats won’t make you happy. If anything, they’ll confuse the hell out of you.
You’ll start acting as though horoscopes are real and it’s only a matter of time until the universe conspires in your favor and the secret law of attraction graces your precious words on a screen.
For the last 30 days I committed to ignoring my financial writing stats. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. Writing for money kills the art.
Step away from your stats.
Your stats don’t determine your effort.
You control effort. The effort produces the results. If you want better results you’ve got to put in more effort. Writing progress isn’t linear either. You don’t spend a few extra hours a week writing over the course of a couple of months and magically qualify for a gold watch and 100,000 views.
You can easily become a robot attached to a computer.
Writing can easily become slave labor.
Over the past few weeks I’ve started to notice, at times, that I am a slave to my computer and my writing goals. The thought of not having a 9–5 job and solely writing for a living scares the hell out of me. Writing to pay bills instead of for fun changes the meaning. I don’t want to screw with my creativity and attach it to a mortgage.
Robots write to achieve stats. Humans write because it gives us meaning, and it helps others who we may never get to meet. Don’t choose the robot approach to writing.
You can’t beat time in the game.
People look at my writing career and think I woke up this way. I wrote for free, for years with hardly any readers.
Here is the evidence of my pre-game.
There are more than 10,000 hours of writing on the first place I ever wrote. There were no royalties, or sponsorship deals, or affiliate link income. When I emailed other publications or writers they mostly ignored me.
I got good at being ignored. Until the number of hours of work was too hard to continually ignore for any longer. And even after all this time I’m still a nobody and get rejected by publications every week.
Forget what the other writers are doing.
You’re not other writers. Stop trying to figure out their formulas. There are no formulas other than find a day that suits you every week to sit down and write.
Other writer’s success is none of your business.
Cheer when your fellow writers do well and then get right back to work. A writer’s words are shaped by their style, life experiences, unique voice, books they’ve read since being alive, and people in their network.
You can’t mimic, copy or recreate someone else’s life. Trying to do so is the fastest way to a huge amount of frustration that will cause you to give up writing altogether.
Going viral won’t achieve your writing goals.
I watch writers talk about virality all the time. Here’s the thing about virality: by it’s very definition it’s a random event.
Unless you plan on becoming Jesus and turning water into wine, forget about virality. I can’t predict it and neither can James Altucher. I’ve been lucky to have many pieces go viral over the years. You know what? Each piece took me by surprise. They were all crappy and published quickly. If you focus on virality you’re guaranteed never to go viral and experience the randomness.
Just write. The internet owes you nothing.
Don’t calculate your hourly rate.
I’ve seen bloggers calculate their hourly rate. This is a quick way to demotivate yourself and end up quitting.
Blogging pays hardly any money until you’ve done it for a while. If you don’t like writing then blogging isn’t for you. Sorry.
You’re not too late.
There isn’t a magic time to become a writer or join a platform. Thinking there are special writers who are lucky because of the time they started writing — on platforms like Twitter when it was cool and hip — is ridiculous.
Your creativity determines your writing results, not the platform. There are people (like me) starting out on Twitter 14 years after it launched and making it work. Platform timing is a fallacy. Get a grip.
Writers who chase the latest and greatest platforms are pathetic. They’re at the clutches of tech companies who manipulate them to build their business.
Write somewhere, anywhere. That’s it.
“Write what works” equals extreme boredom.
There isn’t anything that works 100% of the time. This mindset causes great writers to follow trends and end up crying in the corner of their home office.
If there’s a formula for writing that works then Tim Ferriss would have already dissected the heck out of it and published it under the title “The 4-Hour Writer.”
You get bored when you follow writing trends. This extreme level of boredom then starts to bore readers. It’s this mindset that creates generic writing, worshipping Steve Jobs and his brilliant apple.
Most writers fail. They give up.
Not giving up is most of the battle.
All you have to do to be a successful writer is not give up. It’s kind of funny: If you can stick at a hobby like writing for 5 years, there’s a high chance you will make 6 or 7 figures.
The problem is most humans can’t stick at one thing for 5 years, so they have to get a job and run away from creative pursuits like writing. That is the really harsh truth — there I said it.
You can be a successful writer if you play the 5 year game.
It’s *not* the social media platform’s fault.
When LinkedIn banned me for the 4th time I was frustrated too. I was ready to throw a toaster at the CEO of LinkedIn. Then I calmed down and drank some green tea and ate vegan chocolate biscuits. I even squeezed my smiley face stress ball. Calmness entered. Everything was okay. The world didn’t stop. My landlord didn’t kick me out of her student apartment with a leaky tap and candle wax on the bathroom floor that won’t come off.
Nobody can ever dissect a social media company’s algorithm. You know why? A) It’s top secret B) It’s always changing.
Give the social media platforms a break. It’s hard to police the firehose of content being sprayed in readers’ faces. It’s hard to hand out content to users like it’s Christmas and you’re wearing a santa suit.
In the time it takes to complain you could have written an 800-word story that helps people.
That’s the truth. Complaining is wasting your writing time. Take your complaint and put it into words that might help a person in the same situation as you. Have a conversation with yourself through writing.
Writing is designed to test you.
Can you pass the writing test and keep going?
There isn’t a fixed number of years to be successful as a writer.
There’s no point comparing your writing journey to someone else’s.
Just because Brigette fancy pants did it in 12 months that doesn’t mean you can or will replicate her results.
