February 11, 2016

Writing FTW

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Damned near everything I’ve accomplished professionally, I owe to writing.

I’ve made money, gotten jobs, met friends, and been handed opportunities that I’d never think possible almost entirely based on the fact that I’ve written and shared that writing.

I’m reminded of all of this after reading a great post on Signal v. Noise from Nathan Kontny titled, Now that I’ve created something, how do I spread it? You should definitely check it out here. Nathan makes the case that some highly successful people (namely Ben Franklin and Ryan Hoover) owe much— if not all of their success— to writing, sharing, and helping others out whenever they can.

I couldn’t agree more.

Being able to write well is the single most important skill I have. While being able to design and code websites and emails is great, being able to write about those skills has served me far more than the actual building part. Sure, designing and coding are desirable skills and doing those two things is how I got my career started, but communicating about those activities is what allowed me to take those skills and really put them to work.

I used to work at an agency doing web and email stuff. On the side I had the occasional freelance gig. And I did fairly well for myself. But once I took the plunge and distilled some of the things I learned building into book form, I suddenly had a huge range of opportunities opened up to me. Not only did I make a decent amount of money by selling books, releasing that first book was what piqued the interest of my current employer, Litmus. Writing and sharing what I had written got me a freaking job.

It also opened me up to meeting a ton of people that I’d likely never meet otherwise. I’ve met people online, made more than a few awesome Twitter friends, and shared good food and good beers with people at a bunch of conferences over the past few years. In nearly every case, it turns out that everyone’s first point of contact with me was through something I had written. That’s pretty cool.

Finally, it’s allowed me to take on speaking gigs.

If you had asked me three years ago if I’d be giving a few talks a year or running workshops, I’d have responded, “Hell no.”

Likewise, if you would have asked me five years ago if I’d be writing and publishing my work, you’d have gotten the same response. In both cases, taking a chance and opting for that uncomfortable option has worked out extraordinarily well.

So, why do I bring all of this up? To encourage everyone to start writing about their work, their ideas, and their hobbies. More importantly, to share that writing. Even if it doesn’t come naturally, still make the attempt. Start up a blog (or a newsletter, I’ll absolutely subscribe). Create a course to teach others what you know. Take to Medium (if you must) and get your ideas out there.

Not only will it help clarify your thinking and benefit your work, it will almost certainly result in all of those side effects of sharing your ideas—friends, opportunities, and maybe even money.

Writing and communicating is my most valuable skill. Sharing that writing is the best decision I’ve ever made. I can’t encourage you strongly enough to do the same. Be sure to share it with me when you do.