Writing Should Be Personal

For a long time, I’ve struggled to write anything too personal because I was afraid of the consequences of doing so. What if someone I know reads this? What if my boss finds out? I avoided publishing any of these posts, or when I did, I distorted them in a way that reflected positively on me.

But how can writing be good without a personal element? Writing is the process of turning the inner thoughts in your unconscious mind into concrete, coherent words on paper. Good writing should therefore be one of the most personal things you do.

They say that everyone has a unique voice and ought to be sharing their story. I believe this, and also believe everyone has something interesting to say.

The problem is most people are afraid to share the inner workings of themselves to the public. We’re so used to hiding behind the facade we put out to the world that we’ve lost the ability to be ourselves, even on our own blogs. We fear the judging eyes of others as we lay ourselves bare on paper. Coming to terms with this fear, however, may be a necessity.

In the fabulous book If You Want to Write, Brenda Ueland encourages writers not shy away from using “I” in their writing.

Now to have things alive and interesting it must be personal, it must come from the “I”: what I know and feel. For that is the only great and interesting thing. That is the only truth you know, that nobody else does.

The most interesting kind of articles to read are those that show vulnerability. I look to James Altucher for advice here. He says he never publishes a post unless he feels scared to do so. Sometimes he’s even afraid he’s shared too much to the world. He tries to bleed every time he writes by sharing the darkest and worst moments he’s experienced.

Ultimately, this is how people relate to you through your writing. Everyone has gone through their own struggles, and everyone is simply trying their best to be happy. The feelings that make us human are universal. Conveying these feelings in your writing is how you get people to care.

You can learn a lot about someone through their writing, perhaps more than you ever could through conversation alone. I’ve been able to learn more about some of my friends through their blogs, and it’s strengthened our relationship. I’ve even met people solely through reading their blogs because I knew we operated on the same wavelength. This was only possible because they put themselves out there.

At the end of the day, good writing has to be a reflection of your inner self. Good writing can’t be faked. Beneath any words you read is the personality of the writer himself. Whatever that personality is will eventually shine through. Even if the words themselves tell one story, you can tell if the writer’s true self does not coincide with their message. You can deceive people vocally and even in-person, but you simply cannot deceive people for long through extensive writing.

Internet Scams

When I was 13, I saw a post on a forum about an easy way to make $20 a day in 20 minutes. I figured why not. I downloaded the free pdf, read it, and got to work.

The method was essentially me pretending to be a female looking for desperate men. It worked like this:

Post an ad on Craigslist pretending to be a girl looking for a date. Setup an autoresponder email to reply to anyone who messaged you forwarding them a link to some dating site with your profile. When they signed up and paid, hoping to land a date with you, you’d get paid a commission.

Surprisingly, it actually worked. I spent about five minutes a day just posting ads up on Craigslist for a couple weeks. At the end of the month, I actually passed the threshold point to receive a check for my earnings.

I came home from school one day, and my dad handed me a check for a couple hundred bucks. He looked at me weird. Eventually he asked why it was from “XXX Entertainment Inc.” or something along those lines – and yep, there it was, bold and center. I lied and said it was just an edgy company. I don’t think he believed me, because a week later he cautioned me about watching porn.

Why did I just tell you that story?

To caution you about getting scammed. I’ve come across a lot of “lifestyle design” blogs recently. These blogs all espouse the themes of living abroad, working remotely, earning passive income, and living the dream. Nothing new, but these types of blogs have always irked me.

Most of them are frauds.

Maybe they do live abroad, work remotely, and yes, even earn a little passive income. But my estimate is the vast majority of them are not living the dream. They’re faking it till they make it – which is fine. But they’re selling people products that promise “the dream” when they themselves aren’t living it.

The funny thing is the secret formula of many of these products is to start your own website selling “the dream” for others. So you have all of these people selling information products about how to teach others how to sell information products. Very meta.

Some of these “passive income” methods are so shady they border on fraud. An example includes selling books that you’ve outsourced the writing process to India for. You hire cheap labor to write 10-20 pages on how to lose weight, package it up, and publish it on Amazon. You do this for a hundred different topics, and let the dimes (literally) roll in.

The above method would really only provide you enough money to live in a developing country, which is why so many of these lifestyle entrepreneurs live abroad. They have to.

