At the very beginning of 2014, I did a podcast episode titled, It All Starts With Writing. I talked about how I realized that everything I did, whether it was a blog post, or a newsletter, or a course, or speech, or even a video like this starts with writing.
I thought, if everything starts with writing, why not start my day with writing? So I did! For the better part of last year, I did what I call Early Wake Daily Write where I’d wake up at 5:30am and write as the very first thing that I did.
Sometimes I had an intended use for this writing like a podcast, or writing for my book, and other times I just wrote. I wanted to build the muscle and the habit of writing.
Well Over 500,000 Words In a Year
Here’s what I found: Between writing for my book, my blog, my newsletter, writing between 1,000 and 2,000 words for each of the seanwes tv daily videos, and writing an average of 4,000 to 6,000 words of shownotes per podcast episode twice a week, a year later I’ve written between half a million and a million words since January 1st, 2014.
Not all of it saw the light of day, of course, but the vast majority did. You can see a lot of this content on the podcast episode pages, seanwes tv shownotes, and my newsletter.
This habit of daily writing a couple thousand words a day has drastically changed my life.
Everything I’ve accomplished in the past year I owe to writing.
Why You Need to Write
Writing is how you make a name for yourself.
Yes, in rare instances, you can be known without writing but you will always do better if you write. Your work can be great, but writing gives your work legs. It gives it mobility.
We’re bombarded with imagery. Every social platform is highlighting images because people love the visual—Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and especially Pinterest and Instagram. The world is obsessed with imagery. We consume it voraciously and we swipe and scroll with haste to see more and more. As a result, we’re exposed to thousands of images every day.
“Sean, I thought you were talking about writing. Now you’re just telling me how obsessed people are with images. Shouldn’t you be telling me to create images?”
No! That’s just it! I’m telling you that the world of images is oversaturated! Your work—your art, your logo, whatever it is—is a drop in the bucket. It’s a drop in the sea of this visual noise. It’s a single frame flashed in front of someone’s face for just an instant and then they’re already looking at the next visual distraction.
Stories Stick With People
You need to tell stories. Stories are where it’s at. Stories are what keep people’s attention. Let’s say you’re looking at logo portfolios. You’re browsing galleries and scrolling past hundreds of logos. Then you get to one designer’s website and not only does he have images of his designs, but he has case studies showing the thought process and steps behind the scenes that he took to arrive at this solution.
Maybe he also has an article called The One Concept Approach where he explains a professional process and only provides his clients with one concept. One objective solution. Who’s ever heard of that before?
That’s the point: stories stick with people. Stories come from writing. They can take form in any number of mediums—everything from written word to audio of spoken word or even video. These are the kinds of things people want to share, and that’s how you make a name for yourself.
Why You Don’t Write
The reason most people don’t write is because they say, “I don’t have anything to say.”
You don’t write when you have something to say, you write to find out what you have to say.
The beauty of it is: the more you write, the more you find you have to say. When I started my podcast, I didn’t have 139 episodes of content. When I started this video show, I didn’t have 39 episodes of content.
I started with a commitment to show up and the words came. As I continue to show up, I continue to have more to say. It’s not something that gets depleted, it’s something that replenishes by you continuing to pull from it.
Another reason I hear that people don’t write is because they’re not good at it. That’s perfectly normal! It’s ok to not be good at it. The good news is, there’s no gate keeper saying you’re not allowed to write until you’re good. What I want to encourage you with is to start writing anyway.
You can’t improve what you haven’t written before.
You can’t improve something in your head, you’ve got to get it out and iterate on it.
How to Start Writing
Once again, there’s no gatekeeper, which means you also don’t have to be qualified to write. Just start moving your fingers. If you can talk, you can write. You can use dictation on your phone or computer and simply speak. Watch the words form. You can then take those and rewrite them. It helps the refining process.
The hardest thing is starting. Once you start, you can easily delete the first paragraph or first page, but now you have momentum. You’ve overcome that inertia.
That’s why you want to start with what’s easier for you. Just start moving your fingers. If your personality typing is more on the thinking side, dump those thoughts. If your personality is more on the feeling side, dump those feelings. All you have to do is start. Now you’re writing and you can edit from there.
What to Write About
Hopefully now you’re thinking, “Ok Sean, you’ve convinced me. Maybe this writing thing is a good idea after all. Maybe I should be doing it. But what can I write about?”
There’s tons to write about!
- Write about your daily routine.
- An overview of all your tools.
- Teach your skills: what’s the first thing someone needs to know before they get into X?
That’s just a very small sample of ideas, and back in e117 of my podcast, I actually gave you 62 topics ideas so you wouldn’t run out of things to write about. I even made the topic list available as a downloadable PDF, so go check that out.
Where to Use What You’ve Written
The beauty of writing is that it can be free form. Certainly we often have things we specifically want to write for, but you don’t have to have a medium in mind when you write. You can just start writing and worry about where or even if you use it later.
You can use it to create:
- Blog posts
You have a lot of opportunities to take what you’ve written free-form and rewrite it that for a specific medium. First, write the message, then consider the medium. Remember: It’s ok for not everything to be published.
Get Better At Writing On Purpose
As you write more, you’re going to improve but if you want to get better on purpose, you have to take a more methodical approach. I would recommend learning how to write like you talk. You have to practice writing in a natural speaking tone. Here’s how to do it:
- Write something down.
- Break it into memorizable paragraphs
- Record yourself while speaking it from memory.
- Transcribe the exact words you spoke.
Repeat this process as a way to refine and improve your writing. This will make it sound more human, more like you.
Try It Out for Yourself
Write to clear your head. Write to get your ideas out. Stop using your brain as storage.
Get things onto paper where you can look at them. This allows your ideas to more easily interact with each other. You can share these with others or simply refer back to them later so you don’t forget them, or simply to see how far you’ve come.
I used to think writing was boring and only writers wrote.
But writers don’t write because they’re writers, they’re writers because they write.
It’s so much more than just about blogging or writing a book. Writing is the fuel for virtually every other medium. If you want to kickstart your year, I can’t think of a better thing to try because truly, it all starts with writing.