1. Just start
When I first heard about Medium in October 2017, I was excited. That night after roasting s’mores around the campfire, I lay in my tent furiously typing out a list of article ideas on my phone.
The next week I began reading on Medium but was too afraid to write.
I consumed endlessly without contributing.
While I did learn a lot from reading, nothing compared to the growth I experienced once I jumped in and began writing.
After months of reading only, I was finally getting serious about starting. I cold emailed Niklas Göke, who I had been following for a while, and asked for some tips for beginners.
He told me to “just begin,” so I did. Even though I was afraid. Even though I thought I had no authority.
Nine months and hundreds of articles later, I can say that I still have to follow this advice every day. Every article I write I commit to just begin, and then I do.
You wouldn’t read and watch videos of basketball players to get good at basketball. Writing is the same way. You’re not going to get good at writing by reading about it alone.
The surest way to become a better writer is to write.
The first step is always going to be to just start.
Stop thinking about it, quit reading so much, and just start writing.
2. Think of everything like an experiment
I’ve loved science since I was a kid. I read books about the ocean and raised hundreds of Monarch caterpillars into butterflies. Bill Nye and Magic School Bus were two of my favorite shows.
I became an engineer because I like science so much. When I discovered I loved writing also, I was amazed to notice how similar writing is to science and engineering.
Scientists don’t quit when things don’t work “right.”
For example, a scientist might be trying to design new material strong enough to create a space elevator. The determined scientist will try and try again after multiple failed attempts.
They won’t get frustrated or mad at themselves because the experiment didn’t work; they’ll gather data and move ahead.
Good writing comes after experimentation, gathering data, and moving forward according to that data.
Remember, you can’t move forward if you’re not moving at all, especially as a writer.
I had to write over 200 articles, become a top writer in multiple tags and even lose some of them before I got the smallest idea of what works and what doesn’t.
I discovered along the way that nothing was permanent unless I decided to quit.
While there were times I let difficulties get me down, seeing writing as an experiment has always helped me get back up and stay consistent. Which brings me to my next mentality for writing success.
3. Play the long game by developing a habit of consistency
After studying blogging for so long, I learned a few patterns of top writers. This may not ring true for everyone, but is what I’ve found generally to be the case.
It takes at least 1–2 years of consistent effort to make a full-time income with writing.
I discovered this to be the case across multiple platforms.
Alex and Lauren, of CreateandGo, for example, had to put in about a year before they started to see results. That was after saving up, quitting their full-time jobs, and putting all their effort into it. Now they make over $100k per month.
Almost every one of the 16 content creators in ConvertKit’s I Am A Blogger book had to remain consistent for about 2–3 years before they could jump into it full time.
Now, I don’t want to discourage you, but writing is not a get rich quick scheme.
You can’t become an overnight success unless your “night” is 2–3 years long.
But if you put in the work consistently, you will see results.
I know it because I’ve seen it myself, in small amounts.
After just nine months of writing, I’ve earned thousands of dollars from the Partner Program, grown my following, and landed the perfect freelance gig. I get to associate with some of the best writers on this platform.
Oh and guess what, the website I do the freelance work for also took 2–3 years or consistent work before earning a significant income.
The vital elements of playing the long game are consistency, persistence, and patience. But the best way to develop all of these at once is to learn to love the process, which is as simple as finding and playing to your strengths.
4. Play to your strengths
Every day I see dozens of different suggestions about how to be great at writing. I listen to a lot of books, consume a ton of online content, and I’m on the email list of many different bloggers.
I’ve often felt like a lot of the successful writers I follow fail to mention that they already had created a product, or had been doing entrepreneurial-type projects from a young age, or had something else going for them before they ever started.
They had their own strengths that had already set them apart to make money writing online.
I want to be more transparent than some of them are. What’s really helped me find success in writing wasn’t following everyone else. My achievements came from being myself. From who I was before I began.
I have over a decade of teaching, leading, and mentoring experience.
I had been reading Medium articles for over 8 months before I began writing.
I’ve kept a consistent journal for over a decade, mainly about life-lessons.
I’ve been studying leadership, self-improvement, and personal growth extensively over the last year, listening to over 35 books.
If you’re now sitting there thinking “well crud, I don’t have any of those things going for me, so I can’t make it writing!” don’t give up so easily.
There are hundreds of authors here that are making far more than I am with much different life experiences. That’s why the title of this last section is “play to your strengths.”
Do I have the same background as my favorite authors? Nope, and I’m going to own the story that I do have. You have your own experiences and personality, and you’d better own them, too.
It’s good to be different, but it’s best to be yourself.
You have life experiences, character traits, aspirations, and perspectives unique only to you.
Find what you’re good at and utilize those skills to become the very best you can be. You’ll start to feel a love for the process that you’ve never seen before. It’s about finding joy in the journey, not just reaching the final goal.
Are you afraid of writing something that’s already been done before?
Repetition is an extremely powerful motivator and has been used by the greatest teachers and leaders of all time.
People need to hear YOUR perspective.
They need to hear that life principle in YOUR words.
You might be the only person in the world who can reach someone in the way that they need. Your writing can change lives, but you have to change yours first.
Don’t shy away from who you are. I’ve been guilty of this for far too long. Apologizing for being too idealistic, altruistic, and faithful has been an unhealthy pattern for me for a very long time. I’m over it.
Don’t limit yourself by what you think others want you to be. Be yourself, own it, and write about it. This is what good writing consists of because it’s how you write from the heart.
Becoming a great writer is as simple as just starting, learning at every step, growing consistent, and utilizing your strengths.