Like all get rich quick methods though, this method of selling outsourced books won’t work anymore after a period of time. So these same entrepreneurs will then create another product describing their secret formula on how to earn passive income, describing the now obsolete method. The launch of this product is the real money-maker

There are a million of these kooky ways to make money online. Most of them are scams, looking to take advantage of you.

So be careful who you listen to online. It can be very easy to fall in love with a dream someone is trying to sell you on. The love of your life might even turn out to be a 13-year old boy.

Some Much-Needed Brutal Honesty

My girlfriend just called me out.

She said I wasn’t hustling or working hard enough to achieve my goals, specifically waking up earlier.

I couldn’t deny it. It’s true, I have been slacking. And it’s clear that my girlfriend has a front row seat to my current lack of integrity. I said I would do something, and I haven’t. I’m not being true to my word. And if I haven’t been true to my word in this case, it’s unclear what she can count on me for in the future.

So what’s the consequence? Well, I feel shame, for one. Not only to myself, but to her, who wants to see nothing but the best for me. And when she saw that I hadn’t made enough of an effort, she was bold enough to call me out on it.

It’s not easy to objectively look at ourselves, but it’s absolutely essential if we want to improve. It’s tough, though, hearing something like that about yourself. The words sting at you. All sorts of mental barriers came up and excuses instantly popped into my head about the external factors that prevented me from doing what I said I would. I ignored the temptation to justify my lack of integrity, however. I simply allowed the pain of knowing I was in the wrong wash over me.

I needed the tough love, and I appreciated hearing it. It’s not often in life that someone will directly tell you about your personal weaknesses, allowing you to improve on them. We hate hearing bad news about ourselves, and our first instinct is to avoid it. Even when we do confront it, we try to explain it away or downplay it, like I almost did with my excuses ready at hand.

When my girlfriend finished her spiel, we were both relieved. Of course I knew that I hadn’t been achieving my goal of waking up earlier, but I hadn’t realized the impact of not staying true to my word. I came to terms with the fact that I had failed thus far, knew what I had to do going forward, and had an accountability partner. My girlfriend was relieved that I had really listened to her, and saw that I wasn’t going to take the easy way out by abdicating from my word.

No one said NY’s resolutions were easy. Here’s to leaning into the pain.

Why Do Anything If We’re All Going to Die?

I was watching a TED talk on YouTube when I scrolled too far down and ventured into the comments cesspool, coming across the following heavily upvoted comment.

“To be honest, we’re all dead anyway, it doesn’t matter what you achieve in life at all, the second you die you’ll instantly become unaware you ever achieved it or that you ever existed and lived your life in the first place, so stop taking it so seriously, ultimately you’ll forget it ever happened, in just six decades most of the people this talk is directed towards will be gone, their achievements might remain, but they won’t be aware of them remaining so why should they care?”

This commenter was trying to convince us why we shouldn’t bother striving for success. Why bother doing anything if in the end we’re all going to die and no one will remember us? Life is meaningless, so why exert effort into achieving anything?

I’m sure most of us have entertained similar existential thoughts at some point in our lives, however briefly. The problem is, if you hold this belief and and truly believe it, you’re almost guaranteeing a life of mediocrity and complacency.

If you don’t believe something matters in life, you’re pushing it out of your life. If you don’t believe flossing matters, your dental hygiene routine won’t include flossing. If you said to your girlfriend, I don’t think you’re important, you won’t have a girlfriend for long after. So when you say, it doesn’t matter what you achieve in life at all, you’re essentially distancing yourself from achieving anything in life. You see this in practice when people say, I don’t think money is important. Chances are, the person saying that has a lack of money and always will.

If nothing matters in this world, if no one will remember you eventually, in a sense, does that not provide you with the reins to do anything you want? If nothing is worth doing, then something is just as easily worth doing as well. And if something is worth doing, then you might as well make that something extraordinary.

Perhaps Chuck Palahniuk said it best when he said, “We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, it’s to create something that will.” An honorable goal would be to leave the world in a better place than you found it. Sure, maybe you won’t actually ever achieve historical greatness in your life. Few people do. But to give up without trying and asking why bother guarantees your insignificance.

Finally, consider this analogy: if you were given a piece of cake and told you could eat it, would you question the purpose of eating the cake if it would run out eventually? Of course not. Scarcity doesn’t make it any less enjoyable – in fact, it may even add to the pleasure. And so it is with life.