Words are the atomic unit of the internet.
With the stroke of a pen, you can build your network, improve your thinking, and create opportunities for yourself.
Until now, the internet has connected us with people in our past. But writing online connects you with the people in your future. As Derek Sivers once wrote: “The coolest people I meet are the ones who find me through something I’ve written.”
Writing online is a guaranteed way to shrink the world. A well-written article can change your life because the internet rewards people who think well. Each post is an advertisement for the kinds of people and opportunities you want to attract, and if you have a voice, you can build a platform.
In any field, the most successful people double as writers. Chefs write recipes, comedians write jokes, and entrepreneurs write business plans. The examples are endless.
Writing is like weightlifting for the brain. Just as you’ll improve your food diet if you start cooking, you’ll improve your information diet if you start writing. Testing the limits of your ideas is the fastest way to improve them and raise your intelligence. Don’t take my word for it. Listen to Jeff Bezos:
“People who write a lot, also listen a lot. They also change their mind a lot. Not necessarily with new data, but sometimes re-analyzing the same data. They also work hard to disconfirm fundamental biases.”
An empty white page is a mirror into your mind. When the ideas in your mind are clouded, so are the words on the page in front of you. Re-writing is re-thinking. It’s the best single best way to sharpen your ideas. And once your ideas are as clear as a Neiman Marcus mirror, you’ll be able to teach them to others.
The Lessons in Front of You
The internet is the library we always dreamed of. It’s a place to learn, network, and connect with experts.
You no longer need to depend on an institution for a platform. You can build your own following now. Two decades ago, online publishing was limited to authors, journalists, and media moguls. Today, anybody can have more reach than the kings you read about in history books.
Writers engage with reality like it’s a full-contact sport. It’s a collision between your mind and the world. Writers are professional observers.
When you know you’re going to write, you change the way you live. You can no longer sleepwalk through life. The most powerful insights come from everyday experiences that people ignore.
As Sherlock Holmes said: “The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.”
The best way to learn faster is to have a stake in the outcome. Risk awakens our learning muscles like a splash of cold water. If you want to learn to cook invite friends over for dinner; if you want to learn about stocks, invest in the stock market; and if you want to learn about an idea, publish an article about it.
Instead of ignoring the mundane, writers welcome it. From the annoyance of a DMV line to the wrath of a torrential downpour, many of my best ideas arrive in moments of extreme inconvenience. Recently, during a cancelled flight in Washington D.C., I realized that airports are lawless places. You can sleep on the floor, put your feet on chairs, have dessert for breakfast, brush your teeth in public, or chug a Heineken at 7am.
There are no rules.
Like my delay at the airport, since each moment is a potential future sentence, writers live with more curiosity. From the beauty of morning light to the heat of the afternoon sun, they soak up the world with passionate intensity.
Writing initiates the ultimate positive feedback loop. Online writers are rewarded with instant feedback, and fast feedback loops are the best way to accelerate your learning. Better yet, writing regularly will inspire you to live an interesting life. As your writing improves, so will the opportunities available to you.
How to Start Writing
Most writing advice is simple.
Use stories to illuminate what you’re trying to say. Write in short sentences. Make one point per sentence. Communicate with a smooth and natural tone, as if you’re talking to a friend at a bar. If you have writer’s block, you don’t have enough notes, so rather than starting with a blank page, start with an abundance of notes. There you go. That’s just about all you need to start writing well.
Don’t just write for yourself. Share your ideas by publishing them online. Writing in public is like inviting guests to your house for dinner. You have to clean and double check everything. Just like when you cook a meal for your guests, you try harder when others are watching and your reputation is at stake.
As James Clear says:
“If you wish you would take something more seriously, do it publicly… Social pressure forces you to up your game.”
Demand for quality writing far exceeds the supply of it. Since people who don’t write in public are blind to the benefits, there’s relatively little competition for those who take the craft seriously. Good writing is rare. There may be more writing than ever, but most of it is shallow. People are bombarded with worthless ideas and the distractions of the news. They’re tired of clickbait articles, exaggerated political dramas, and attention-burning articles. People are starving for creators who speak with depth and nuance. That’s why everybody reads Wait But Why and Joe Rogan stole the culture.
If you want to grow an audience, treat your readers like they’re as important as the Pope. Every paragraph, every sentence, and every word matters. Readers who feel respected will return to your website and tell their friends about your writing. Once you build the writing habit, you’ll be surprised by how easy it is to reach people.
People dream of the advantages you take for granted. Writing is free. You already have everything you need: an internet connection and easy access to a computer. You pay in time, not money. The only thing standing between you and your writing goals is discipline.
Learn to write.