Hey guys, a big welcome to the three subscribers that joined us since the last issue! If you’re reading this but haven’t subscribed, join 350 amazing writers by subscribing here!
I have some news. This is the penultimate edition of this newsletter. I’ll send the final issue of ‘Writing with AO’ on the 27th of December 2020. WHAT A RIDE THIS HAS BEEN.
Thank you. All 350 of you for joining me on this journey that began five months ago. I knew nothing about writing. All I wanted to do was learn and share whatever I learnt with anyone who cared to read. You did. And I’m so proud of everything we’ve accomplished.
During the week, I'll send out a letter detailing my next plans as well as the reasons for this closure. In the meantime, more than anything, I would love if you could reply to this mail with any essay, blog, a newsletter you’ve started or written because of what I share regularly. Or a review of how this newsletter has helped you. It’ll be my joy and pleasure to hear from you.
From Monday to Sunday, I’ll be doing a daily short essay on twitter on everything I’ve learnt writing this newsletter. You can follow me if we’re not already connected.
Last week, I talked about how important publishing online is in measuring your writing progress. I have better for you this week!
No matter who you’re, you must have some anxiety or doubts regarding putting out your articles on the internet. It’s a wild wild west and in this newsletter, I’ll attempt to help you(and I) overcome those doubts. Promoting your work will no longer be the hardest part of your process.
I told my friend one of the reasons I was finding it difficult to tweet consistently as I did before October.
“I feel like people don’t care about me anymore on Twitter”
“Lmao, you’re reaching. Why”
“I’m not sure. But I’ve taken too long to come back. Why will people still care about what I have to say? I’ve lost their trust man.”
Okay okay, I was definitely in my feelings. It’s not that bad I’m sure, but at a point, I was petrified of posting another tweet. For an activity I was good at, the anxiety of doing it again had the same terrifying effect on me as singing an Adele song in front of people.
I’m the publishing guy! Where the heck is this fear coming from?
The Anxiety of Publishing your work Online
For the past five months, 90% of my writing has been engineered to encourage people to publish online.
Yet it hasn’t made me immune to the anxiety that comes with putting anything out for another person to consume. It’s the same way musicians who write about love get heartbroken or fall for a catfish scam. Human weakness is universal.
To be honest, I’ve been lucky. I’ve never had anyone tell me my writing sucks or any subscriber reply any of my emails with negative feedback. Right from the time I started publishing short articles on Medium, I had friends who encouraged me.
One of them gave me constructive feedback after every article. For a guy with no audience, having these kinds of comments meant everything.
So when I published, whether people read it or not, all that mattered was the feedback from my friends. This was the motivation I used to start this newsletter. Now the feedback loop moved from my friends to strangers on the internet. Risky, but it was a bang!
I got a lot of replies from readers every week and it was massively shared on Twitter. I loved it. Gosh, I loved it! But as much as all this sounds great, there’s a common denominator here. I had fallen in love with the validation that comes from positive feedback.
For me, the anxiety of publishing online is the fear that people will read my work and no longer care enough about it.
In the most specific example, three episodes ago, I wrote about the writing process. It was the most intense thing I had ever written on the newsletter. It took about 9 hours to write. AND NO ONE REPLIED. Ground, Open up. My saviour complex was having a fit!
For other people, it’s the anxiety that comes from the voice that echoes “would people want to read your work? Do you even know what you want to say and are you sure of it so you don’t write rubbish and embarrass yourself”
Or the voice that screams “Idiot! Idiot!” after you thought you had a great idea only to start writing it and then your idea isn’t that ‘great’ or ‘coherent’. As one writer on Substack laments “I can navigate the natural ebbs and flows of writing, but once it's published I experience incredible anxiety when it's time to market the fruits of my labour.”.
Like Frodo Baggins, there’s a Sauron-like eye that antagonizes writers. He sends orcs dressed in fear and all forms of anxiety to deter us from getting our words to Mount Doom and returning back to the Shire. Would we ever win?
“The Lord of the Rings” tale is finished. The dwarves won. But ours isn’t, we will fight anxiety every time we have an idea or story to publish. What then do we do? I found a way.
A) SHAKE IT OFF
Taylor swift. That’s the tweet. What a legend!
I didn’t know I loved Taylor Swift until 30 minutes after I had the idea for this episode. I was feeling sorry for myself because all week I hadn’t written or read a thing, so I didn’t have any inspiration to draw from and write. “This is going to be a terrible episode, I probably should postpone till next week” —Until.
