Have you ever asked yourself why you want to become a writer? You should. Because writing can be a thankless job. Like doing the laundry.
Listen. There will be times where you will hit a wall. You are exhausted. Lost. Broken. And you’ll ask yourself, “Why?”
Why am I doing this to myself?
You have to be able to answer that question. At the drop of a hat. All exceptional writers can. And when you do, you’ll walk away gritting your teeth, buckling down, and girding your loins.
In this roughly 10-minute episode you’ll discover:
- A simple but powerful model for inspirational leadership (think: golden circle)
- 3 compelling reasons why you shouldn’t become a writer
- The harsh but effective manner one popular speaker used to hand-pick his students
- A phenomenal lesson on mastering a career from a 87-year old sushi chef
- 20 questions that will help you create a solid strategy for your career
- The Hunter S. Thompson quote that will inspire you when your writing career is dead
The Show Notes
- How great leaders inspire action
- Why You Shouldn’t Be A Writer
- Jiro Dreams of Sushi
- Hunter S. Thompson
How to Answer the Most Important Question About Becoming an Exceptional Writer
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Demian Farnworth: Hi, welcome to Rough Draft, your daily dose of essential web writing advice. I’m your host, Demian Farnworth, Chief Content Writer for Copyblogger Media.
And thank you for sharing the next few minutes of your life with me.
So this is Episode 19. It’s called The Exceptional Writers Club. A series within a series. And I’m asking four very important questions in the next four days. About becoming an exceptional web writer.
And today’s question, dear podcast listeners, is … Do you have the right strategy?
A Simple But Powerful Model for Inspirational Leadership (Think: Golden Circle)
Now, 21,690,000 views is a lot of views. And that’s how many times Simon Sinek’s TED talk has been watched. The TED talk in question is “How great leaders inspire action.”
It’s the third most viewed TED talk. Why is it so popular? Why?
Simon, fascinated by how some leaders could motivate legions of people while other leaders — political, corporate, social — failed, sought to explain why.
What he discovered was a naturally occurring pattern: what he called the golden circle.
The golden circle is made up of three circles. The most inside circle you have the word “why.” Then in the next outer circle is “how.” And finally, in the outer third circle is the word “what.”
So, why, how, what.
This is how it looks in the wild. Take Apple, for example. Steve Jobs didn’t say “We make great computers. They’re beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. Want to buy one?”
That’s the golden circle inside out. It’s starting with what, then how, and maybe getting around to why.
No. That’s not the right strategy.
Instead, Jobs said, and I’m quoting Simon here, “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?”
Apple, and all the great CEOs and leaders and writers started with the why. Asking the question “why?” Why does it have to be this way? Why am I doing this? Why I am putting myself through this?
These are all fundamental questions.
Have you ever asked yourself why you want to become a writer? Why you are even a writer? A great one, at that? Why do you want to write?
3 Compelling Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Become a Writer
In a short, but stinging essay writer Susannah Breslin argues for three reasons why you shouldn’t be a writer.
- You’re not good at it. Your mom loves your poem. But what about the rest of the world? She asks, “Can you make the words sing? Does your prose have that certain something?” Most people can’t write well. But that’s why they hire people like you and me.
- It’s too hard. She says, “You think digging ditches is hard? Writing is a thankless work. Like laundry.” You have to put up with a lot as a writer.
- It’s too hard to monetize. You want work with security and good pay? Become a computer scientist. A nurse. Now, the demand for good, for great writers is rising. So you are positioned perfectly. You are coming in at the right time.
And you might be wondering why am I being so harsh? Remember, this is a fight. This is a fight, and you have to win. And if you don’t have that spunk. That fight in you. If you can’t answer the why — like why are you in the ring? — then you will probably not survive the dark days of obscurity. No matter how long they last.
The Harsh But Effective Manner One Popular Speaker Used to Hand-Pick His Students
Potential preachers would approach the nineteenth century English minister Charles Spurgeon and tell him “I want to become a preacher.”
Spurgeon, a tall, barrel-chested man, a sage-brush beard hanging from his chin, who had preached over 600 times before he was twenty years of age, would look the potential recruit up and down, and then say, “You don’t have what it takes.”
Most would walk away discouraged.
But those who said, “You are wrong, Mr. Spurgeon,” and went on to argue their case — Spurgeon would mentor. On the spot. For free.
A Phenomenal Lesson on Mastering a Career from a 87-Year Old Sushi Chef
Revered sushi chef Jiro Ono, a frail, but stern octogenarian, treats his students the same. The apprenticeship is grueling. Long, often decades long.
Young apprentices must clean, clean, wringing out steaming hot towels, baking eggs one hundred times before you got it right. But he taught them for free.
A man who earned about $350 every 15 minutes, didn’t charge his apprentices. If they could survive, he would train them. And the only way they could survive if they understood why they want to become sushi chefs in the first place. That hope and that dream gave them the spunk to fight … and to win.
You can learn more about Jiro in his highly recommended documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi. I insist you watch it at least once.
Now listen. This is why this is so important. There will be times where you will hit a wall. You are exhausted. Lost. Broken. And you’ll ask yourself, “Why?” Why am I doing this to myself?
Can you answer that question? When you do, that’s the strategy. That’s the why.
20 Questions That Will Help You Create a Solid Strategy for Your Career
So to help you develop a sense of why. Answer these questions:
- Are you constantly seeking ways to master the art of writing? Do read widely and non-stop? And do you study the top writers and bloggers?
- Are you trying to fit in with the crowd? Or are you intentionally challenging the status quo? Are you looking for ways to stand out? To confront? To appear slightly off your rocker? And does it come natural?
- Do you have the capacity for solitude?
- Do you have a personal stake in your writing? Do you imprint your personality on your work?
- Look deep down inside yourself and ask, “What do I want people to say about me when I die?” And is it big enough to make a dent in the universe? Is it big enough to attract the attention of a thousand people?
- Do you push yourself to find topics that demand attention regardless of the negative response they could represent? Do you discipline yourself to search for ideas that confront and challenge others? Do you lose sleep over your legacy or your sense of its inadequacies?
- Would you still write if no one cared?
Exceptional writers have a drive for supremacy. There is an attitude — hell or high water — they will become great.
The Hunter S. Thompson Quote That Will Inspire You When Your Writing Career Is Dead
Hunter S. Thompson in 1959, years before he hit his stride, said, “As things stand now, I am going to be a writer. I’m not sure that I’m going to be a good one or even a self-supporting one, but until the dark thumb of fate presses me to the dust and says, ‘you are nothing,’ I will be a writer.”
I want you to walk away from this episode gritting your teeth, buckling down, girding your loins. Why? Because I think the world is a better place when we have exceptional writers roaming through it.
And you know what else can help you become an exceptional writer? Attending our Authority Rainmaker live event this May in beautiful Denver, CO. At the exquisite Ellie Caulkins Opera House.
This Opera is something else. In fact, it makes me want to sing in opera the lineup of speakers.
Chris Brogan, Dan Pink, punk legend Henry Rollins, fascination aficionado Sally Hogshead, Danny Sullivan, Joanna Lord, Scott Brinker Ann Handley, Sean D’Souza, our very own Brian Clark, Sonia Simone, Pamela Wilson, Jerod Morris and, so on.
This is a one-track, graduate level education in online marketing. Traffic, design, conversion, writing. In two days.
And you’ve got a chance to chum with them. Dine with them.
You don’t want to miss it. But you can only do that if you register at rainmaker.fm/event. That’s rainmaker.fm/event.
Until next time. Take care.