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Writing to Learn and Learning to Write
Two years of writing - my top 5 tips for aspiring writers!
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Today marks the completion of my second year writing publicly on Superfluid.
Over the last two years, I've published 45 articles, and written 86,173 words. About the length of 1.5 books. Superfluid isn't the first time I've written on the internet, but it's by far been the most public and the most daunting.
I started writing as a way to compound my own learning. Working in VC requires me to be across a multitude of different thematics and when I first started in my role, I found it hard to keep on top of everything that I was learning.
I love learning and reading about new concepts and ideas, but I've never been a good student with copious amounts of notes and beautifully highlighted textbooks. Instead, I prefer to retain a lot of what I know in my head. Unfortunately, I found out quite quickly that this approach doesn't translate well when you have to learn about 10 different industries every week.
Superfluid started off as my attempt at doing 'homework in public', but, it's become so much more than that.
Without Superfluid, I wouldn't have realised that I was actually out of touch with reality:
I wonder if this was merely a hyperbole, or if the author is genuinely out of touch with reality. - Troll Comment #1
or have the privilege of creating the largest piece of nonsense someone has read
This graph is the largest piece of nonsense I have read on a weekend. - Troll Comment #2
Whilst these comments are funny, it's been interesting to see how people interpret what I write and how small things can attract strong feedback. It's made me think twice about what I've written and I honestly appreciate them because having your thinking critiqued is such a rare thing in today's society.
Outside of this, writing Superfluid has been incredibly fulfilling with a number of wholesome comments:
I started off this journey quite selfishly, with the goal of writing to learn. Over time, this has broadened and I’d love to ask all of you for feedback on how I can make reading Superfluid a better use of your time.
If you could spare 2 mins of your time, I’d greatly appreciate it.
Writing Superfluid has changed my life. I wouldn’t be where I am today without it. As such, I think I've encouraged everyone I've met to start writing in some shape or form.
To make this article more useful to everyone and as another push to those on the sidelines, here are my top 5 tips to getting started with writing online!
1. Consistency is key
I think this is the biggest piece of advice I can give anyone who is about to start writing. Regardless of what you are hoping to achieve, benefits really only accrue after 10+ posts.
When I first started off, I made a commitment to myself to post every two weeks for at least 4 months. Since then, I've averaged that cadence over the last two years (excluding holidays and the Christmas period) and have recently increased the frequency to once a week to push myself further.
I'm not at all disciplined with my writing, but this is the one rule that I've tried to hold myself to since starting.
2. Being open is uncomfortable, learn to embrace it
As I mentioned above, I've created content and written on the internet before but never so publicly. I've grown countless Facebook/Instagram pages to 100k+ followers and blogged about everything from education to men’s fashion.
pseudonyms. If it was under my actual name, I wasn't super open with it.
I could've stuck to the same approach with Superfluid but it didn't feel right. Before publishing every article, I'm always worried that I've missed something completely obvious, or I've said something that's wrong. In many cases I have, but I wouldn't have known that unless someone pointed it out to me after reading my article.
Moreover, being open with your thinking is incredibly important if you're in a role where you are making important decisions. I've learnt so much about how people perceive different words and the importance of being clear with your language. It's helped me in my role as a VC more than I initially thought it would. Whilst I'm still developing this, I think I am 10x better at communicating my viewpoint than I was 2 years ago.
3. Ideas should be spontaneous
A lot of writers and content creators have elaborate calendars where they plan out what they're going to post weeks and months ahead of time. At Superfluid, for the most part, my articles are inspired by conversations and thoughts I've had over the week.
As such, my writing sessions are usually relatively unstructured. I spend a lot of time reflecting on why I'm drawn to a particular thought, and how to even communicate it so that it is readable.
By going through that process, I usually debate with myself in my head about what is right, and my stance on something. So much of what I do as a VC investor requires thinking deeply about various businesses, products and the macro environment. Hence, I see my writing as an exercise in learning how to unpick ideas and think deeply, from first principles, about anything.
By being spontaneous with the time pressure of publishing every week, I hope that I'll be able to improve the quality and speed of my thinking over time.
4. Virality is random, but the quantity and quality of content matters
I don't write to go viral, so it's been quite interesting to see which articles do end up being distributed and shared widely. Some of my articles that haven't been read by that many people have received the best feedback versus other articles which have performed well on social media.
Whilst I haven't solved repeatable virality yet (I don't think anyone has besides Mr Beast), for new writers, your focus should be finding the minimum quality threshold that people like to consume. Once you've determined this, the goal should be to meet that threshold with new pieces at a high cadence.
Outside of this, the key to growth is really about honing into a few different platforms (Linkedin, Twitter, Reddit etc.) and repurposing your long-form writing. If you combine volume with consistency, it's a pretty straightforward path towards growth.
5. Attention is fleeting - make use of it
There are a few lessons here.
The first one is directly related to content. People have short attention spans so if you're planning to write for an audience, you need to be precise with your messaging.
Long-form writing (i.e., 5k words+) had a renaissance during COVID, but with people going back to work, short-form video has definitely dominated. That doesn't mean there isn't a place for writing but rather, as a writer, you need to intimately understand the type of content your audience likes to digest. For some that might be long-form, but for others I suspect it’s short to medium-length content.
The second lesson is related to the flow-on effects of being a public creator. Writing Superfluid has offered me so many cool and unique experiences and opened doors that I didn't realise existed.
However, fame and popularity are fleeting phenomena. If you've got a lot of attention on your work, you need to do everything you can to seize the opportunity to compound on it. The best example of this is Sahil Bloom. He went from a PE finance bro to a Twitter threadboi in 2 years time. Now, he's cooled on threads and turned that audience into a thriving newsletter, and bootstrapped multiple agency-style businesses. The success of many of these businesses is certainly aided by his public presence but isn't solely tied to it.
For newer subscribers, I wanted to share 5 articles that I particularly enjoyed writing - hopefully, you’ll enjoy reading them!
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Thanks for reading and see you next time!