Writing isn’t university. You don’t show up for four years and get yourself into 6-figures of debt and then walk away with a certificate most employers couldn’t give a damn about that you can frame and show your parents.
It’s time to move from problem to solution. Now we’ve debunked all the possible excuses you could ever come up with, it’s time to move forward.
Here’s what you can do to win the writing war
These are the exact strategies I use when my writing stats fall off a cliff. It’s taken me years to figure these things out. They will help keep you writing.
The Biggest Writing Hack: “Diversify your income streams”
Out of everything I can tell you this one is the most important. Many writers do it to make a living and pay rent. I’m not naive. I get it.
If your situation is you need to write to stay alive then the best advice I can give you is to bring in lots of different revenue streams.
Here are a few of my writing income sources:
- Royalties from more than three platforms
- Online courses
- Writing business content for tech companies
On top of all that I have a 9–5 job. See how diverse you need to be? If one income stream falls off a cliff then you can make up your lost earnings. Diversification of income is important in writing like it is with investing your money. You can breathe a sigh of relief with careful risk management.
Your best pieces will be impossible to predict.
My best stories all have one thing in common: I cared. Publish your story and then move on quickly. I wrote a piece about Chernobyl horses. I thought I was so smart. I shared the story with Sean Kernan. He liked it. The results are in: I’m an idiot and can’t predict anything.
Network *hard* with other writers.
Your fellow writers will change your perspective. Ohhh… and they will introduce you to new income streams and writing opportunities. To attract good writers you’ve got to put out good energy.
Bad energy equals blaming and complaining. Good writers who can help you run from that. Negative energy sucks the life out of you and your writing.
Take a course to level-up your writing skills.
If you’ve stalled with your writing career then you may have reached your peak. It might be time to take a writing course and discover what skills you’re missing. Failed writers think they’re too good. Writers who crush it are always willing to learn and expose themselves to brand new ideas/strategies.
Get genuine feedback on your work.
Do a trade. Ask another writer for feedback and then do the same for them. The best people who will likely help you are people playing at the same level as you. Don’t reach out to Hemingway while he’s trying to enjoy the afterlife and ask him to give you feedback. He’s not going to do it.
Start believing in yourself.
Negative self-talk and pity aren’t going to get you anywhere. For once, believe you can do it. Build yourself up rather than tear yourself down in your head, quietly. You can achieve phenomenal results as a writer but if you don’t believe you can then readers, editors and publications will never believe you.
Change your expectations.
If everybody could publish once a month and make 6-figures then all writers would be doing it and quitting their jobs. Writing is hard.
Maybe your writing is fine. It might be your expectations you need to hone in. Check yourself before you wreck yourself, as Ice Cube said.
Don’t be impatient for progress.
Quiet patience helps you write better and stay the course. A writing career is built over many years. As soon as you make progress you’re only going to want more. You think your thirst for success stops when you make 6 figures or 7 figures? Hell no. You can never get enough progress and that’s the problem.
Slow down. Progress isn’t everything. Enjoy the ride instead.
Writing is playing a video game against yourself.
Writer, Nicolas Cole, compares writing with when he was one of the highest-ranked players in North America for a computer game called World of Warcraft.
The only person you compete against as a writer is yourself.
Audit your inputs.
What the heck are you consuming? If all you ever listen to is Joe Rogan then you’re going to have a one-sided view of the world. Your writing can become boring when your inputs don’t change. Change your inputs to change what you output through writing.
The man couldn’t stop experimenting. Try and find a trend in my writing. You can’t. There is no trend and very little commonality. That’s because I learned to treat writing as an endless series of experiments.
Experiment a lot. Don’t see what works. See what makes you smile.
Syndicate your content.
This month has been difficult. Did I complain? Hardly. I started syndicating more of my work to platforms like Ladders and Business Insider.
You can complain, or double down. Be the Samurai — not the fat dude at the bar drinking full carb beer and complaining about everything that is wrong with the world (the armchair critic know-it-all who really knows nothing).
Publish in different publications.
Publications all look for different things and have different rules. Adding certain constraints to your writing can help you find a creative spark. Remember this
- The owners and editors are not your slaves.
- Publications are a partnership. Treat them like partners and you will get to work with more of them. They have the power to elevate your work.
Two questions to get you out of a funk
- What can you teach?
- How can you help?
It’s hard to fail if you’re consistent.
It’s not what happens month to month, but what happens over the course of a year plus. Writers who are consistent and write a lot win the writing war. It’s when you’re not consistent that everything can fall apart.
Look for unusual topics.
- Niklas Goke wrote about an orange juice campaign.
- 80% of Sean Kernan’s content will show you unusual topics.
- See my weird-ass Chernobyl horses piece.
Honestly ask yourself: Are you still interesting?
You can’t write the same crap over and over and expect to get a book deal and retire. That’s the definition of writing insanity, and many writers I’ve met over the last six years suffer from it.
If you’re not interesting through the medium of writing, then how on earth do you expect the reader to care?
Go back to being interesting again. You know how to be interesting.
Bad news: writing isn’t about you. Writing is about the reader.
More from my site
- A Writer Is Only as Interesting as Their Life
- You Can Easily Avoid Being Just Another Boring Writer
- Write to Think. Don’t Think, and Then Write.
- I Plan on Being the Most Read Writer on the Internet
- The Exact System I Used to Build an Email List with 45,000+ Subscribers
- I Blocked a Fellow Writer for the First Time Ever Today