9 Things I Learned from Writing Online

9 Things I Learned from Writing Online

I decided to start a blog around three years ago. Up until then, I never took writing seriously and the few essays that I wrote in university were mostly rubbish. The plain fact was that I had never been interested in writing and I just wasn’t good at it. I also hadn’t had any reason to improve it because I was more focused on improving my deficient social skills.

So, when I finally started my first blog, the most immediate thing I noticed was how difficult it was to write. I thought it would be as easy as just letting your thoughts flow through the keyboard, but that wasn’t the case at all. I started to fear that keeping a blog was completely hopeless and that no one would bother to read me, but I decided to persist.

I continued writing even if it wasn’t good and no one was reading anything I published. It took me couple of years of many attempts and many lousy results before I got to the level that I am right now. Along the way, I even managed to write two books. I still don’t think highly of my writing and I consider my abilities mediocre in many ways, but I believe it is now good enough to get my ideas across, which is the important aspect of writing.

Now that I achieved a status of an amateur writer, I thought I should share the following thoughts and experiences with those who may be interested in taking up writing as well.

1. The first year or so is the toughest

As someone who was not used to writing, my first year of writing was hell. I failed to keep up the effort and actually stopped for extended periods of time. I also abandoned two blogs that I started before ending up with this one because I never bothered to update them with new materials. It was only when I decided to dedicate myself to writing a book and getting new articles out at a regular interval that a momentum was built to get me going.

2. Organizing your thoughts is the most important aspect of writing

As important as organizing is, it is just as difficult. I don’t know about other writers, but I personally find it hard to write in a linear fashion. I get ideas and specific wordings that I want to include pop up in a scatter without any order, so the first thing I usually do is create an outline so that I can arrange those ideas in pattern. Even during writing, I would get new ideas that I want to include on a different section when I’m not even there yet. Or, if I’m near the end, I would get ideas on how to modify earlier parts to make the later parts make more sense, often forcing me to change latter parts as well. All these new ideas that come out of nowhere starts to get extremely distracting and obstructs my flow. For longer works, I often spend large bulk of my time just organizing my ideas instead of writing.

3. The nature of haters

It’s nearly impossible to not get any haters when you have any sort of opinions, especially controversial opinions that are deemed politically incorrect. Both here and on Return of Kings, I’ve had my share of haters who would come to spew their vitriol just to express their animosity. I would be lying if I said that I don’t care at all, but I don’t let them influence me. I don’t go out of my way to piss people off and make enemies, but I’m also not going to tone down and watch what I say to avoid conflicts.

Another thing I learned is that these haters really have nothing better to contribute. They are only vomiting their hate to feel better about themselves. I’ve even had people hurling insults to damage my reputation for writing materials that were meant to help others. I always expect some hate for controversial opinions and genuinely provocative works, but to be attacked for works that were only meant to help people improve their lives was sickening. It’s sad that these sort of toxic individuals exist, but that’s something everyone needs to accept if they plan to write on the internet.

4. People will often misinterpret you

Whether by misunderstanding or deliberate attempts to discredit you, people will often misinterpret what you’ve written no matter how carefully you word them. It’s annoying, but it’s another thing that I have come to accept as being inevitable. You can try your best to minimize it by being extra careful with how you present your ideas, but it will happen regardless. I get the impression that most people who read online just skim through the article instead of reading everything with care, so it isn’t really your fault.

I should also note that this isn’t just confined to critics. Even regular readers who generally support you will often misinterpret what you’ve written and criticize you for it. They’ll draw their own conclusions make all sorts of (often ridiculous) assumptions about you as a person and your motive behind your work. I could hypothetically write in greater details and elaborate every one of my points to ensure that there are no misunderstandings, but that would kill the flow and make reading a hassle.

