Why You Should Write

October 10, 2020

Be a creator, not just a consumer

I sit down every weekend to write. It’s a routine I’ve deliberately cultivated for myself during this year as a way to get out of my own head and put my thoughts on (metaphorical) paper.

It started with this post on cultivating a daily writing habit, which I moved away from after 25 days into a weekly schedule.

Some of my writings go out as tweet threads, others as blog posts on this site. Invariably, I am creating and publishing week after week.

It's not just to achieve end goal (follow systems, not goals) that I write every week. I thoroughly enjoy the process of creation, the act of sitting with lo-fi or synthwave tunes in the background and punching away at the keyboard brain dumping onto a notepad.

I’ve managed to get Sankalp (my co-founder) onto writing as well. He’s still working out a schedule that helps him create and publish good content consistently, but he’s started walking the treadmill which is the important part.

Recently I’ve been engaging with my team at DelightChat to get into a regular publishing routine. Akash already writes occasionally, Deb published his podcast on SaaS content marketing, and Niraj is setting up his blog as we speak.

However, I didn’t want to be some old fart, a preacher who is saying “get on the horse” without explaining the why.

So here goes.

Reasons to write

Before proceeding further, I must make one thing clear. While I personally prefer writing, the message here is to create stuff.

Create art, design album covers, shoot vlogs, record podcasts, write code. The focus is on creation, and becoming a creator in a world where most people are only consuming.

Here’s how I explained the importance of writing and being a creator to my team.

The whole world and everything in it, people and entities, are connected by invisible strings. You can visualise it like a web, an interconnected web with billions of points.

Yes, I’m describing the model of the internet. Yes it’s more relevant than ever, because until recently majority of the world wasn’t online and connected to each other. With over 4.57 billion people on the internet, we are literally living in the interconnected web. And hence it’s important for you to visualise and grasp the enormity of it.

Back to reasons.

You can take this giant web of interconnected beings and entities, and splice it in any direction you want. And you always end up with a subset of people.

A map of the internet. Which cross-section will you splice?

Example of a large splice - people who enjoy listening to music.

Example of a smaller splice - people who enjoy alternative rock music.

Even smaller splice - people who enjoy alternative rock and compose tracks and sing in a band in the same genre.

You can take this concept and apply it to any idea and pull at the strings.

With this blog post, I’m pulling at the strings that connect people who want to create stuff, have the ability to create stuff, and want to get started but haven’t yet. More specifically, my blog might appeal to people who have the ability and desire to write.

Anyway, now you have identified a splice or subset. What next?

The question really becomes, how do you make yourself a valuable entity in a given subset or splice of this giant interconnected web? How do you become a valuable node.

And there’s only one answer to it.

The only way to become a valuable node is by pushing/publishing/releasing value into the web. But like an ocean, a drop won’t be noticed by anybody. You need a pond where you can make a splash.

You need to narrow down and focus on a small enough splice, such that when you tug at its strings, you have a real chance to get noticed. That way the value that you create in the form of written, video, audio, code, etc about topics that your narrow splice of the web cares about has a chance of earning their attention.

There is no other way. It’s not going to be easy. Many others are trying to grab the same splice of attention.

But, life is not a zero sum game.

Multiple people can win. You can win too.

And that’s brings me to the #1 reason to write or create stuff.

You can’t win if you don’t participate.

Common obstacles to writing

From my conversations with people, I’ve found the most common obstacles to be

  1. You don’t know why to write or create stuff
  2. You don’t know what to write about
  3. You don’t have a schedule or consistency
  4. Procrastination (the human mind is marvelous)

I’ve already solved the first problem by explaining the why.

Create a consistent writing schedule

The third problem can be solved by committing to a schedule. James Clear published on Mondays and Thursdays for three years until his blog finally took off. The rest we already know about.

I committed to a daily writing schedule at first, which was hard but it helped me get out of my rut. This commitment was made in public and to my girlfriend in person.

The two factors combined pushed me enough to get over my mental barriers and keep writing daily, especially on days I didn’t feel like. Back then I was writing shorter posts, which I’ve traded for longer thought pieces once a week.

You too can set a simple but achievable routine.

