TL;DR: Always be writing, if possible everyday, and if possible on the internet for everyone to read. Writing is a valuable skill worth cultivating. It helps you think better, opens up new opportunities for yourself, and others will benefit from your writing.
You have stories to tell: write about them
Through the journeys we have taken in our lives, the projects we have worked on, and the books we have read, and all the experiences we have had, we have accumulated a specific set of knowledge and have a distinct worldview. There are others out there who are eager to learn about your worldview and about the knowledge you have. So share it with others by writing about it.
People are also quite curious to learn not just the information that you have, but also the journey you took and the obstacles you stumbled upon. If you are doing a side project, write about it; but also write about the behind the scenes work. Humans are wired for stories. I am not just looking for factoids, but the stories behind them.
If you are passionate about something, write about it. Passion moves people.
If you still think you don’t have much to say, think about this: writing will help you find out what you want to say. You are most likely just falling for the curse of knowledge by assuming others already know what you know.
Writing is Selling
There is a famous scene of Alec Baldwin in the movie Glengarry Glenross furiously yelling “Always be Closing” at a bunch of salespeople. “Always be closing deals and always be getting folks to sign on those dotted lines”.
But you have nothing to sell, you think. But in reality, we as humans are selling something almost always. I am trying to sell you on the idea that this blog is worth reading. At work, you are always selling: you are convincing your boss that a project needs to be undertaken, you convince your reports to get something done, and so on. Your blog may be implicitly telling prospective employers that you are worth hiring.
So in that sense, you have been in the selling business for many years now. Writing online is a way of selling yourself. You don’t always need a Resume to do that.
By writing, you are telling. By telling, you are maximizing your luck surface area. Jason Roberts says:
Here’s how it works. When you pour energy into a passion, you develop an expertise and an expertise of any kind is valuable. But quite often that value can actually be magnified by the number people who are made aware of it. The reason is that when people become aware of your expertise, some percentage of them will take action to capture that value, but quite often it will be in a way you would never have predicted. Maybe they’ll want to hire you, or partner with you, or invest in you, or who knows what. But in whatever way it happens, it will be serendipitous.
There are others who call this a Serendipity Vehicle
Nobody is judging you
Most people don’t want to put their writing out there for the fear of being judged. In my own case, I debated quite a bit about starting this blog. That too about becoming smarter? I was worried what people would make of me. I am not that smart, so what gives me the right to talk about becoming smarter? But I got motivated by Ali Abdal, a popular YouTuber (and doctor) who makes interesting videos on productivity (and other stuff). He shared a similar story on YouTube, about being worried what people may think about him. Ultimately, he says that, nobody is judging you — they are all thinking about themselves!
I am documenting my own journey of trying to become smarter, and sharing what I have learnt.
Write to get feedback
When you write about your ideas on the internet, here are a few possibilities:
- Let’s say there are flaws in your thinking. If you never wrote about your flawed worldview, there is no way anyone can correct you. You can’t win if you don’t play. (Of course, I assme you are actually open to receiving feedback).
- There are no flaws in your thinking. Your writing is actually useful!
Write on the Internet
The Internet makes it easy for your content to reach the right set of folks who are searching for it. As Naval Ravikant says, you don’t need permission to write on the internet to share your ideas. And the Internet has almost infinite leverage. Your writing can reach a million others.
A different idea I heard somewhere that made me smile: when you write on the Internet, you have these tiny robots that take your idea and go around the Internet passing your idea to others (who are searching for it, or open to receiving it).
Clear writing is a valuable skill
Writing is a lossy medium since there is always a difference between what you want to convey and what the reader understands. I say “always” because ideas don’t exist in vacuum; they live amongst other ideas and experiences, which are unique to every person.
Your goal is to reduce this loss as much as possible. And that is hard. But if you are effective at reducing the loss, you are in possesion of a very valuable skill.
Like every other skill, writing well is something that you can learn — as long as you put in the effort.
Write if you are good at it. And write especially if you are bad at it. You will improve over time.
Write to share your world view. The diversity of ideas makes the world a better place.
Write to know what you want to share.
Write to cut the clutter in your head and experience clarity of thought.
Write to refine and build upon the ideas you have.
Write to become smarter.
So please join me in writing. Start a blog, start a journal, or at the very least, start writing on your diary.
Read “Show your work!” by Austin Cleon first. Then check out the following on writing (but don’t let these get in the way of your writing!)
On writing well by William Zinsser. I read this a long time back, and was so thrilled to learn that using simple words to convey an idea clearly is much better than confusing the reader with flowery language.
If you are still at school, try to take a class if possible on writing.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King.
The Elements of Style by William Strunk. More of a reference book, but the kindle edition at the time of writing was free, so go for it!
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott.