Writing to learn

I came across David Perell’s Ultimate Guide to Writing Online the other day. It’s packed with tips for building readership and connecting with people who share your interests. The way Perell sees it, writing online is a way of thinking out loud, of finding collaborators to that thinking, and of building reputation. What an enticing, paralyzing idea.

In short, you can build an online reputation in three steps:

  1. Pick a high value, emerging industry.
  2. Learn as much as you can.
  3. Share what you learn on your personal website.

The mechanism for this is publishing one blog post a week for a year, then actively seeking distribution — either from Twitter or a single other online channel, or from established bloggers in the field.

As to what learnings to share, Perell strongly recommends publishing evergreen content — topics that will be as timely three years from publication. He’s got a couple of suggestions for how to start in that direction — including what to do to build initial content when you’re getting started.

Once you’ve committed to writing evergreen articles, you can explore other aspects of the ideation process….

“As Devon Zuegel said in my interview with her, writing falls into three buckets: (1) trivial things that everybody knows, (2) things that everybody knows, [but nobody around you knows], and you have a unique perspective on, and (3) stuff that nobody knows so you have to do tons of research. Direct your energy towards the second bucket.”

The Ultimate Guide to Writing Online - David Perell

But evergreens can’t write

While I can’t argue with any of this advice, I find when I sit at keyboard, just the idea of writing about Timeless Content is daunting. A couple of self-doubting sentences, a look out the window. It’s dark out there.

Brian Lovin nails this in his post Reasons you aren’t updating your personal site:

The key thing that I get hung up on is feeling like each blog post has to be evergreen content, an idea gilded for all eternity.

That’s just not true. If anything, it’s entirely counterproductive to exploring new ideas and using writing as a way to learn.

I’m with Brian here.

Do I love the idea of writing authoritative content that will be as useful three years from now as it is today? Well I guess so.

But the internet has always been a work in progress. Our protocols are drafted as requests for comment. The web gives us pushbutton publishing — but how we do that changes over time. This medium is dynamic at the core.

So do I worry how future folks will find this piece from my past self? Will future me, reading back, smile at my immaturity, at what I missed. Will we be embarrassed by what I thought was important?

Maybe so. But I hope we’ll find an earnest coming-to-grips.

Here am I at my dining room table, pooled in lamplight at the deep heart of the house. It is early morning, before dawn.

Let shine.