Lessons from writing 35 essays in 30 days, thoughts about Quora and personal mindset.
I was always fairly good at speaking at least in my mother tongue. Being a Russian speaker was one factor that made me hesitate a lot about writing in English.
The Russian language is extremely complex but its complexity is exactly the thing that grants its wide range of flexibility and the richness of meanings in vocabulary.
The fact that such phenomenon as a “Russian classical literature” exists speaks for itself.
Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Pushkin, Gogol, Turgenev, Chekhov, Bulgakov, the list can go on, gifted the world the pearls of classical literature proving that the Russian language is a powerful tool when it comes to diving into the depth of the human soul and tragicomedy of human existence.
I used to write some poetry and songs in Russian where I learned that being good in writing in Russian is the whole another level and it would be a separate life-long journey to become somewhat decent at it.
On the other hand, writing in English is not a something that one can develop as a hobby. With English being the language of global communication and business, at our time the skill of writing in English is a necessity.
Everyone is a writer today.
We write emails, text messages, Facebook posts, articles, blogs, answers on Quora. We self-publish books and build up our followership.
We write journals of gratitude, our meditations, and diaries for ourselves to self-reflect on our thoughts and organize our daily lives in to-do lists.
So I decided to challenge myself. I asked myself:
What if I write 30 essays in 30 days?
So I started to write.
On November 15 I posted my first essay. I also started to write on Quora. 3000+ words is an average estimate of what I have been writing every day since then.
Today, December 15 this is my essay #35. I wrote 30 essays in 24 days.
Here is what I learned:
1. Writing is hard.
The hardest moment of the day is to overcome the initial resistance of writing down the first several lines.
I cracked the nut and figured it out that it doesn’t matter how I start. I just need to start. The longer I wait the bigger is my inertia. The more I stare at a blank screen the more I have an intimidating feeling that it stares at me too asking “So what?”
I found a way how to start writing.
I just catch any thoughts that flow like images in my head and throw them on the paper in the form of keywords like breadcrumbs to map a route for my writing.
They serve me as anchors to return me back to the ideas I was going to write. This step is kind of like a brainstorm when I spit out ideas in one pool as they pop up in my head.
Next, I randomly select a keyword, I recollect the details of what I wanted to say and I unfold a keyword into sentences developing the idea.
Like so, I keep going until I transform all of my keywords into ideas.
Usually, every keyword and the developed idea on top fall into places and comprise a cohesive story.
If they don’t I play with the order and changes until the result is satisfactory.
Lastly, I leave a piece for a day or two and come back to it for final edit and publish.
I have to reread it several times to understand if it makes sense at all.
Another thing that I learned was that
2. I CAN write.
Everyone has a story to tell and I am able to find a couple of things to talk about as well.
Yes, it is hard, but it is also the exact level of challenge that is demanding enough to surface the best part of me.
I learned that although writing is not easy I am fully capable of doing it if I use my discipline to keep working until I trigger the state of flow.
When I am in the zone and gain required momentum it gets much easier.
3. Writing keeps me humble.
Here is what I also learned:
I suck at English.
I suck at writing.
I suck at formulating my thoughts.
Here, on Medium, I discovered people that have such a perfect command of the language that it is intimidating to read them.
Guys like Benjamin Hardy or James Altucher, their level of writing is an art that transcends the reading experience to the level of aesthetic pleasure.
It could be discouraging and in fact, at times it is but what I noticed after 1 month is that
4. I get better at it.
Slowly. Very slowly. Like first unconfident steps of a baby child, bits by bits, but I am getting better.
The result is intangible and insensuous rather it feels like my confidence solidifies inside me.
Writing is a deep work.
It is impossible to get it done if I don’t use all of my discipline to keep my ass in one place for several hours and just keep writing without distractions.
Writing helps me to think.
The very nature of thoughts and the fact that we don’t think in sentences but images make the inner formulation abrupt.
Writing helps to make the thoughts logically finite. It definitely helps me to be more rational and organized internally.
Writing helps me to study English.
Language complicates my writing. Having English as a second language I have to use many external sources.
Sometimes I have to look up words in the dictionary.
I use Grammarly all the time to check my writing after I finish my piece.
I read other authors on Medium and I learn a lot about the style, the form, the vocabulary but most importantly about how to stay persistent.
