I’m a Writer—Here’s Why I’ve Taken a Six-Month Break From Writing


The Writer’s Rub

It’s been about half a year since my last real essay or post. I took almost the entire summer and autumn off from writing full-length essays, response posts, and even shorter thought pieces. It feels—and maybe seems—that the only things I’ve been writing this summer have been tweets and LinkedIn posts.

This might seem odd for a writer—after all, writers are supposed to write consistently and be able to produce high-level content with each topic they cover. But here’s the rub; writers are also human. We hit walls, experience burnout, and need breaks like everyone else—especially those who are motivated to produce content at break-neck speed.

And damn was I burned out.

Where Startups and Writing Diverge

In startups and tech development, there’s the notion of “ship early and often.” It doesn’t matter if the first version has bugs (it will always have bugs) or if it’s a little unfocused; there’s time to fix all that junk later. The important thing is shipping, and your perfectionism is holding you back.

The same cannot (and in my opinion, should not) be said of writing. Yes, if you’re a writer or content producer you should employ every tool at your disposal to produce content at a consistent pace. But the “bugs” that exist in writing are a different breed than those of the “ship early, ship often” startup world; pieces aren’t supposed to go out sloppily written, half-focused, and “all over the place” as my mom would say. They’re supposed to be tight and bullet-proof, however you define that. In some ways, Alexis Ohanian addressed this issue in tech recently with his statements on “hustle porn.

Don’t Be Forgettable; Be Magnetic

To maintain this self-defined standard, sometimes the answer is that you simply can’t consistently produce at break-neck speed; sometimes you need a break to recharge and find new ideas and motivation. This is the frustrating, unsexy aspect of writing. It’s what happens behind your closed mental doors, and perhaps the thing that has the potential to make you feel like you’re “not a real writer.”

Stave off this thought and instead focus your energy on recharging. Come back to the writing when you have something real to say. People can always tell when you’re writing just for the sake of filling a quota.

Spoiler alert: that kind of writing is boring and ultimately forgettable. Don’t be forgettable; be magnetic.

All of this is to say that it feels damn good to be back. 😎👍

Be Stupidly Magnetic

Just about a year ago, Satya Patel posted a piece which I recently reread about raising money. His thesis, namely that making your audience really believe, is the key dynamic in raising funds. Among his main points, Patel points to the fact that emotion is a major factor for investing VC’s, and that emotional connection to a product, service or team can many times be what attracts their attention. This “emotional resonance” as Patel puts it, is what creates the belief; not only in VC’s, but I would venture so far to say in customers as well.

Emotional resonance is a human calculation. Despite the fact that some people like to think that they can “program” and predict the emotions and reactions of others, this is rarely (if ever) true. Humans are the very definition of unpredictable, and to think that you can “game” someone’s reactions is pure hubris.

Community Is the Angel of Loyalty and Second Chances

Patel’s post examines the “emotional resonance” dynamic from three angles within the context of fundraising, particularly at the seed level. The first, and by far most important of these, is the people angle. People are what your company is made up of, and what you build your community around.

Belief in a company’s prospects in the end comes down to the people running it and building it. It comes down to how they see (or don’t see) themselves and their customers. Community is the angel of loyalty and second chances; when something goes wrong (and many, many things inevitably will), community is the thing that will keep your wheels turning long enough to get past the potholes.

Arguably the best investment any team and/or company can make is in the development of their communal dynamics. In people-based industries like music, media, social, messaging, and even news, if your community sucks, you’re dead (Ello seems to come to mind here). When you’ve built a community that rallies around your team and your product/service, people take note, and it’s a lot easier to make them believe. Dynamic, loyal communities of people are magnetic, and groups of disengaged, fly-by-night users are not, it’s that simple. Be magnetic. Be so magnetic that people can’t stand not to be around you.

Potential Is a Human Calculation

The second point which Patel brings up is potential. Potential is a little more intricate because it’s based so much on the people factor. As per Patel’s argument, make VC’s (or anybody) feel that they need to be a part of the problem you’re solving. This in effect is an extension of the first point, as it’s a similar human calculation, understanding what types of things the VC/person identifies with. How do they see themselves outside the office, and what excites them? Identify the VC’s who will look at your company and get that fire in their belly. In the case of music, for example, find those people who are true fans. The ones who go to concerts, make musical analogies, and wanted to be rock stars at some point in their lives. Find the people who speak your language, that’s the real potential. Some people call this “targeting” but I just think of it as “who do I want to go to a concert with and introduce to the band afterwards.”

Proof and Magnetism

Proof is the last thing Patel brings up. He notes that as an early stage company you won’t have it anyway, so just accept that and move on. Proof is demonstrated by belief. Belief is exhibited less by numbers and more by people and emotional resonance. It’s a calculation that even if the numbers don’t look good, that person or team can figure out a way out of the quagmire. Magnetism is the child of positivity, vision, and tenacity. It is so attractive precisely because it creates in people’s minds a sort of fabricated exclusivity; a feeling that if they’re not the ones to surround you then it will be someone else, and that in itself is an attractive trait. Be stupidly magnetic, the rest will follow.