Writing is like compound interest. Einstein once called compound the Eight Wonder of the World. Ergo, writing is the Eighth Wonder of the World. I often get asked the question “I want to start writing, but don’t know where to begin?” I can totally relate — I avoided writing (and all the humanities) until my mid-30s. When I first began writing, I lacked the confidence in my ideas and thus hid behind curation. And even today I still have tremendous imposter syndrome and don’t refer to myself as a writer.
Yet, one of my personal values is Compound small wins over the long term.In my post-Wall Street rebirth, writing has hugely contributed to the growth of my proverbial “bank account” — exposure, relationships, income, and opportunity. Here are a few ideas on how to tap into this Eight Wonder.
Remove the Friction
Whether you want to write privately (Day One) or publicly (Medium.com), the available tools are free, seamless, beautiful, and work across devices. (And let’s not forget: the good old analog — pen and paper.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention WordPress. It’s a dangerously seductive rabbit-hole. The customizability and cost are unbeatable, but unless you’re technically savvy it’s guaranteed to give you a few gray hairs. Here’s an analogy: Medium is like the iPhone and WordPress is like Linux. If you’re just beginning, get the words on paper. Then you can migrate to WordPress (or an intermediate step like Squarespace or Webflow).
Writing is equal parts habit formation and actual skill. You can’t acquire the skill without the habit. I spent 3 months writing my first post. I felt like it needed to be my Ulysses, my statement to the world that I had arrived. The piece came out fine, but what I should’ve been doing was more of the Lean Startup approach (creating MVPs, testing, and iterating).
Consistency is Key
Consistency is an underrated virtue. And in our world of Instant Gratification we forget that to creating something beautiful requires us to show up each day. Even if we’re tired, hungover, unmotivated, or distracted.
The process is like dollar-cost-averaging. Boring and unsexy, yet methodical and agnostic to our emotional whims. That’s the only way it can compound. A nice trick is to pair consistency with accountability. If I stopped doing RadReads, I’d be disappointing a slew of people — this provides both feedback loop and accountability structure.
My mom always points out my typos in my blog posts. And while I do hold myself to extremely high standards, we’ve moved from a world of PDFs to one of Google Docs. Our documents are adapting and transforming in real time — think about how Kanye West released The Life of Pablo multiple times. As writers, we have the space and permission to rework ideas, both in public and incorporating the feedback from our communities.
Process over outcomes
25 clicks. During my first six months as a writer, this was the average number of page views (mostly coming from family members). It’s impossible to play a long game, when you check the scorecard in real-time. Personally, I’m feeling this right now with the podcast. I’ve recorded 30 episodes, each one costing $200 and taking 10 hours. Yes, that’s $6,000 and 300 hours. The response has been strong, but definitely not commensurate with the “cost.”But it’s been pure joy — intense learning, living outside my comfort zone, and a work product that I’m infinitely proud of. Irrespective of the outcome.
- Writing is a form of compound interest (Dan Shipper, Rad Awakenings Podcast)
- Perfect your craft: Become a better writer