Document, Don’t Create

Like most non-creatives, I had a lot of resistance to publishing content online. I felt I didn’t have a body of work ready to publish. But I’ve been encouraged by watching Ali Abdaal’s YouTube videos.

Ali Abdaal recommends the same book to everyone who tells him about their impostor syndrome: Show Your Work, by Austin Kleon. The title comes from doing school assignments where you receive credit for not just the final answer, but for showing how you got there.

“I really like Gary Vaynerchuk’s concept of ‘document, don’t create‘. Document the things you are doing already. Document the things you are already learning. Don’t try to ‘create’ new content.”

Ali Abdaal. YouTube. How to Make Money Online in 2022

In this video, Ali is interviewing the teacher of online writing, David Perell.

“Sell your sawdust. What are the things you’re already doing. How do you take that and turn it into something useful.”

David Perell. YouTube. How to Make Money Online in 2022

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Starting The Creative Craft

It’s amazing how much time I wasted before I started to create some content. Eventually, I did come around to dropping all my fancy ideas for a website and committed to sitting down every day to write.

Get Started To Get Ready

When you’re starting your craft, the most important thing is to do the craft. Anything that takes you away is going to be sub-optimal, even if it’s something the gurus tell you to do.

David Perell. YouTube clip.

It’s a bit like going to the gym when you’re not used to exercise. The hardest part is to create the habit and remove the friction of going. So, at first, even though it’s not best practice, go every day. Then update to best practice once the habit has been established.

As well as writing every day for a fixed duration, I also set a publishing schedule. This felt really tough at first, but I’m getting used to it. I’m also ironing out the little process inefficiencies and learning what I can do best at different times in the day.

Create First, Then Scope

Writing before I was ready also helped overcome my doubts about what topics should be included or excluded from this blog. By reading up on what I was writing about, I discovered logotherapy. And, since writing is thinking, I’m now blogging to myself as I explore my journey of becoming a solo content creator.

We just have to show our work. Gary Vaynerchuk tells us to document the process itself, rather than trying so hard to be a creator.

Quantity Leads, Quality Follows

Ali Abdaal talks about how quantity is the path to quality, and can be more effective than focusing on quality from the start.

This insight counters the resistance of perfectionism. It gives us permission to go ahead and publish before we feel fully ready, while also satisfying the perfectionist urge by promising that this is the fastest route to quality.

My publishing schedule works to force this process along. Ali says: “I think that getting good is often just about putting in the reps, while also having a little bit of a mind on marginal improvement over time.”


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This Blog Is A Form Of Logotherapy

In a book I’m reading about ikigai, the authors have introduced logotherapy. The two ideas are related, being about having a purpose to live for.

It seems relevant to the journey of my great resignation, which is how this blog got started.

The Five Steps of Logotherapy

(1) A person feels empty, frustrated or anxious.

(2) The therapist shows them that what they are feeling is the desire to have a meaningful life.

(3) The patient discovers their life’s purpose (at that particular point in time).

(4) Of their own free will, the patient decides to accept or reject that destiny.

(5) This newfound passion for life helps them overcome obstacles and sorrows.

Once the patient has established their purpose, they can press on with life, breaking the mental chains of the past and overcoming obstacles along the way.

Where Am I In This Process?

(1) I started this journey by quitting a job and a lifestyle that I disliked. The hope was that I’d find a working life that satisfies. I called this hope my great resignation.

(2) I’m trying to replace a work life, with a life-work. That’s why I was reading about ikigai. So I already have the direction of travel.

(3) Step three is my work in process. I know that I want something greater than the great resignation. I’m just not sure how it’s going to work.

Writing is Thinking

I started this blog with the statement “I Am A Writer“. The intention was to push myself to write, even though I didn’t have the ideas clear in my head. Writing would be the act by which I figured things out, because writing is thinking.


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Writing is Thinking

One of the reasons I write is to clarify my own thinking.

When you write something for others, you discover all the gaps in your ideas. The process of writing reveals them and makes you organise your thoughts. You also see when you need to get more information, or check something you think you know.

“It was only when I actually wrote a blog post and wrote publicly and published on my blog … that helped me solidify and clarify my own thinking.”

— Ali Abdaal – YouTube clip

“When the ideas in your mind are clouded, so are the words on the page in front of you. Re-writing is re-thinking. It’s the single best way to sharpen your ideas.”