While doing research, I found these comments on a Substack thread for writers.
YOU DO YOU AND MOVE FORWARD. Haters will always hate.
That was all I needed to type ‘shake it off’ on youtube and move my body to repeated plays of the song. At the moment I realized my job. The only job I have as a writer is to express myself as satisfactorily as I can and let others be the judge. Whatever their feedback may be, I take what I need and ignore the rest, including the ‘haters’.
You do the same. That anxiety you have about what people think only has a foothold because you gave it a pedestal to ride on. If you’re a new writer and you don’t have an audience yet, enjoy your writing without pressure to perform for anyone.
And if you’re an experienced writer with an audience, enjoy your work without the expectation to conform to how or what others think you should write about. BE INCREDIBLY YOU. You can’t get angry at what you don’t care about.
Look the anxiety in the screen and get down to the sick beat of your writing.
Play the song below for the rest of this newsletter. (And every time you get or perceive you may get a negative critic, play this song again and dance/write your ass off.) You’re better than the naysayers. They don’t deserve your work.
B) JOIN A SUPPORTIVE COMMUNITY
So familiar, this advise. But there’s a reason it is.
At ‘Compound Writing’ for instance, one of the best things about the group is the support from people who owe you nothing. One of the writers, Padmini, asked why we feel hurt and anxious when we're receiving feedback. The comments section was pure gold.
In one of them, Stew expressed his angst with one of the messages he got from a subscriber of his newsletter. Here it is:
Ha! If I got feedback like that, I may not have published another newsletter. Some of us may destroy our internet cable and go wander in the desert. But here’s the beauty of the community. Other writers helped him see what he wouldn’t’ have realized on his own. Here are some I found encouraging:
And the one I loved the most:
When you belong to a group of people who want the best for you, you’ve already won on the internet. It could be a group of friends, a paid group, a social media community or a local meetup. Whichever one you find, fear and anxiety crumble at the sight of endorsement.
A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. - Ecclesaistes 4:12
C) CELEBRATE THE UNSEEN.
Do you know what’s darn crazy? All the effort that goes into writing is entirely judged on the output. Readers don’t care how long it took you, or how you faced your personal demons to be so vulnerable. All consumers are selfish.
Every Sunday, I write for at least 4 hours for you. On some days, 7-9 hours. Completely free. You have no idea how incredibly difficult it is to write about writing while learning how to write myself.
Hey, you’re also sacrificing for your readers. Your time you could have used to spend with a family/friend. You sacrifice your comfort zone as you go through rejections and multiple edits that rock your ego. You sacrifice your desire for immediate gratification as the value of your work compounds over time instead.
You experience pain as the words you’re looking for doesn't come out as you intend. You re-read your work aloud for hours looking for anything amiss. You remind yourself of the sorrows you’ve buried, so you can write about it and help people feel they’re not alone in their struggles.
Your relationships suffer because nobody understands why you spend so much time alone in your room. You could earn more with a more high-profile job but you chose the mundanity of writing.
You sacrifice so much for your readers. Why will you also give them your joy?
Take it back! Sitting down to write is incredibly hard work. So celebrate the things people cannot see about your work. Celebrate the effort you’re making to resonate with people. You couldn’t do this some years or days ago, but you can now. Celebrate that! Celebrate that one subscriber who joined last week.
The feedback you get from one person that reminds you of your purpose. The joy you get from finishing an essay. The buzz you get from an idea. These wins are the butterflies that remind you why you do the painstaking work of growing lilies.
Your nectar is in the unseen.
“Eventually, if you care about your writing and work hard to refine it, you'll reach a point where you simply know you're proud of something you've done and be excited to show it off. " - Stephen Krzyzanowski
When you find your little wins and celebrate them, you’ll always have enough motivation to move past the anxiety of publishing online.
To rephrase pop superstar Katy Perry:
Cause baby, you’re a firework of a writer
Come on show them what you’re worth
Make readers go, “Oh, oh, oh”
As you write across the screen
Come on let your words burst
Make them go, “Oh, oh, oh”
You’re gonna leave before they know.
Till Next time,
hey, Celebrate yourself.
Wow! I had so much fun writing this. Definitely top two for me. Don’t forget to reply to this mail as stipulated above. You can scroll back up to the introduction for more information. Love you guys!
PS: I’d love to get to 400 subs ahead of the finale. If you enjoyed reading this, share using the button below!
See you mid-week.