1. Being a good writer is less about knowing the rules of writing and more about having something to say.
You can write as eloquent a piece as you’d like but if you aren’t saying anything meaningful, nobody’s going to remember it. If you aren’t expressing something that you genuinely, from the bottom of your heart (or soul or neural network) believe to be true, it will not be memorable writing. It won’t be meaningful writing. It won’t be the kind of writing that outlasts you, because if you don’t believe it while you’re writing it, nobody else is going to, either.
2. Passion gets you 50% of the way. Commitment gets you the other 50%.
You can be as inspired to write as you want, but inspiration will not carry you all the way to the end of a book. It probably won’t even carry you to the end of the first chapter.
It’s not that inspiration is a bad thing – it’s just that you have to learn to trust its aftershocks once it fades. Remember what you were inspired by. Remember the end result you wanted. And then do the hard, unglamorous work of getting there – because the inspiration will come back once you do.
3. People don’t want to see you in your writing. They want to see themselves in it.
People don’t really want to read biographies. They don’t want to read personal essays. They don’t even want to read think pieces about other people’s heartbreaks or triumphs.
They want to read something – anything – that they see themselves inside of. They want to feel smug reading your biography, because they didn’t make the same mistakes you made. They want to feel validated reading about your heartbreak because they’re feeling the same pain that you’re feeling. They want to feel moved by your inspirational essays, because they see how the lessons you’re preaching can apply to their everyday lives.
Readers need to find themselves inside of every single piece that they read – whether it’s as straightforward as adopting the ‘independent woman’ identity or as far-fetched as believing that if they were in Harry Potter, they’d have defeated Lord Voldemort as well.
But a piece of writing that neglects its reader is a piece of writing that will not succeed. No matter how eloquently it’s written.
4. There are only two comments – ‘This represents me,’ and ‘This does not represent me.’
Writing for the internet is not for the faint of heart. You will have anonymous readers loving and hating you, but at the end of the day, every comment, message and piece of feedback you receive is only ever saying one of two things: ‘I relate to this,’ or ‘I do not relate to this.’
People don’t want to feel misrepresented. They definitely don’t want to feel spoken for. And so the general onslaught of hate you will receive will boil down to a single underlying notion – someone feels as though you have spoken for them. And they’re mad about it, because that is not their personal truth.
It gets easier to swallow outraged messages once you realize this. All anger is projection. All admiration is, too.
5. Writer’s block is more often ‘life block.’
There are adamant opinions on both sides of the ‘does writer’s block exist’ argument. And like anything, the answer comes down to how you define it.
Is there anything in our brains that physically prevents us from writing during certain periods of time? No, of course not.
But are there periods in which we feel less inspired than other periods? Yes, of course.
Sometimes the solution to this is to force ourselves to work through these ‘blocks.’ To write until something meaningful comes out, until our best work returns to us.
But other times, writer’s block is a simple matter of not having anything meaningful to say – because we’ve exhausted most of what our hearts or souls or neural networks have been chewing on lately. And that’s perfectly human.
In this situation, the solution is to get out there and give our hearts or souls or neural networks something new. In the words of Henry David Thoreau, ‘How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.’
Very often, writer’s block stems not from a lack of creativity but from a lack of the living that it takes to inspire it.
6. In the words of Cheryl Strayed, ‘You can’t fake the core.’
You can’t write viral pieces about heartbreak if you are not heartbroken. You cannot give people meaningful advice on overcoming challenges that you have never faced. You cannot inspire people to believe something that you think is a sham and you cannot educate people on a topic that you don’t understand.
Not effectively, anyway. Not sustainably. Not in a way that people are going to relate to, down to their very core.
At the end of the day, the best writing will always come from the core of you – the part of yourself that it feels the most vulnerable and uncomfortable and genuine to share.
You cannot fake that part of writing.
Which is exactly why it’s going to make you so damn memorable.