Set a reminder on Fridays to think of a topic to create about, spend a few hours on Saturday punching the keyboard furiously until you’ve dumped all your thoughts on paper, and then edit it before hitting publish on Sunday.

The DelightChat team has a recurring event on the calendar to help maintain a consistent creator schedule.

Remember to set a target that’s easy enough to achieve. You’re not aiming for the pulitzer prize, you are trying to create a habit that’s super easy to do, thereby reducing chances of failure.

Overcome writing procrastination

Here are a few common procrastination arrows your brain is going to shoot at you. I’m going to make you aware of them so you can dodge them.

“I don’t have time to write.”

Create a schedule, commit to it, tell your friends, family or someone who will ask you and therefore hold you accountable.

“I don’t know what to write about.”

I’ve answered that in the next section.

“Ding! New notification from WhatsApp.”

Pour oil on your phone, throw it in the dustbin, and light it on fire.

Or, you could put it on silent and place it exactly behind your laptop screen (out of eyesight). Has served me well.

"I don't have something interesting to say. I only want to write if I have something unique to say."

You are a unique person with a unique perspective and thoughts about life due to your unique circumstances and upbringing and the hundreds and thousands of experiences you've had up until now.

You have something unique to say. The topic might be old (it always is), but your unique perspective, your anecdotal experience, all add up.

“But I need to setup my blog, set up markdown, and more.”

No, you need to write. Writing is the goal, not integrating markdown.

“But the text editor I use isn’t friendly. It doesn’t integrate with my blog.”

Google Keep or Apple Notes works perfectly and is very distraction free.

Blow up the font size until you can’t see anything else on the screen. It’s what I do and it works.

Your real challenge, and the only one that matters is sitting down and penning your thoughts, or creating stuff. You can do it on a piece of paper (but do it on Google Keep or Apple Notes, seriously).

“But should I publish on Medium, on Substack, how do I format it into a tweet thread, etc.”

The medium can come later. The medium is a constraint.

Constraints can be walked around of using creativity. But it's not a limiting factor by any means.

Your goal is to write or create.

There is no perfect moment, the right time to start, or a sign from the universe where you suddenly kick procrastination in the face and get started. There is only the here and now.

Photo by Austin Chan

Hopefully these prompts I've written will help you dodge your brain’s procrastination bullets.

What to write about

Throughout the week I gather ideas on what to write about

  • from conversations with my co-founder, team and other people,
  • by observing what others have written about and if I have a perspective to share,
  • thoughts circling in my head,

and so on..

There’s infinite sources for gathering ideas, but it’s important to have an eye for catching ideas (similar to how one can train themselves to spot business or startup ideas).

And it's equally important to jot down those ideas somewhere safe and easy to access.

I have a private WhatsApp group to drop ideas whenever I have them.

Sankalp was facing a problem with coming up with topics to write about. Here’s what I told him.

Take the next 1 hour to generate ideas you can write about.

  1. Think about topics you like reading about, or talking about, or you know enough about to write.
  2. Plug in the topic keywords on Twitter and Google, or HN even. Find what others have written about it. Pick the headlines you liked jot down 20 article ideas. Write about them. Make them yours. They don't have to be your original ideas.

Since Sankalp is a programmer, he could even browse through open source repos, find that he had written a similar one but more simply or elegantly or using a different language or framework, and decide to package and publish them, and write a short note about it.

Apply the idea above to your own craft.

Whatever it takes.

Get started creating stuff this weekend

All of us have the same tools available to connect with the rest of the web.

We all have our smartphones or computers, access to the internet, accounts on the social media layer of the web (Twitter, Instagram, etc.) where we can publish, and the ability to tap into code layer (websites, products, apps) by learning to code or using no-code tools.

By publishing even a tiny tweet thread about a super specific idea or topic, you play the game.

You could open source some old code you had written, share a design template in Figma community, or share that home workout and fitness video that you’ve been meaning to record on Instagram.

The key is to participate..

..and to give your tiny splice of the massively interconnected web a reason to look at you.

So, what’s it gonna be?


Update: I wrote a separate guide on How to Develop a Daily Writing Habit. If that's your goal for this year, give it a read.

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