Every month, I talk to five prolific writers who are known for their blog, course or online writing habit.
This time, our guests are Dickie, Ev, Kevon, Arunima and the mysterious Thomas.
- Dickie Bush is a full-time portfolio manager and the founder of Ship 30 for 30. Unlike his co-founder Nicolas Cole he doesn’t have any published books but he’s well on his way to become just as prolific.
- Kevon Cheung is the man behind Public Lab and other products related to building in public. He writes almost daily of his preferred topic and is now working on a book about it too.
- Arunima Khunteta is an online writer with an interest in all sorts of topics. Expressing herself is more important than anything else. She writes fro Hypefury and delivers their monthly growth mail to your inbox.
- Ev Chapman is a prolific creator and writer. She’s one of the first community members of Dickie’s Ship 30 for 30. For 140 days straight, she’s shipped an atomic essay. She has a bunch of free Notion products and a podcast.
- Thomas J Bevan claims to be so handsome he had to hide behind a pseudonym to not distract readers from his writing. The real reason is different as his faithful following could hardly be distracted from reading his newsletter.
Where do they find inspiration?
Dickie Bush: “I do my best to curate my information diet to always bring new ideas to me. I’ve spent hours curating my Twitter feed into different lists for each of my interests. And then I spent even more time creating TweetDeck columns that filter those lists for the most interesting bits of information. The same goes for my podcast, newsletter, and article feeds. The more time you spend setting up systems that passively feed you new ideas, the more ideas you’ll have. And lastly, everything becomes an idea to write about when you have a publishing medium. But not everything you come across deserves a long blog post, and not everything you think about can be summarized in a tweet. So writers should have a wide range of publishing mediums – tweets for short ideas, Atomic Essays for medium-sized ideas, and a blog for long-form. That way, they can view the world (and the ideas they come across) through each of these lenses.”
Kevon Cheung: “I believe you have to consume first in order to get new thoughts. I read books, subscribe to a few newsletters, or search for articles online. With building in public, I also have a good system to turn anything I’m doing into content.”
Arunima Khunteta: “I started writing as a form of expression. So, most of it is what I make it up in my head. Another source of inspiration is conversations. Deep discussions with friends, or even talking in general about life really gives you some content. It can be in realization or just basic psychology. As of now, I don’t actively search for inspiration. I absorb it from my surroundings.”
Ev Chapman: “I find my best ideas come out of things I am doing or experimenting with. Whether that’s improving an area of my life or building a product. When I am in the learning phase, I find it the easiest to write. As soon as I am idle, I struggle to come out with any ideas. I keep a big list of ideas in my Notion database and whenever I have an idea I do a brain dump straight away. That way I’ve always got something to start working on even on days when I don’t have an idea. There are currently over 200 ideas of essays.”
Thomas J Bevan: “Two places. Either while walking- it can in be the city, in nature, on a sunny day, in a downpour- as the movement gets the brain moving, or from thumbing through old books from second-hand shops of neglected corners of the library. You have to leave the hive mind to bring something new/different to the collective.”
Their writing tips
- Start before you are ready. There will never be a good time to start writing. And you will never feel ready to write. But most beginner writers think the opposite. They think they need to study, research, and plan things before they hit publish for the first time, which is really procrastination in disguise.
- Make noise, listen for signal. Early in your writing journey, you are filled with assumptions. You assume you know what you want to write about, and you assume you know what the market wants to read. But, you don’t. And the only way to prove or disprove your assumptions is to test them by hitting publish and listening to the feedback that comes in.
- Understand that your ego is the biggest bottleneck. Impostor syndrome, procrastination, perfectionism, the fear of being judged, and many of the biggest problems early writers face are ego problems. A helpful reminder: there are zero people on planet earth refreshing their browser waiting for you to publish something. Separate your ego from the result and learn to write for the sake of writing, not for the sake of notifications and likes.
- Split writing into 4 steps: ideation, outline, write, edit.
- No one knows what their niche is at first. Write about what you’re good at and what you’re curious about (learn it then write about it). After a while, you can analyze the pattern about what you enjoy writing. Don’t force it.
- No one can write well on day 1. It is a ongoing process and you’ll improve piece by piece.
- Don’t worry about editing. I didnt actively edit first 4 years I wrote. And, it worked. Your honest self gets poured out. Plus, you dont get sucked up in the cycle to make it perfect.
- Have an intrinsic motivation to write. Followers, numbers, money are all good but they won’t keep you on in the initial rough patch. My intrinsic motivation was to put and pour everything out. Yours can be clear thinking, expression, sharing anything.
- Stop taking yourself and your words seriously. Yes, no one is gonna come to find grammatical errors in what you’ve written. No one is going to make fun of it. Heck, internet is so huge that you can try and fail and no one will know. Only when you understand this, you START PUBLISHING!
- Just get started. You will publish some pretty bad stuff at the beginning, but if you never publish the bad stuff, you never get to the good stuff. Don’t be a stickler for sticking to a certain subject area either. Follow your interests and write about what you find interesting, it will help keep you motivated in the beginning.
- Find a community. Writing is lonely, so find some friends who you can do it with. Whether it’s a community, cohort based course, or just a bunch of friends you found online, they’ll get you through the tough days, give you valuable feedback and often be your biggest cheerleaders.
- Build a daily habit. You don’t necessarily have to commit to hit publish everyday, but you should find a writing practice that you can commit to daily. There is something special about sitting down at the keyboard everyday to write. It builds the writing muscle quicker than anything else I have tried. And if you can commit to publish something everyday… even better.
Thomas J Bevan:
- Don’t refer to yourself as ‘aspiring’. If you write every day you are a writer. It’s an activity, not a status.
- Read voraciously and widely. Read actual books. Take notes. Keep a commonplace. Read, read, read, read, read.
- Protect and cultivate your attention span at all costs. This means keeping phones and devices in their place. The ability to concentrate at depth, to block out distraction and to learn how to really see the world are 80% of the game.
Their secret to prolific writing
Dickie Bush: “Establish a writing routine. Mine is waking up every day, hydrating, walking, and caffeinating. Then I sit down for 90 minutes to write. During that time, I am hammering out ideas I came up with during the week or during my Saturday long-walks (three hour wanders with no agenda, just me and my phone, good music or podcasts, and a blank page in the Drafts app where I capture anything that comes to mind).”
Kevon Cheung: “I don’t write full sentences. I start sentences with And But So because that’s how we talk.”
Arunima Khunteta: “I don’t let anyone tell me how a writer’s journey should be. I’m confident I’m on the right path. I believe in the power of compounding. And, I’m okay taking it slowly.”
Ev Chapman: “I’m only ever as prolific as the last time I hit publish. So I just keep hitting publish.”
Thomas J Bevan: “30 mins each day beats 5 hours once per week. Find a daily time slot for writing and shield it at all costs.”
- Prolific Writer Special with Mustafa Khundmiri, Daniel Bustamante, Amanda Natividad, Jerine Nicole & Jeremy Ginn.
- Prolific Writer Special II with Josh Spector, Jessie van Breugel, Nia Gyant, Sangeet Kar & Morgan Ulrich
- Prolific Writer Special III with John-Paul Hernandez, Sharissa Kuurstra, Johna Baylon, Dylan Redekop & Mohit Mamoria