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Commonly Held Assumptions About Writing Online That Are Total B.S.

by | May 8, 2023 | Writing

The writing world has some crazy rules.

And most of them are wrong or are way out of date and keep writers broke. Here are a few commonly held assumptions so you can avoid them.

You have to be a writer

No you don’t.

We are all writers. We write emails and text messages all day long. This fancy label muzzles many everyday voices that could improve the world through writing.

You have to be an expert

No you don’t.

It feels odd to say but we’re all experts in something, even if we don’t realize it. The secret is to remind yourself what you’re an expert in. It’s to lower your imposter syndrome and see that you know more about a few topics than you’ve been willing to let yourself realize.

I always thought I sucked at business and didn’t want to write about it.

But I did own a 100-person startup at the age of 26 so I must know something, right? Once I leaned into that expertise everything changed.

Others didn’t need to believe in me, I did.

You need a social media audience

It’s a nice-to-have but not a must.

You can build an entire email list off the back of guest posting and getting other writers to recommend you. Or by buying recommendations for your newsletter from other newsletter writers.

The secret to audience building is creativity, not how many polarizing contrarian tweets you can jam into peoples’ faces for empty likes.

An email list is your savior

Nope.

We’re drowning in emails. In one way emails are a direct way to reach readers. In another way they’re another place on the internet to become lost in the noise. There are no absolutes with writing online.

The answer is always “a little from column A and a little from column B.”

The challenge with emails is when we get too many we tend to unsubscribe from them, even if what the author wrote is good. Writers are starting to realize they don’t just need social media, email lists, and good writing.

No. They need to also build an online community in an app like Discord. None of these things are easy. As I always say…

Choose your hard.

Writing online is hard but those who can stay in the game 1–5 years will make 6 figures. Then a job becomes optional.

A book deal is the holy grail

A book deal guarantees you nothing.

So someone is going to upload your book to Amazon’s website. That website is drowning in books. How do people magically find yours?

This is one of the worst assumptions in history and it’s way out of date. 30 years ago if a book publisher got a hold of your book it was a ticket to lots of sales. Now, the only ticket to sales is for you to market the book to your existing audience or get real creative on borrowing other audiences.

But it’s all on you.

Book publishers aren’t going to do the work for you. Read that again.

And a book deal isn’t a lottery ticket or a pathway to overnight Hollywood success with a plaque on Hollywood Boulevard in your name followed by a deal to buy your writing and adapt it into a screenplay directed by Steven Spielberg.

Writers have the most outrageous fantasies of any industry.

Post on every social media app

If you divide your writing efforts amongst more than 1–2 platforms, you never gain traction.

Social media is about understanding the nuances or the one-percenters of each platform. Think of each social media app as like learning a language.

The aim isn’t to be everywhere to check a box.

The aim is to reach mastery on one platform and then convert that attention into email subscribers that then crossover into your private community and maybe even become customers of your information products.

Repurpose content if you want to be smart

Most writers who repurpose content are dumbasses. Sorry.

They promote this technique like snake oil salesman in their pyramid scheme webinars to sound smart. If you take a satirical tweet and post it in an overly professional place like LinkedIn, it’s not gonna work.

You’re speaking German to French people.

Repurposing content is lazy. Often it’s just easier to write fresh content than repurpose. The idea cutting and pasting your writing all over the internet will help you have a writing career is a joke.

Every piece of content I’ve occasionally repurposed has almost always been rewritten and heavily edited.

You need a niche

Wrong answer.

A niche will make you get bored. What you need to do is go broad with your writing to collect data and find out what readers like about your writing.

Then over time slowly collect a few topics you know about, and like researching, and that readers enjoy hearing from you about. Whenever you feel bored, change topic. And don’t forget to blend together unlikely topics.

That’s how “the index fund way of life” went from being a finance term to a life lesson catchphrase.

The niche is you. The niche is your view of the world.

The platform you choose to write on matters

“But what platform do I write on?”

I get some version of this question every day as if it’s the secret to eternal youth, millions of dollars, and great s*x.

The nature of the modern internet is everything can be highly shareable. The writing just has to be good. And if it is, trust your smart readers to figure out how to reshare and email your work all around the globe.

The hard part, as always, is doing good work.

That requires good thinking. And good thinking comes from a writing habit, rest, flow states, and actually having real-life experiences.

AI has destroyed writing forever (watch out!)

No it won’t.

AI will destroy content creators who churn out useless writing trying to get likes they don’t even know what to do with.

AI is an enhancer of good humans and a replacement for lazy humans. AI is a writer’s free research partner. Over time it will help writers write better. For now, the #1 thing about AI writers need to learn is how to write good prompts to output helpful writing.

The average writer uses one-sentence prompts for ChatGPT. Extraordinary writers write specific prompts full of instructions that are paragraphs long and take 30 minutes to write.

Oh, and AI can’t live in the human world and form human views. So as long as you’re not a content mill writer, you’ll be fine.

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