Why You Should Write – a blog post by David Perell

“Writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly. That’s why it’s so hard.” — David McCollough

David Perell – Twitter

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Bringing My Blog Back To WordPress.com

I started with wordpress.com. Then I tried self-hosting, and finally returned to wordpress.com.

I started with WordPress.com because it was free to start. I knew I could move onto self-hosted wordpress when I was ready.

I have a technical background including software development, but not in web development. So it was natural for me to see the opportunities of doing clever things with websites. Because of this, I let myself be tempted into the world of self-hosting, multiple plugins, and the potential to tweak the code.

The push away from wordpress.com came from the lack of a staging environment. I noticed this when I was trying different themes.

It’s hard to find out what a change in theme is going to do to your website. The customizer demo gives you a small glimpse of what the changes might look like, and it isn’t accurate. Themes are generally not well documented. Yet they have a huge impact on all the elements of content and also the available features.

I chose Hostek as my first host for a self-hosted wordpress site. They were cheap and allowed an unlimited number of websites. I could quickly create a clone of my site, apply theme changes, review the whole site, then delete the clone. However, there were concerns with downtime and getting Jetpack Backup to stay connected via FTP.

I tried Pressable as an opposite to cheap hosting. They use the same infrastructure as WordPress.com, so the downtime should be resolved, and their Jetpack Backup was sure to remain connected. Plus they allow you to create a staging website. However, I got frustrated with the included backup being just a daily backup, and it was expensive given this was a new blog with no visitors.

So then I had a go with BlueHost. They have a cheap plan, allow for a staging site, and are often recommended in the wordpress world. What a complicated mess! The regular wordpress setup features were all over the place and every new website comes bloated with lots of auto-updating plugins. I killed this plan after 24 hours.

This is when I realised that I had been pulled into a distraction. I was spending all of this time fixing technology problems when I should really be focused on learning to write a blog. I thought of myself as a techy person rather than identifying as a writer.

So I killed my self-hosted sites and returned to WordPress.com. It’s simpler and I’m taking up the challenge of becoming a writer. When I want to try another theme, I’ll create a free site, export my content into it, and use that as a staging site to test the theme.

Sometimes I follow a long path to get back to where I started, to take up the real challenge, writing, rather than the comfortable one.


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Identity Fuels Action

My first blog post was called “I Am A Writer”.

Seth Godin says …

“Identity fuels action, and action creates habits, and habits are part of a practice, and a practice is the single best way to get to where you seek to go”.

Godin, Seth. The Practice (p. 30). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

According to Ernie J. Zelinski, researchers have found that the difference between creative and uncreative people is that creative people think they are creative.

I find that it works. After announcing to myself that I’m a writer, I’ve started taking the daily actions that make it true.


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Is This My Great Resignation?

It’s a question, because it isn’t great yet.

I don’t have much evidence of future success. I haven’t gathered the statistics on blogger success rates. That’s not the point. The point is that this change, away from permanent employment, is what I felt driven to do.

Previously, my work life had always moved in the direction of greater freedom. From living at home in a small town; then university in a big city; then a job with my first real money; then backpacking abroad; to discovering I could travel the world as a freelance consultant.

Then everything collapsed and I needed to return to a regular day job. It felt like prison. I’d heard about the creator economy and then the great resignation. It sounded more like the great escape. So I jumped. Back to the family home, to my old bedroom, with two years’ cash if I eat a lot of brown rice.

At least I’m back on the path of freedom.


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Show Me Your Bad Writing

“Show me your bad writing” says Seth Godin.

Seth is talking about writers’ block. He says it doesn’t exist. What we get stuck on is self-judgement. A fear of how our writing will be received by others. So procrastination sets in.

The solution is to do your bad writing (if seeing it that way is what it takes). Then, says Seth, if you do enough bad writing, it will turn into good writing. Or you’ll discover that it’s not what you’re supposed to be doing.

So here it is.


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First Past The Post

So, I published my first blog post.

It was short and sweet – just seven words. The purpose was to get over that initial resistance to writing and publishing.

The most important part of starting a creative career, is the starting.

It’s important to hit the ‘publish’ button. To get over that inertia and slay the monster of impostor syndrome.

The first time I published, it was scary; but the second time was exciting! It’s so much better than all that plotting and planning and thinking about what might be.


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