I remember trying to figure out what I wanted to write about, and whether anyone would want to read my stuff. But a post by LinkedIn's Editor in Chief, Dan Roth, helped me get over some of those initial confidence hurdles that were preventing me from hitting publish on my first post.
His first two tips, "write what you know", and "write often", were just the encouragement I needed to get started. I started writing about topics that I knew best, like writing, PR, and stories that tapped into my childhood or other earlier experiences at school and work. I also established a goal of writing and publishing one new LinkedIn post every week.
Since then, I've hit publish on nearly 130 posts on LinkedIn. (Okay, for those of you doing the math, that's not exactly one post per week; but it's not too far off the mark, either.)
Several writers on LinkedIn that I know have maintained a consistent schedule of writing, and some have published far more than I have. But I also see many people write one, two, or three posts, and then stop. Many more people have yet to publish their first post. Maybe they're thinking of getting started, but haven't yet mustered the courage to hit publish. Or perhaps they haven't figured out what to write about.
I empathize with these people. Sharing your thoughts and feelings about a topic you care about with hundreds or thousands of strangers around the world can be daunting. And who will be interested in what you have to say anyway, you might wonder. Just look at the flood of words that are published everyday: 150,000 new posts are published each week on LinkedIn.
And that's just LinkedIn! Estimates vary, but across all platforms, between two and three million blog posts are written everyday.
So why write?
Here are a few reasons that I hope will convince you to get started:
Write because you've got something to say and you just need to get it out there.
Ever feel like you've got something you must say, something you just have to tell someone? Even if it's just to one person? Take that feeling and channel it into writing. Maybe it's so personal that you can only share it with a close friend, or just to yourself, in your private journal. That's fine. But I would bet there are some things you feel so strongly about, that you feel compelled to share them with a wider audience. And you know others could benefit from what you have to say. So say it!
Write because you want to make things better at work, at home, or in your community.
I've often been inspired to write a new post by something I've seen at work that I just know can be done better. You possess unique experiences and insights that nobody else has. You've got ideas for making things better. Don't leave them bottled up inside of you. Share them!
Write to discover new things about yourself and the world.
Dan Roth's advice to "write what you know" has served me well over the past few years that I've been writing on LinkedIn. I often mine my personal and professional experiences and share my own perspectives on topics that I care about most. Writing about what I know makes the process of getting started that much easier, and it lends credibility to my voice.
But don't just write what you know, write to discover what you don't know, suggests Robin Rice, an author and mentor to leaders.
Write because you're tired of consuming other people's ideas--and you want to start creating and sharing your own.
We're all consumers not just of things, but of ideas. There's nothing wrong with that. I do it too. But you have your own thoughts, your own ideas, your own visions for how things should be. Why not write them down and start sharing them with the world? Reading and absorbing other people's ideas are fine--to a point. Now is the time to share yours.
Write because you want to leave your mark on the world.
A recent article in The Atlantic outlines all of the possible ways that we can die. They even went through the trouble of coding a simulator that allows you to enter your race and gender, and then it spits out all of the ways you are likely to leave this earth.
Morbid? Maybe. But the truth is, none of us knows how many days we have left on this earth. If you have a message you want to tell the world--or just some reflections about life that you want to pass on to your children--carve a few hours each week out of your busy schedule and start writing them down.
So how do you get started ? (And how do you keep going?)
1. Keep an ideas journal.
I get my ideas from a range of sources: Books and articles I read, experiences I've had recently, or a long time ago. And one thing I've learned (the hard way) is to not trust my memory. I've stopped forgetting good ideas because I make sure to write them down immediately. Whenever a flash of inspiration strikes, I'll write a headline and maybe a sentence or two in the Evernote app on my iPhone. I can then flesh it out later, either in the app, or on my laptop, which is synched with the app.
2. Set a target for posting frequency.
When I started writing three years ago, I set a personal goal of publishing a new post every week. While I sometimes fall short of that goal, I've still managed to publish at a fairly consistent rhythm.
Set a target, but don't set one that you can't meet. Start small and start slow so you can prove to yourself that you can reach your goal. The confidence you gain from reaching your target will fuel your motivation to publish your next post, and then your next.
3. Listen to the sound of your words.
As all writers know, writing is actually listening. When you write, make sure you use your ears, as much as you use your eyes. You can read your words back to yourself silently, like I do. Or you can read them out loud.
There's another method I learned about recently from Robin. She sends an email to herself with whatever she's working on at the moment. Then she has Siri read it back to her. By listening to Siri read her writing out loud to her, she can discover mistakes that she needs to fix.
Of course, there are free text to speech applications that do the same thing. Or you can record yourself reading your writing using the free app on your smartphone, or by using the built-in microphone on your laptop, and then playing that back to yourself.
4. Learn from others.
There's an abundance of examples of good writing on LinkedIn, Medium, and the broader blogosphere (not to mention the numerous established news sites with excellent writing). Find a few writers that you admire, and read their writing slowly, with an analytical lens.
How do they make their headlines click-worthy? How do they grab the reader's attention in their very first sentence or two? How do they keep the reader engaged enough to read through to the end? Are they writing to inform and educate, or are they making a passionate plea for change? What words do they use to add color to their story and bring it to life? How do they vary the length of their sentences to create a sense of rhythm, and even music?
5. Embrace your imperfection.
When you hit publish on a piece of writing, you're putting a piece of yourself out there for the world to see. It's scary, sure. But nobody's perfect, and nobody expects you to be, either. So embrace your imperfection, as Robin suggests. Make mistakes, learn from them, correct them, and then try again.
But don't let them stop you from sharing your voice--because the world needs to hear it.
This article also appeared on LinkedIn.