Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make a bigger impact with my writing.
Why? Because this is what my brain does at night instead of sleeping like a normal person. Not an impact in a Messiah kind of way. Like a noticeable impact in the everyday lives of real people.
There’s no straightforward solution or proven formula for this. I mean, writing is hard enough on its own. There are a couple of things to consider, though: writing output (quantity and quality) and writing medium. I’ll discuss both of these since you need to get both right in order for your writing to have an impact.
First, let’s discuss output. Obviously, if you don’t write a lot, you’re not going to have much of an impact.
Consistency is without a doubt the most important thing to focus on if you want your writing to be impactful.
I’ve learned this the hard way after nearly seven years of inconsistent writing and getting nowhere. After I began writing consistently in late 2016, it has become much easier. In The War of Art, author Steven Pressfield argues the hardest part of writing (or any art) isn’t the writing itself. It’s the act of sitting down to write. This hardship, the “resistance” as Pressfield calls it, is the most debilitating thing for any artist and recognizing this is the first step.
Note: as a writer, you will never fully overcome resistance because it’s intrinsic to you, much like your ego.
On more than one occasion since I started writing seriously, I stumbled and went several days without writing. Each time this happened, it felt like a slippery slope back to the land of inconsistency. It’s like spending all your effort clawing your way to the top of a mountain for months only to have a slight gust of wind knock you down a few feet. When this happens, you become more susceptible to an even larger gust of wind knocking you all the way back down to the bottom. People experience a similar struggle with weight loss and dieting. One small slip leads to an avalanche and all of a sudden, you’re back to square one.
The war against resistance is ongoing. You will never win the war. You can only hope to win battles and live to fight another day.
Quality is another key factor that determines how impactful your writing will be, but it’s secondary to consistency because quality is a byproduct of consistency.
If you look at all the greatest authors, none of them are one-hit wonders. Each of them put in an unbelievable amount of reps to become good and even more reps to become great. It’s no coincidence that the best writers are also the most prolific. With writing, there is no such thing as quality or quantity. It’s neither or both. The key to writing better is writing more. So focus on consistency first. No matter how bad you are in the beginning, your writing will improve. Only then will you have the opportunity to maximize your impact.
Now, let’s talk writing media.
Since our focus is on maximizing impact, the discussion will be on digital media, specifically online platforms. I’ve tried many different writing platforms over the years and each have their pros and cons.
Blogging was my first stab at writing online. I started a fitness blog back in 2010 under the tutelage of a very successful fitness blogger named Rusty Moore. After seven years, I still consider Rusty one of the best in the business at combining useful information with great storytelling. I continue to follow his work and learn from him.
As you can imagine, my writing sucked when I first started, but my blog gained traction very quickly. Now, I am a much better writer, but my current blog gets less traffic becasue there are so many more blogs on the internet. The problem with blogging is just that. It’s hard to gain traction.
There is a seemingly endless amount of traffic online, but none of it is rushing to Joe Schmo’s new bog. Where is it going? Right now, Google, YouTube, Facebook, Reddit, and Amazon to name a few. When first starting out, and even after you are well-established, your blog will be no match for blogs like Huff Post, Business Insider, and LifeHacker, let alone behemoths like the Googles and Facebooks of the world.
But the cool thing about your blog is that unlike these big sites, it’s 100% yours. You can publish what you want and no one can take that away from you. Your blog is as much an expression of you as you want it to be, censored and moderated by you and you alone. This is an amazing thing.
I have a weird kind of love-hate relationship with blogging. I’ve started many different blogs over the years and abandoned most of them, but I’ve continued to blog because I enjoy it as a creative outlet. I can’t see myself quitting blogging altogether, but I do feel like my writing needs to evolve and I’m not sure blogging is the best way for that to happen.
If you take my love-hate relationship with blogging and 10x it, that’s my current sentiment towards social media.
I know social media is engineered to be addictively rewarding. There is literally some smart dude in Silicon Valley whose job is to sit in front of a computer and make sure you and I keep checking Facebook 50 times a day. I know, in general, this is a huge waste of my time, but I keep doing it. This is the part I hate.
The part that I love is the bond it forges with real people that I know and the opportunity to connect with people I don’t know who share similar interests and values. When I send a funny Snap to my family, it strengthens the bond between us. I can also join a Facebook group and instantly connect with hundreds of other people who are into the same obscure hobby as me.
The idea of channeling my writing through a social media platform is more appealing than blogging because of the community-like feel. There’s no denying the power of this. Community is a fundamental human need.
Email is incredible because it’s one-on-one communication at its core. No other medium of digital writing delivers this level of intimacy. Email allows you to connect with complete strangers in a way that you might only connect with your closest friends or family members, in some cases, even more deeply.
You can disseminate useful information in an email newsletter, as you would in a blog post, but through a more trusted and private channel than social media. The main problem I see with the typical email newsletter is the lack of curated thought. This is not true for all newsletters, but many of them consist of a magazine-like spread of 10 different articles or products without much context or refinement. This type of newsletter to me is a disservice to the medium as a whole. It’s no wonder open rates have tanked since the early days of email marketing.
Email has quite famously become yet another form of noise.
Some of the newer writing platforms recognize the pros and cons of these various channels and make an effort to combine them to create the best of both worlds.
Their foundation is written content, but they also have a significant social presence and built-in systems for liking (aka upvoting or recommending) and commenting. These are some of my favorite places to write these days. I’ve published answers almost daily on Quora for the last eight months and received way more exposure than I have through my blog. In fact, during this short time period, I’ve accumulated over a quarter million views on my Quora answers alone, which is pretty mind-blowing.
For me, the only missing piece is the intimacy and opportunity to really get to know my readers and engage with them one-on-one. The vast majority of Quora viewers are like me. I’ll see an answer that I like and think to myself, “Wow. Nice piece of writing.” I may even upvote it. But then, I’ll move on. Five seconds later, I’ve forgotten who the writer was. Five minutes later, I’ve forgotten about the piece entirely. This isn’t the type of impact I’m looking to have.
Also, Quora is more strictly moderated than a lot of other sites. I’ve had answers rejected on numerous occasions, most likely because they contained links back to something of mine like a product or optin page. But it’s like, yeah I want to promote more of my work to people who might be interested in it. So what? Still, Quora has proven to be an incredible source of smart, educated readers, who are the exact kind of people I want to reach, so I will continue to use it. But to fully realize my vision of a greater impact, I need something that can provide more autonomy and intimacy.
So, with all these options, what should you do to maximize your writing impact?
My advice right now is to do it all.
Blog. Use social media. Write a newsletter. Write on Quora and Medium. Do your best to write quality consistently. Do it all.
You might find some channels start working better than others and if this is the case, then you can double down. But it can never hurt to spread your message and far and wide as possible.
This isn’t easy and it’s certainly not the answer I wish I had, but I do believe in the long run it will work.
Writing, like most things, takes time, practice, and perseverance to master. Once you become good enough, then your impact will inevitably grow. But you have to earn it first.
Thanks for reading and feel free to hit me up with any questions.
Featured image by John-Mark Kuznietsov.
First published on Quora.
I’ve transformed my life by using systems and spreadsheets to track personal data.