You’ve read plenty of stories about writing 10,000 words a day. Or how writers are making tens of thousands of dollars a year.
Typical writing advice is full of highlight reels. What is rarely spoken about is the hard months of writing.
I’m going to share the last few months of my writing journey because they have been some of the hardest. I hope my hard months show you that writing online is hard, but paradoxically, worth it. To keep going with anything in life is drastically underrated.
Feeling like you’re empty
That’s how Ifeel some days. I feel like I might be empty. Squeezing out more juice from my lemon brain seems impossible. Then somehow, once I start writing, I find my fast lane again.
That’s one drawback of writing a lot. You can get to the point where you feel like you’re empty — empty of ideas, empty of emotion, empty of words.
What a lot of writers forget is that readers want to feel a transference of energy. When I write on empty I find my writing lacks energy. This translates to readers feeling not much, therefore, leaving my story the same or worse than it found them.
The best way to fill yourself back up again is through reprioritizing the habit of reading. Reading other writers helps remind you why you write. Another way to fill your creative cup is through rest.
Not going to the gym can lower your writing energy
One of my secret writing hacks was going to the local gym before an 8-hour writing session. I’d push weights and do enough cardio to the point of exhaustion. After exhaustion those magic endorphins would find their way into my bloodstream. Endorphins made my writing process chilled.
Then a pandemic slapped me in the face and closed all the gyms. Without a vaccine in sight where I live, going to the gym is off the cards for at least another year. I still practice the habit of walking and bouncing on my trampoline but it’s not quite the same.
It’s not that I don’t know how to replicate high-intensity exercise. It’s that the environment of the gym is conducive to exercise. The music pumps loudly. My fellow gym rats lift their weights and grunt their way through sets. The personal trainers stare at my skinny ass and condemn me with their eyes, giving me the motivation to stop being lazy and actually workout properly. I miss the gym. The gym helped my writing.
Exercise before writing helps you find a 4th dimension of energy.
Struggling to find ideas
I used to be able to come up with hundreds of ideas every week. Now I struggle to find ideas. I have to work my brain harder than before to find things to write about. I don’t see this as a negative. I used to write about every idea which led to some incredibly low-quality work. Now an idea really has to move me to action to write about it.
It’s why when I get those ridiculous generic emails from PR companies asking me to write about the latest instagram beauty product trying to be Kylie Jenner, I ignore them. Bad ideas you get in your inbox that are based on selfishness feel lifeless.
The best writing ideas transcend yourself.
I try *not* to look for new ideas. I try to tie together ideas I’ve written about in the past. For example, today I wrote about deep work and tied it back to flow states and stream of consciousness writing. I’ve written about each topic individually before, but I’ve never threaded them all together with my brain acting as the needle.
When you start threading completely different ideas together it’s a sign you might be ready to publish a book. Every chapter of a book is nothing more than a blog post, anyway. I’m allergic to writing full-length books, so my strategy is to call it a “self-published eBook” to avoid the task feeling too daunting. You can do the same if you choose. First I have to make time to write a book, by perhaps, quitting my beloved 9–5 job.
Issues with social media platforms
Social media platforms can negatively affect your writing. They can delete your content. They can ban you. They can dial your voice right down. Or they can change their algorithm and with it, change the topics they allow to shine.
Getting banned from LinkedIn four times, accidentally, has sure been one giant pain in the buttocks. Your account is never the same after a beating, followed by a ban. It’s not intentional. It’s just what can happen when humans control content rather than a decentralized protocol that can’t see the color of your skin, or where you were born, or ague with your point of view.
The best social media platforms feel invisible when you use them. That’s how I feel right now about Twitter. I release a thought into the world and don’t feel the platform barking back at me. It’s just me and my silly thoughts.
Sometimes I say something remarkable. Most of the time I’m just letting society attach ideas to my original thoughts. I then collect ideas people give me on Twitter and regurgitate them into brand new blog posts, with my personal story lightly woven through to provide perspective.
Writers being jerks
Other writers can be jerks.
They can reference your work and make fun of it. They can call you out without naming you and accuse you of stuff you never did.
I don’t think other writers try to become your enemy. I just think writing online is bloody hard, and so it’s easy to fall into many traps: chasing viral trends, getting offended by comments, letting money guide you, and being overly pessimistic with downer headlines and sharing views of the world that ruin the reader’s day.
It’s easy to spot the problem and predict the downfall of America. It’s hard to offer genuine solutions you’ve tested yourself.
Being kind to other writers can get you far in the writing world. Other writers end up referring opportunities to you, introducing you to people you could never find on your own, and being there for you when your writing world feels like it’s imploding.
Other writers are the best bit about writing when you stick together.
After the hard months, come the best months of your writing life
These last few months have been the hardest of my writing career. I don’t say that to get your pity. I tell you because you’ll probably face this yourself.
I keep reminding myself that fame and attention are a nightmare. (I learned this lesson from Satoshi Nakamoto [the Bitcoin creator] who refuses to share his real name with the world.)
My solution to this problem is simple: If you can push through the hard months, then you can make it back to the months where the next level of growth lies. Your writing achievements can fall off a cliff. It’s whether you can hit the ground at the bottom of the cliff and rock-climb your way back up again, thus reaching an even higher level in the process.
This way of writing is the optimist’s viewpoint. I have no idea, yet, whether this will happen. But I choose to believe my best writing is yet to come.
The trick to making it through the hard months is to keep writing. Your hard months are the best time to experiment with new styles, topics, writing platforms and collaborations — that’s what I’m doing. I’m also going to be doing a lot more teaching about subjects I’m passionate about, using the various communities I’ve created over the last seven years.
Writers can be 6-figure teachers.
Whether it’s personal growth, financial growth, spiritual growth, or writing growth — being a writer can enable so many dreams in one.
Writing still feels like freedom, even during the hard months. Keep writing.
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