I write a lot. I started my career as a journalist before becoming an entrepreneur and have kept in the habit of writing reasonably steadily since. I have probably put out around 5,000 words a week for the last few years between various projects. I’ve been asked how we handle content creation at Variance a few times, and I thought it was worth putting together a few of my thoughts on how to ramp up your writing as a founder.
- Just write: writing is a muscle, and the more you work it out, the more in shape it becomes. Plus writing more (and publishing it) helps reduce the pressure of any single article defining you.
- Keep an ideas list: every time you think of or hear a writing idea, get it down. It doesn’t matter if it’s a text file or a to-do app. Just make sure you capture it. I like the spark file approach.
- Save your research: I save almost everything I listen to and read. Every article that is even slightly interesting goes into Evernote in full-text form and any podcast, which are frequently sources of inspiration for me, goes through Otter for transcription and then into Evernote for archiving. When it’s time to write, you’ll have everything you need without having to waste your time searching around again.
- Find an editor: most people have never worked with an editor, but once you have it’s hard to go back. The deal with an editor is that they’re going to give you the truth and help you develop your ideas and probably hurt your feelings a bit (no one’s writing is perfect on the first try). But, in exchange, you get a better piece of writing, and you get to claim all their work as your own. So if you get the chance, take it.
- Learn to edit: to the point above, learning to edit is a great skill to have. It will help you support other writers around you and help you become a better writer yourself. In addition, recognizing patterns in language and approaches to articulating ideas are key to building your own identity as a writer.
Finally, particularly if you’re a founder, think of writing as the sand that fills in the gaps of your big goals. While we all hope to stay 100% focused on the big tasks in front of us, sometimes you just need a bit of breathing room. Once you’ve gotten a coffee or watched a YouTube video or whatever you do to unwind, think about picking up one of the ideas in your spark file if you’re not quite ready to dive back into the big task. I suspect you’ll both find it easier to do, and it will help you get into a better, more focused place to take on the more significant strategic questions with which you’re likely grappling.
I really like this advice from mathematician Terence Tao:
There will of course be times when one is too frustrated, fatigued, or otherwise not motivated to work on one’s current project. This is perfectly normal, and trying to force oneself to keep at that project can become counterproductive after a while. I find that it helps to have a number of smaller projects (or perhaps some non-mathematical errands) to have at hand when I am unwilling for whatever reason to work on my major projects; conversely, if I get bored with these smaller tasks, I can often convince myself to then tackle one of my bigger ones.
Of course, the reason to do all this is that content is still one of the very best ways to both generate leads and to keep prospects and customers engaged. It’s even more powerful when you’ve got visibility into how all those folks are consuming it as part of your go-to-market process with a platform like Variance.