On Writing in Public

Awhile back, I started a series for writers, or maybe more accurately for people who want to be writers but haven’t done a lot of actual writing. I intended to post every week but then I got into a course about blogging and decided to redesign and rehost my blog … more on that later. This design is temporary, and I’m excited about what is to come. Meanwhile I’m adding the next post in my “stop thinking about writing” series. Step one was Write Every Day. Step two, Write With a Plan. Next…

#3: Write in Public

Get your words out there. Our world today is so full of opportunities to write publicly, there is no excuse not to. We live in the age of the internet and social media, where expressing yourself in a public setting is only as difficult as a tweet, Instagram, status update, or blog post. Pick a public medium and start writing. You can write on Facebook if you feel safer posting so only friends and family can see it, but I prefer something more public than that. On Twitter, you must express your thoughts in 280 characters or less. I find that is enough for a complete, fully developed thought, including hashtags, usually without abbreviations. It was a little more difficult back when the limit was 140 characters, but still possible. You can also start a blog and write several paragraphs on your chosen topic. If you choose to write on Twitter, I’d recommend tweeting at least once a day. If you blog, once a week is usually enough. 

Other ways to write publicly include freelance writing, posting stories in author forums, joining a community writing group, or even commenting regularly on someone else’s writing blog. The Books and Such blog has a whole community of writers that regularly react with their posts. Whatever you choose, commit to be consistent. You will discover and hone your voice through public interaction even faster than by writing in secret.

Grow your tribe. As you write more and more publicly, you will begin to gather some people who relate to your words and your voice. You may have friends and family who read what you write simply because they love you. You may be involved with groups in your community who will relate to your writing. There will be others you may not even know yet, who appreciate what you have to say and how you say it. You may connect with other writers through a variety of mediums and circumstances. You may find a niche among people who love the same things you do. There are some people who call this growing a platform or an audience, and those are both good words. I prefer another popular term for this process: growing your tribe.

Your tribe will become invaluable during your writing process. They will be your first readers, your free editors and proofreaders, your sounding boards, and your cheerleaders. Sometimes they may even be your harshest critics, whose words haunt you and compel you to write better and overcome obstacles in your path to success. They keep you accountable whether or not you ask them to. In those times when writing is the last thing you want to do, someone in your tribe will ask, “How’s your book going?” or “Have you blogged lately?” 

Once you give your words wings and send them out into the world, your tribe will be the jet stream that carries them farther than you can yourself. If your books are published traditionally, they will buy them enthusiastically and send you pictures of them on the shelf. If you go the self-published route, they will post about your books on social media and review them on review sites. They will read and comment on your blog, and possibly share it with others. They will do marketing for you because they love you and what you have to say, and you can’t put a price on that.

Your tribe may start out small, only twenty people or so, or if you are an influencer your tribe may already be very large. Either way you should seek to grow your tribe whenever you can. 

Get comfortable with discomfort. Ah, comfort. We seek it out in our houses, our relationships, our food. Comfort is an old friend, a warm blanket, a relaxing soak at the end of a long day. It goes hand in hand with security and often is one of the most important things in our lives. It can be so important to us that we choose it at our own expense, whether it costs us time, money, effort, or even success. 

Some success gurus out there preach that comfort is the great enemy, that success always lies outside our comfort zones, that comfort should be abandoned in the pursuit of excellence. However, for many of us, comfort is the desired object of our lives. So does it really make sense to abandon it in order to achieve it?

Sometimes.

Comfort is not the enemy of success. It can be our motivation for success. But along that path, we may find that we need to give up some momentary comforts in order to clear the path that leads to what we really want. So take a look at some comfortable things that might be holding you back from writing. How many of those things are within your control? Focus your efforts on changing what you can control and change, because it’s a waste of time and mental energy to fret about what you can’t. Do you need to make a mindset adjustment, or find a new environment to write, or maybe give up one hobby or activity in your life in order to dedicate more time to writing?

Next, consider what you have refused to do in the past. Fill in the blank: “I’m not a _____ person.” Why not? What is your reason for not doing something? Is it a legitimate reason, or just stubbornness? Sometimes if you choose to do that thing you don’t do, you find something you’ve been needing to do for a long time. In the past few years I’ve started challenging myself to take on some of those things I’ve always refused to do. Once, I did planks every day for a month. I did burpees every day for a week. I added push-ups and jumping jacks to my daily workout. I made Rice Krispie treats, and they were delicious. I made pie, and pizza, and lasagna, and pretty cakes. I got on Pinterest, and that certainly changed my life. I even joined Planet Fitness after swearing for years I would never join a gym and laughing at anyone who suggested it. We get so comfortable with all the things we say no to. I’m not suggesting that you say yes to everything. But maybe, every once in awhile, say yes to something.

I’ve embraced discomfort as a necessary part of the pursuit of my dreams. I’ve known people who simply told me they were comfortable with who they were and the life they lived, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Contentment is a valuable quality. But if you dream of being something more than what you are today, you must get comfortable with discomfort. Writing in public may be uncomfortable at first. Sometimes writing can feel like bleeding your soul onto a page. Letting someone else read those words takes vulnerability and courage. It may be uncomfortable, but it is necessary. Take a step outside your comfort zone, and then another, and another, and soon you may find yourself traveling the road toward your dreams.

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