Becoming a Prolific Author Overnight
Becoming a prolific author or essayist overnight requires that you alter your mindset to accept some fundamental truths. This essay seeks to trivialize this in my own mindset. Should it motivate someone to pick up a pen and document their thoughts, that’s two birds with one stone. However, it is not the approach I want to begin with.
People who have put in the work to successfully append the phrase “Author of 50+ articles” have always evoked awe. I wonder what and how fast one could get there. Putting down your thoughts surrounding your life and work can be fairly daunting.
WRITING FOR ONE’S SELF
If you start out feeling that no one would want to know what you want to put out there, you may not be wholly wrong. A shift to a mindset of writing in order to write, to documents thoughts for one’s self rather than for validation can indeed lower the friction to start. Picking topics that are esoteric, specific to your interests and what you personally find insightful is more than enough.
Validation can sometimes eat the creativity out of a person. I came across a beautiful analogy pertaining to some social media. When you put out content, that sells, it is a lot like running on a treadmill publicly – once you do it successfully people want to see you do it faster and often – both of which is exhausting to deliver. That is not the case with writing as a method of expression. The shelf life and value you create is not ephemeral and is related to the authenticity and insight the piece brings.
EACH BODY OF WRITING HAS A CHURN
Writing more is the way to write better. Every piece you put together needn’t solicit the response you anticipate. Consistency with the writing is key. This improves the likelihood of subsequent pieces hitting it out of the park.
Anticipating churn is a good way to counter the need for validation. You are writing to better understand yourself and express nothing else. The positive reactions that come out of it are a good-to-have (sometimes) not a must-have.
Writing as do most things in life, adheres to the 80:20 Pareto Principle, you will see 80% of your outcome on 20% of your work. When it comes to writing, spending time to figure out what that 20% is probably the worst way to produce quality work. Volume is key to survive churn.
VIRALITY IN WRITING IS NOT TIME-DIMENSIONAL
People read what is the best content for that work, not the most recent, not what is trending right now. Paul Graham, the billionaire essayist with over 175+ articles wrote a famous piece called “Startup = Growth”, which is among the most cited articles when it comes to other work in the space.
Unlike news and social media, search engines have been optimized to bring to you the “best” all the time rather than the most time-contextually relevant right now.
This gives writing a leg-up as compared to playing a slots machine. Your work and thoughts by nature can retroactively become good work. While this goes against the tenet of writing for one’s self. Even reading your work to yourself a year later, gives acute insight into the change in your thought processes.
START A BLOG, DRAFT 50+ TITLES
Thoughts are dime-a-dozen. Start a blog. Pen ideas and thoughts into the title of a new draft. A contrarian thought occurs to you, you find something interesting, don’t just let it go into an EverNote that you’ll probably never dig out. Put it down as the title of a new draft – list your thoughts briefly. These serve as a framework for when you do decide to write.
Viola, you have a vehicle to take your thoughts out there.
ACCEPTED: IT IS CHALLENGING TO WRITE SUCCINCTLY
Succinct writing is harder than writing a long, well-drawn out piece. While it is an art you get better at over time, now is the time to allow the volume. Leave it to your editors to provide feedback for you to trim down the piece.
Mark Twain once pushed out a contrarian view on this: I had less time, that’s why I put out a long piece.
1000 WORDS A DAY CHALLENGE
Everyone is capable and ought to write 1000 words a day. I came across this challenge listed and being completed by Srini Rao from the Unmistakable Creative. This made me imagine what a runway involving this as part of your life would look like.
In just under two months, you could be the essayist that puts out 50+ pieces. As an author of a book, pushing out 1000 words a day can let you complete nearly 2 ten-page-chapters a week. Just 8 weeks in, you’re capable of producing your first book draft.
The key here would be to lower friction to the entry point. At this juncture, I highly recommend Atomic Habits by James Clear. Several authors have successfully used this to bring a highly prolific career to fruition.
As contrarian as this sounds, it is also in line with Law 6 from the 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene. This law states that you must court attention at all costs. While it sounds a little self-absorbed it has been a good north star to becoming prolific – at least the prolific seem to agree. Painter Pablo Picasso is a good example of this. He never let his name fade into the background. It is better to create something, he believed, than to let your readers or viewers lose you.
THE SHIFT OF PUBLISHER-CENTRISM TO A WRITER-CENTRISM
The world is headed in the direction of becoming more and more writer-centric. Evidently, self-publishing and the internet has been a game-changer. Services like Substack and blogs being funded by varied revenue streams have fundamentally changed the focus of writing.
Authors can now focus on putting out good work that they want to write rather than what they seek will appease the largest audience. As a newbie, why this pertains to us is, that it is the 1% improvement on the writing each day to express yourself can be transformative with feedback as time passes.
Everyone starts somewhere. So will we.