There’s a quote by Mark Twain that really sums up the old-school idea of being a writer. I can imagine him saying it with a drunken slur and a cigar in his mouth:
“Write without pay until someone offers pay. If nobody offers within three years, the candidate may look upon this as a sign that sawing wood is what he was intended for.” -Mark Twain
Either you become a writer and wait for the money to pour in, or you become a lumberjack. Simple as that, old sport! With that attitude, I wonder if Mark Twain would have ended up with an unpaid internship at Buzzfeed if he were alive today?
It’s a tough time to be a writer
For better or worse, technology has changed the way we view writing. We consume by skimming and reading summaries instead of delving deeply into a topic. We consume “top 5” lists but we rarely create new ideas. We parrot marketing strategies meant for corporate conversion funnels, and forget the freedom inherent in the written word.
Not only has technology changed the way we consume writing, it’s changed the people that are creating it, too. In 2018, writers have to become influencers and a worldview is expected to fit into 140 characters. Writers are now required to become branding, marketing, and analytics experts. The cost of delivering content on the internet is near zero, and the value of those writing it is rapidly approaching that number. If we are all writers, is that a good thing?
It’s about creating, not consuming
Over the past four years, I‘ve been on a hellbent rampage to become a better UX designer. UX design, as a practice, is still being established so I decided to read everything I could get my hands on. I consumed a TON of information, but mastery was not to be found in all the bookmarks and articles. True understanding didn’t come from reading, it came from recreating ideas in my own words and sharing those ideas with other people. The cycle of learning could have stopped at the consumption of knowledge, but that wouldn’t have been true understanding. Knowledge without creativity is bullshit.
It’s pretty simple: consume, create, then share
For normal humans, learning is a multi-step process. I work for an excellent education company filled with people much smarter than me. One of the many things they’ve introduced to me is the idea of metacognition or “learning how to learn.” As I have come to see it, learning can have a surprisingly simple recipe. It consists of taking in information, creating something new with that information, and then sharing that with someone else. This “Consume, Create, Share” cycle is a simplified version of the framework we use to help thousands of adults learn new skills. Writing fits neatly in the middle of that cycle.
Experimentation is key to forming polished ideas. To get really good at something, it’s important to repeat this “Consume, Create, Share” cycle as often as possible. In order to encourage more cycles, it’s important to share rough drafts of ideas.
You’ve got to work it over. The first draft of anything is shit. When you first start to write you get all the kick and the reader gets none…” -Ernest Hemingway
As a perfectionist, I get no kick out of sharing half-baked ideas. I must remind myself not to be a coward. It takes guts to share ideas that aren’t fully formed. You must allow yourself the freedom to explore, to fail or succeed.
It's time to start writing for my own blog, again
I want to form new and original ideas with every “Consume, Create, Share” cycle. I want these new ideas to come crashing into me like waves on a beach. I want to be knocked down by them. I want to lose sleep over the desire to share them.
I want to live in a world where everyone is free to learn what they want. I want to live where we are all writers.