Why you should return to long-form writing
Blogging is a wonderful, fulfilling meta-cognitive exercise. We all used to do this far more. Let's expand our mental ram past 280 characters once again...
If you’re a any type of creative, your best ideas probably hit you when you’re not actively looking for them. Rather, they strike when you’re engaged in another task, or sometimes quite randomly. That is why it is vital to carry a pad and pen (or the digital variety) with you everywhere you go.
What happens to me in many cases is my best ideas strike while driving my car, at the gym or while running/rock climbing/swimming — times when I can’t just stop what I’m doing and write down an idea (hey inventors, here’s an idea: a water-proof white board for the shower …I’m only half joking).
Anyway while working out the other day, it struck me how going to the gym is highly analogous to writing. The analogy is as simple as: going to the gym is good for your body, as writing is good for your brain.
Think about it:
People get equally excited about the ideas of blogging or podcasting and going to the gym and start out strong thinking how easy this will be, however only a few push through the dip. As my friend Jack Butcher notes: 90% of podcasts don’t get past episode 3. That’s 1.8 million who quit. Of the 200,000 left, 90% will quit after 20 episodes. That’s another 180,000 gone. To be in the top 1% of podcasts in the world you only need to publish 21 episodes.
Most only go to the gym a few times before giving up. Most people only put down a few blog or podcast entries before giving up.
Both writing and going to the gym are large commitments if you want to be successful, but the rewards are huge with each.
When you’re new, it’s easy to get both discouraged yet inspired when you see people in great shape. Same with seeing writers with hundreds of thousands of readers when you’re just starting out.
The payoff for success of writing and going to the gym is not instant, rather the payoff is due to sustained effort over time with cumulative benefits.
Once you get into a groove, writing and going to the gym become easier, more natural and much more rewarding with time.
Why writing is such a a great brain boost
Internal reflection and personal growth
Writing allows you as a professional to share what you’ve learned with the world in a tangible format and concurrently solidify your learnings for later reflection. Over time, you are creating a personal knowledge base to build upon ideas, improving them and adding to them over time as you learn. It is a a process that keeps moving as long as you are growing. You develop much further by coming home each day and spending some time to archive/share your inspirations, reflections or thoughts than if you keep them locked up inside where they may be lost. I believe this is why Jordan Peterson who is very highly followed continues to promote his “Future Authoring Program.” Many are strangely polarized on Peterson, that completely aside his passion for getting young people to write and put ideas down concretely is an admirable one, as it works for nearly all who commit to it to by clarifying ideas and goals.
Challenging yourself to consistently be generative
Just like you have to challenge your body to go to the gym, you have to challenge and train your mind to organize your thoughts to share with your audience daily. Eventually you will start to see potential ideas everywhere. You’ll encourage your brain to form fresh connections daily and be more meta-cognitive about the world in a way that’s deeper than shorter-form social media. Reclaim longer-form, reflective ideas and more fleshed out concepts and you will start thinking better.
A book that you write slowly over time
I’ve written easily over 3,000 blog posts of varying length since I started writing long form online in 2006. Many upwards of 2,000+ words. That’s several books in total. All during my free time. After awhile, there’s a set of themes I’ve gravitated towards and continue to build upon over time. If you’ve been a subscriber for a decent amount of time here or on my other sites, you probably see the overarching picture I am painting with my ideas and getting to know my worldview (and for those of you who comment here, reply personally or respond on your own blog, I love getting to know you too). Many professional authors state how they enjoy writing even more than writing books, and I understand why. Writing on the internet through a blog or Substack is like writing an open, social book, bit by bit with instant feedback/closing the loop on your ideas, which is important.
Writing keeps your mind sharp, improves your communication, brings you closer to the most interesting people
By getting into a strong writing routine, you will challenge your mind to grow and stay sharp, your writing will have a marked improvement and you’ll network/learn from other smart people in your niche.
Just like you can tell people the benefits of working out yet they’ll never make it to the gym a day in their life, I can tell you the benefits of writing and you may still never write a day in your life. That’s up to you, however I think this analogy is a fantastic explanation for why it is beneficial.
How to successfully integrate writing into your busy life
There are so many tangible and intangible benefits, if you are serious about shaping your industry, growing personally and helping others, you can’t ignore publishing your ideas digitally in long-form (Twitter is great, but you need more space if you want to have lasting impact beyond the zeitgeist of a given day and be reference-able).
OG blogger Tom Peters states, at the beginning of the blogging revolution:
“I will simply say my first post was in August of 2004…no single thing in the last 15 years professionally has been more important to my life than blogging. It has changed my life, it has changed my perspective, it has changed my intellectual outlook, it has changed my emotional outlook (and it’s the best damn marketing tool by an order of magnitude I’ve ever had…and it’s free)”
The sticking point…
The software is free, getting a domain and hosting are dirt cheap, and setting up Substack couldn’t be simpler…
At this point, especially to readers here for any length of time, you are either sold on the idea of having a publication (many of you already do), or you’re never going to do it. To those who aren’t interested, you can stop reading here (or forward this to a friend you think might be interested). Everyone who is still interested, the rest of this post is to help you overcome the one major issue I know you’re struggling with.
The only real impediment between many smart professionals and writing? Time. Mainly, a lack of it. That’s it.
I know you can write, want to make positive change in your industry and desire to create a name for yourself. I know you are motivated and intelligent. You know the technology is simple to setup (millions of others are using it just fine). But on more than one occasion when encouraging people I know would be a fantastic writers to start, the sticking point for them – and perhaps the issue for you – is time. Many think that they simply don’t have enough of it.
If you’re someone who thinks that, you’re wrong. You can make time and be efficient with writing. You don’t have to commit insane hours, you don’t have to give up sleep, and the positives far outweigh any hours you’ll miss being mildly entertained. Here’s a few tips for how to integrate writing into your busy life successfully I’ve found work for me:
Write what you know, write what flows easily
The content on your professional blog should be just that – posts about your industry. Share what you’ve learned with the world in an open format. This should be a joy, as you’re writing on something you’re passionate about. Both new and experienced professionals should be able to come up with something compelling to say, as everyone brings different and useful viewpoints to the table.
Audit your time
To be successful, you should build writing into the natural flow of your day. To do this, you need to first audit your time. Create a spreadsheet outlining every hour of the day you’re not at work. Logically see where you can fit in 15-30 minutes to write.
What do you do when you get home? If you watch TV, spend hours on Facebook, or surf the web aimlessly consider using some of your free time to help yourself and write instead.
How much time do you spend doing chores/cleaning? Batch task and streamline your processes and I guarantee you can come up with some extra time here.
Do you go out with your friends every night? Don’t become anti-social, but take a night off now and then to work on growth through writing.
Keep an idea-pad, write down potential post topics as you think of them
What you’ll find is you come up with fantastic ideas for topics when you’re not actively thinking about it. In other words, you’ll be at work or with friends/family and all of a sudden a brilliant topic hits you. Keep a notepad with you at all times (digital or analog) and jot down ideas as they come. Knowing what you want to blog about will save you a lot of time when you’re actually ready to write.
Your blog and the benefits grow slowly over time if you stick with it
You don’t have to write 10 posts the first week. In fact, you don’t even have to write every day, or every other day. To begin with, just start slow and write when you can – the main thing is to keep at it, even if you can only start by writing once a week. As you get more comfortable with the platform and as you get feedback, you can step it up if you’re so inspired. Writing is something that gets more enjoyable with time.
Writing must be viewed as an intellectual challenge and a joy, not a chore
Writing is a fantastic way to keep your mind sharp. Just like weightlifting, you have to challenge your mind or it will never grow. That is why it is vital to write on something you’re passionate about, you’ll be motivated to stick with it and explore your interests deeply. Write on what you love and you really can’t fail.
Get into a groove
Once you’ve made writing a part of your life, you will wonder how you lived without it. It becomes something you look forward to daily and something which enriches and empowers you. After a short time, you will find your writing groove and it will be like second nature. After a blogging hiatus of 3 years, it’s taken me nearly a full year to get back in the previous rhythm (and I’m still not quite there). But once this work is done, everything gets easier and more fulfilling. Worth the time to forge this mental pathway.
Digital publishing as a platform has matured significantly and become the ultimate tool to shape your industry, build your reputation and share your thoughts/expertise with the world in a way that promotes growth. If you are a professional who wants to lead or cares about what’s happening, you can’t ignore personal publishing – it is far too powerful.
The beautiful, simple Substack CMS and no-hassle email distribution has re-ignited my passion for writing, so if you were previously creating in WordPress or another tool where the self-hosting and constant updates got to be a headache, those problems are now solved and you should consider giving it another go. If you do start writing, please Tweet your posts at me, I’d love to read them and hear what’s going on in your world.