5. There are lot more people who appreciate your work than you think

I’ve had people praise me and thank me for my work which is always great and encouraging, but as I’ve said above, I’ve had my share of detractors as well. I think it’s important to recognize our innate negativity bias that focuses more on all the negatives rather than the positives. Negative comments shouldn’t be taken so seriously and you should always remember that there are far more people who appreciate your work who might not explicitly state it. You have the power to choose where you want to place your focus on.

6. Dealing with comments

Over time, I’ve come up with strict rules on how to deal with comments. I don’t care if people disagree with me, but if they are commenting just to bitch and insult, I have no need for them. I first tried to be as tolerant as I can, but people just take advantage of the leeway I offer and see it as a green-light to post their own diatribe that adds nothing to the discussion. I’m no longer so tolerant. I don’t care about free speech, so I will delete and ban anyone who brings down the quality of this blog. Sure, I might end up blocking commenters who have genuinely valid criticisms, but if they don’t present their case well, I’m not wasting my time to engage them.

7. Quality and time invested in writing doesn’t match the number of views

I find it hard to predict which articles people would enjoy reading and which won’t; it all seems random at times. For example, I’ve written some extra long articles with fresh ideas that I invested much time and research into—sometimes taking a week to complete. I thought those works would become popular and even go viral, but most ended up being duds that went largely unnoticed. In contrast, I’ve written short articles that I didn’t put much thought into that was written within matter of few hours in haste. I thought those were sub-par and negligible, but they ended up being popular and widely read. I’m still not sure what formula attracts readers, but I think the best thing to do is to just continue writing and be myself. If I start looking for ways to garner audience, I might lose my way.

8. Writing never ends up the way I had imagined it

Before I write, I would have a certain idea on what the final result would be like, but by the time I’m halfway finished, it’s often nothing like I imagined. It’s strange how your work transforms as you shape it. I used to feel like it was wrong in some way, that I had somehow screwed up and ended up with something that I had not planned, but I am starting to get used to it. If I did forget something or I remember how I actually wanted it, I try my best to edit, but I generally move on to avoid my perfectionism from kicking in.

9. I hate writing

I don’t know if it’s a good idea to state this for the readers to know, but I think being honest is an important part of being a writer so that they will trust you for your authenticity—a trait that is sorely lacking in our superficial world. And I honestly can’t say that I enjoy writing. I thought maybe if I got better and had more audience, it will be more fun and rewarding. That has been true to some extent, but not enough. I mean, I do have times when I enter the flow state and feel mentally stimulated through my work. I also enjoy that feeling of being purposeful from time to time, especially when people appreciate what I’ve published. But overall, for the majority of the time, writing is grueling and oppressive for me: I get stressed out, I feel forced, I end up being drained, and it feels like being trapped—and I am, when you consider that I’m alone in my room for several hours to type away.

You might ask why I continue to write if I hate it so much. I continue to write because writing is a means to an end. I enjoy sharing my ideas, but I don’t like the process of writing to present them. I am a slow writer and I estimate that I take two to three times longer than the average person to write the same length of material. The whole development takes far too much time only to achieve what I call antiphysical. I hope to cut down on my writing time in the near future so that I can spend more time living rather than being confined to my laptop. Who knows, maybe I’ll enjoy more with time once my productivity increases, but for now, it is not a hobby that I take pleasure in.

Conclusion

I’m still relatively new to writing and I expect to learn and discover more as I go along. Writing can be powerful, but limiting at the same time. I don’t know how long I will continue writing, but it is currently the most important thing I’m doing as I’m pushing to complete my book. I may not enjoy the process, but as long as I’m being productive, I’ll be happy with that.

If you’re new to writing or plan to start the habit, my number one advice would be to stick with it. But at the same time, you must be aware of your own abilities. Some writers are talented and some people have interesting things to say, so if you have neither, I will do the unorthodox thing and discourage you from writing as you won’t have much offer no matter how passionate or dedicated you become. But once you do embark on the path of writing, make sure you persevere and not give up. Be serious in your efforts. You must live like a writer to become one.

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