I keep reminding myself:
Rome was not built in a day.
Writing gives me a reason to wake up.
These days I wake up at 5:30 am, have my protein shake as a breakfast and I start writing.
Writing has become a part of my routine that I am looking forward to. I am going to sleep knowing how I will start my next day.
It helps me to keep my regime and the feeling that I was productive and did something useful for myself before most of the people out there start their work makes my day.
Writing is a therapy.
Writing is somewhat similar to meditation. I can’t do it if I am not present. I need to have the highest focus and channel my attention to the words.
Writing is a process of self-reflection and contemplating about things at different angles. It heals.
5. Just publish ffs!
When I started I was just writing and saving my drafts without publishing. I was thinking that they are not good enough for other people to see them.
My friend who was reading all of my drafts and giving me feedback texted me: “Just publish ffs!”
“What does ffs mean?” I asked naively.
“For Fuck’s Sake!”
was the reply.
I realized that I just repeat the same mistake many beginners make.
By not being able to overcome the resistance of putting my work out there I was making this whole endeavor useless.
I learned how to hit the “Publish” button and to give less crap about it.
Learning how to write and learning anything, in general, is a process, not an end result. There is nothing ecstatic about being static.
6. Short sentences are good.
I avoided using short sentences at first. I thought that using them makes my language dock-tailed. This is another beginner misconception which may lead to another extreme of writing in an exaggerated and poetic style.
I was surprised to discover that short sentences are good. There is some strength to them. A beauty in simplicity. Minimalistic writing.
I should thank Mr. James Altucher for teaching me this. In his articles on Medium and answers on Quora, I learned that I should not be afraid to write in a simple language. I just have to learn how to use it with style.
7. White space is my friend.
I like blogging style writing. It transforms reading experience into something very similar to dialogue.
At first, I thought that using too much space is a sign of a scattered mind.
But judging from the reader’s perspective I found out that lots of white space significantly facilitates information processing and increases the speed of reading.
8. Quora is a bliss.
Once I discovered it for myself I fell in love.
I watched several talks by Adam D’Angelo and this man earned my deepest respect and admiration by how intelligent and humble this man is.
A former CTO of Facebook became a mastermind behind one of the largest knowledge markets in the history of humanity.
I adore the fact that Quora has executed the thing which many companies before them failed to execute.
They made people read again.
I see dumb people.
Quora once used to be a place for intelligent people. Now its popularity has the downside. It got flooded with stupid questions creating a noise where valuable content simply drowns. This is sad to see but only natural.
Still, Quora is beautiful.
There are extremely smart people on Quora
I can read the answers of the smartest CEOs of Silicon Valley, writers who have achieved success and recognition, politicians and even scientists though academics are usually very reluctant to write answers due to the high population of not-so-intelligent Quorans.
One day I accidentally bumped into some very witty and quite profound answers of a woman who after checking of her profile appeared to be a porn actress, well, an “adult-performer” as she describes it.
Indeed the world is full of surprises.
Another surprise was to find out that people actually find my content valuable. I get a positive feedback and these comments keep me going.
The response on Medium is low and I know that mostly it is because I don’t do any guest posts at the moment.
I know that
9. No one cares about my writing
And that’s ok.
That is totally normal and it doesn’t hurt my ego.
I just started and it would be beyond frivolous of me to think that my essays would suddenly go viral and create agiotage.
I remember why I started. I do it for myself. I want to master the language.
I want to make the language my razor-sharp katana ready to strike and slice opponents’ arguments swiftly like falling autumn leaves floating in the river.
I know that no one cares about my writing. But…
10. Not yet.
In one of the articles on Medium, I read that one should write about a million words in order to become somewhat good at it.
Million words with let’s say a pace of 2000 words a day will make it 500 days of everyday writing.
1,000,000 words/2000 words per day = 500 days
I need roughly 1.5 years of constant writing. 500 essays to get to a decent level.
That sounds scary but totally doable.
I can’t say where I am going with this but I know that
The path unfolds itself under the steps of a walking man.
Writing is just another part of a life journey that I plan to enjoy.
I am letting others judge me if they have time for it and I am trying to create value for those who are willing to learn from my mistakes.
Until I will see where this road leads me I tell myself and to others who walk this path with me: