Around a year ago I resolved to become a better writer. People have remarked to me that I possess a knack for writing; from high-school AP English teachers to my own dad, there have been those who have reminded me to foster this skill. What remained unknown (and still does to a degree) was the answer to the question of, “Am I truly any good at this?” To find out, I began pouring through books that focused training on how I could develop my writing. I read books on how to write better ad & marketing copy, how to write better essays, how to write poetry, and how to just start writing. After spending a considerable amount of time devouring these pages, primarily second-hand, marked up self-help type books that others tossed away after milking them for every bit information they had, I decided it was time to put pen to paper and thoughts to action.

I quickly realized that I am passionate about various topics and in a world where consistency reigns king, I was left with the question of what to spend my time writing about. I love talking about faith and theology, but I also really enjoy thinking about cultural trends, music, and ethical design. Eventually, I got to the point where I decided I’d write and expound upon all the things that interest me; screw consistency for the most part. So, I set up a new space online where I could publish everything as a way to experiment and figure out what it is I really enjoy writing about and push myself to be a better writer.

In November of this past year, I launched my website and just started publishing everything I was feeling. I had energy, optimism, and devotion to my internal cause. I set goals for myself like, “Publish 2-3 times per week,” and, “Have work published by a website or magazine that my friends actually know about.” I was gung-ho and living that purpose driven life. In the ‘honeymoon’ period things were easy. The writing was effortless, and ideas flowed like beer from London’s pub taps. I had the foresight to know that there would be periods where I wasn’t feeling this jazzed about my experiment of a website, but when I walked into that desert, I wasn’t entirely prepared as I imagined I would be.

So, why am I writing this to you now? Partly, I’m reflecting on the past six months; partly, because maybe there are others out there like me who want to do something but don’t know what to watch out for; partly because I haven’t had the creative juice to think of something new; and partly because if I wait any longer to publish this it will need to be a year in review.

If you’re looking to write consistently, push yourself creatively, and learn about yourself then hopefully these points will be of use to you. If that isn’t you and you have everything figured out already, then maybe spend a few moments signing up for my weekly newsletter called Good Shout! Or check out a few of my other posts, or go watch Childish Gambino’s This Is America video again because let’s be honest, everyone should watch it maybe 9 or 50 times.

1) Just Do It

I know we’ve all heard this, mainly from Shia LaBeouf and Nike, but honestly, this is probably the best advice that I, or anyone, can give to someone who is starting out. In a digital culture where image and thematic consistency appear to be even more relevant, the feeling that everything needs to be pixel-perfect and pristine before it can be distributed is a considerable roadblock. This line of thinking prevents productivity. I’m not one who would advocate just banging out 1,000 words and blindly hitting the publish button to get it out, but things don’t need to be perfect to connect with whoever you’re creating for. Everyone can appreciate something that’s aesthetically pleasing and well-refined, but if that will prevent you from getting something you’ve worked on out in the wild, then you may never end up putting anything out there.

I had a discussion recently with friend and fellow-creator, Alex Tan, and he reminded me that I don’t need to tackle the whole 100% of something at one time, but instead just strive to accomplish 1% at a time. Achieving 1% of something is better than not accomplishing anything; by making small steps, we build momentum to help us complete the whole thing.

2) Set Challenging, but Realistic Goals

One thing that I’ve done really well at times, while completely botching at others is creating goals that are achievable while still pushing me to go further. Anyone who wants to write more can set a goal that’s to write one new thing in the next six months, but what a sad goal is that (unless you’re just learning to write for the first time). Your goals should push you. I’m a firm believer that without vision, people perish, and that idea extends to goals. If you don’t have a purpose, don’t expect to have an output. Goals help keep us accountable for what we want to achieve. I’d recommend sharing your goals with others in your life too. Invite others into your process and bounce ideas off them. Even if your goal isn’t to become a better writer, I’ve found this to be a good idea in any pursuit, whether it’s working out more or learning how to code.

If you really want to push yourself, come up with a few stretch-goals to hit to encourage yourself to push even harder.

3) Be Gracious with Yourself

I’ll tell you upfront that there will come the point where you find yourself not meeting your goals, feeling down, creatively uninspired, and just wanting binge on Netflix and shotgun some Coke Zero (because let’s be honest, you can’t totally let yourself go). When the wall comes, be kind to yourself. Chances are you will be beating yourself up about not meeting your standard, but don’t do that for too long; it’s not helpful. When don’t reach a goal you set, use that time to ask yourself what happened, reevaluate its importance, and move forward. The more you reprimand yourself, the more difficult it will be to continue at all.

4) Keep Experimenting

For me, this whole bit of starting a website, writing & publishing regularly, and trying new things was all about pushing myself and growing. There have been many times where I have wanted to continue to be a better writer, but the thought of trying to publish 2-3 articles a week with 800-1200 words each was not interesting to me at all. During one of these phases where I realized maybe I would try something new that would allow me to continue writing but would be less demanding and more fun. It was after this that I decided to start my weekly(ish) newsletter called Good Shout! Which aims to elevate creativity, culture, and faith through five links every week. I was inspired by Luke Leighfield, The Dispatch, and Michael Tucker’s newsletters and thought why not try that while I’m not trying anything. I realized that I spend time finding links to share with close friends anyway, so I might as well do something more with them.

By experimenting with something different, but still related to my primary goals, and turning a problem into a potential solution, I found a great outlet that I wouldn’t have tried otherwise. This newsletter is now one of the main things I look forward to producing every week, and it continues to push me further. It’s also opened up a few other opportunities to engage meaningfully with people that wouldn’t have occurred otherwise.

5) Ask For Help

I alluded to this throughout previous points, but invite other people into your journey and don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are a lot of people out there who have walked where you’re walking and would love to share their insights. Most of the time we don’t think to ask because everyone seems so ‘busy’ that they won’t have the time or desire to help. It’s true, some people may never have the courtesy to write you back or give you the time of day, but more common than naught most people I’ve found are willing to spend a few minutes sharing their experiences and thoughts if asked.

Additionally, look around and see if there are other people out there who are pursuing the same things you are and ask them if they’d want to bounce ideas around or work together on something. Your thoughts are good on their own, but they can probably be even better when refined by people around you.

— — —

Growth is just that; it’s growing, shifting, changing, and transforming. If you don't want to change — and many don't because they are entirely satisfied with life as it currently is — then chalk this up to 4-5 minutes of wasted time. But if you are someone who wants to push themselves to be more than they are now and reach for some new potential, then hopefully these little bullets and anecdotes will aid you in your creative journey. This could all just be nonsense too.

Good Shout!

A weekly newsletter of links. Drop your email in below.

Writer, Photographer, Strategist

Portland, OR
By way of London, California, & Colorado