Today marks the 11th anniversary of my commitment to write every day, inspired by my friend Seth Godin. At the time, I was reading blogs (and books) by both Seth Godin and Tom Peters. Seth writes concise posts that cram enormous ideas into relatively few words. Tom writes longer-form pieces about what is important in business, especially if you are a leader. What inspired me to write daily was a video of Seth and Tom discussing the value of “blogging.”
It was 2007 when I bought this domain (thesalesblog.com). I originally tried to buy salesblog.com, but some unidentified person in Charlotte, NC, owned that site, and I was unable to contact them to buy it. Later on, the owner (one Jeffery Gitomer) emailed me to make sure I knew who owned that property.
I dabbled in blogging for 2007 and 2008. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to write or how often to publish. Towards the end of 2009, I started writing almost every day, mostly short pieces linked to other sources. During this period, writing took a lot of time and energy. Writing daily seemed an insurmountable challenge, especially right in the middle of the Great Recession, when I had a struggling business that required my leadership.
On December 27th, 2009, I told my wife that I was going to start waking up at 5:00 AM (instead of 6:30) to give myself time to write. She would still be asleep, and so would our three children, meaning no one would interrupt me but I could still spend time with them later in the day. I told her about my long-term goals, though I couldn’t really articulate them well at that point. Regardless, she said she supported my decision.
I started writing long-form essays, normally writing 700 to 800 words. Most of those posts could have sufficed with half the words: my poor form and inexperience left hundreds of unnecessary words in each post. In fact, the first developmental editor for The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need told me that if something could be said in 500 words, I would say it in 1,500.
At some point, something I read convinced me that readers only wanted short-form content, nothing over 500 words. It would be some years before I would return to writing longer posts, after committing to writing 1,000 words a day.
What I Have Learned from Writing
You Don’t Know What You Know Until You Write: You know a lot more than you might believe. The act of writing requires that you exert yourself to discover what you know, so you can put it into words. Writing requires organized and dialectical thinking, something that it difficult to do and easy to avoid.
Everyone is an Antenna: You don’t have ideas—ideas have you. Many ideas are fleeting, showing up just long enough for you to catch a glimpse before they disappear, often never to return. Keith Richards once explained that he didn’t write the song “Satisfaction,” describing himself as the antenna it came through. He recorded the song, but only after it captured him. The reason I have been able to sustain this property for eleven years is that I capture every idea, no matter how large or small, no matter how meaningful or how banal. Occasionally, some inescapable idea floats through the ether and provides a concept and words that are exceptional.
Morning Brain: My morning brain is a lot better than my late afternoon or evening brain. I now rise at 4:30 AM to write, a practice I share with a lot of other writers. My energy is better right after I wake up, which means my creativity and willpower are both stronger. For me, all of these things start to wane as the sun moves from east to west. I do my best work before sunrise, but you might do yours as the day is dying in the west.
I am a Writer: An author is someone who publishes books, which is wholly different than being a writer. Many people struggle to write and publish a book because they find writing incredibly difficult. What I believe makes one a writer is that they find it impossible not to write; they can’t not write.
Writing is the Only Way to Get Better at Writing: The only way to improve your writing is by writing more. I have often compared the art of selling to swimming: no matter how many books you read about the backstroke, you can’t get better at it without getting in the water. This analogy applies to any skill. You don’t possess a skill because you know the concepts; you can only acquire or improve your ability by practicing.
There is No Such Thing as Writer’s Block: If you think you have nothing to write, simply writing down what it feels like to have writer’s block would prove you wrong. And if that’s too tough, try writing down everything that makes you upset and how you would fix all the world’s problems (maybe you already do this on Twitter). In any case, once you start writing, the block is gone.
All Writing is A Search for Truth: At its core, writing is a search for the truth. It doesn’t matter whether you are writing a blog post, a poem, a memoir, a business book, or Harry Potter fanfiction. There is some objective or subjective truth being expressed in the writer’s word.
You Don’t Write for the Critics: Not everything you write is going to be War and Peace. Both the quality of the ideas and your ability to express them may vary wildly. Fortunately, you don’t write for the critics; you write for readers. An idea that isn’t useful or compelling for one reader may be precisely what another reader needs. When you write, you are a creator, and you are serving the reader. The only criticism you need to consider is that of your editor—and even then, as the creator you have the last word.
Starting year number twelve momentarily.