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Creators' Corner #33 - celebrating one year (and a bit) of writing

John Nicholas
John Nicholas
6 min read
Creators' Corner #33 - celebrating one year (and a bit) of writing
Photo of the week: ascending Lion's Head with my favourite hiking buddy. Twelve Apostles in the background.

Hey everyone 👋. Greetings from Hermanus!

We're up to 243 creators this week. Thanks so much for being a subscriber. Here's the previous edition of the newsletter for those of you who missed it.

As always – please reach out if you have any thoughts or ideas. I would love to hear from you.


Line-up this week:

  1. Quote of the week
  2. Celebrating one year of writing
  3. Things you might like

1. Quote of the week

DGAF:

"Ignorance and arrogance are the artist and entrepreneur's indispensable allies. She must be clueless enough to have no idea how difficult her enterprise is going to be-and cocky enough to believe she can pull it off anyway." – Steven Pressfield, Do The Work

2. Celebrating one year of writing

I've been writing online for more than a year now! 463 days to be exact.

I completely missed my own one-year writing anniversary on 15 September. Jotting it down for next year. Thanks to Adi Verma for the timely reminder.

What a year (and a bit) it's been!

Here are some highlights:

  1. Enrolled in cohort 7 of David Perell’s Write of Passage last year, which led to my first five essays.
  2. Started a newsletter in February this year.
  3. Completed Michael Sklar’s Personal Monopoly Accelerator course.
  4. Invited to speak at the ProActuary Disruptive Actuary conference, attended by over 3,000 actuarial professionals from around the world.
  5. Posted over 70 articles (newsletters, long-form essays and atomic essays) on my website. It wasn’t always easy to make time for writing with a full-time job and other commitments, but over time the little pieces (read: late nights) added up.
  6. Became a mentor for Write of Passage 9. A big breakthrough which gave me an opportunity to rediscover my passion for teaching and facilitation.
  7. Sold my first digital product – a content management system for your newsletter.
  8. Landed a writing gig. An inbound opportunity from one of my subscribers who is a great online writer in his own right.
  9. Landed a consulting gig. Another opportunity I can trace back to my newsletter. More on both of these opportunities below.
  10. Started a drawing community called Creating Visuals for Writing (CV4W).

I can only echo creator and entrepreneur Khe Hy's advice:

"Write a newsletter every week for a year and watch it change your life."

Apart from the tangible highlights, there were several softer benefits.

My lens on life is more positive (“never knock enthusiasm”). I am more attuned to identifying opportunities. I have made writing friends from around the world. I have found intellectual sparring partners. I have improved my content diet. And I have figured out what gives me energy and fires me up. Not too shabby!

Transformation

Last year I was stuck in a dead-end job.

I was told I wouldn’t be promoted for as long as I stayed at the firm. I had no creative outlet. I wasn’t passionate about the work I was doing. I had a lot of questions, but not many answers.

After threatening to do it for some time, I finally took the plunge to start writing online. Thanks to Write of Passage my “one day” became 15 September 2021.

Fast forward a year, now I am on the brink of self-employment.

I get to write. I get paid for doing things I enjoy. I have more flexibility in terms of where and when I can work. I can see my family more often. My girlfriend and I can travel more.

I would never have achieved this without writing. I would never have considered self-employment without being surrounded by a community of writers and creators that make entrepreneurship look like the natural thing to do.

But why online writing?

1. Writing has basically zero barriers to entry

Sure, you need to buy a domain and get your website up and running. Maybe you want to do a short course to get people to review your work. But after that the only investment is your time.

For a while I considered doing an MBA or a coding bootcamp to up-skill myself. I wrote the GMAT (a standardised test for business school applicants). I wrote essays about how I was going to change the world. But, I couldn’t convince myself to click ‘submit’ on my application. It wasn’t my dream. It represented more problems than solutions.

I needed something that could move me from A (stuck) to B (free) in a shorter time and at a significantly lower cost.

Online writing provided an answer.

2. Writing gives you a sense of ownership

Where few projects at work were truly mine, I now have over 70 articles on my site I can point to. I can put my name on an essay, but I couldn’t do that for a team presentation at work.

Now I have more skin in the game.

As Paul Graham describes in How To Make Wealth, your performance (good or bad) in a big company is difficult to attribute to you as an individual. This incentivizes the wrong behaviour.

My writing, on the other hand, is a pure reflection of my input. Whether I produce something useful (or not) is up to me. There’s no hiding away.

3. Writing is a light version of therapy (and cheaper as well)

I am less anxious and frustrated as a result of writing.

I have an outlet for my thoughts and ideas.

Writing has provided an antidote to restlessness. As CS Lewis says:

"Whenever you are fed up with life, start writing: ink is the great cure for all human ills, as I have found out long ago."

With every word I wrote I felt more grounded and stronger. By documenting my journey, it became more ‘real’. My thoughts were clearer and I felt connected to something bigger than myself.

Future plans

No matter what I do, I'll keep writing.

I feel out-of-sorts when I’m not creating.

Writing has become like exercise for me. In the same way I get irritable when I don’t go running for a week, I get edgy when I'm not producing content. I need the endorphin release to balance things out. It’s a good addiction.

As I alluded to above, next year I will pursue two main activities (in addition to writing in my personal capacity):

  1. Actuarial consulting, and
  2. Writing and content management.

I can trace both of these opportunities back to my newsletter – not the traditional job application process, which I wasn't very successful at.

I tried to enter the front door by going through rounds of interviews at new companies, but every time I received a "we regret to inform you" email.

Writing has given me what David Perell calls the third door into the club. You don't have to stand in the queue and compete with 100s of other job seekers (the first door). You also don't need to bribe the bouncer or know someone who knows someone on the inside at the VIP entrance (the second door). Through writing, you can send out a signal of what you stand for. Eventually the right people will notice you. You can generate your own luck and find your own way in.

You can also write your way out of the corporate world like I did.

Paul Millerd calls it the Great Creator Arbitrage Opportunity:

“I believe that we are in the early days of what will be remembered as one of the greatest times to be alive for hyper-curious people who are willing to be creative, connect with others, and share their ideas online.”

This is the lowest risk - lowest cost path to a life of meaning.


3. Things you might like

  1. 📚 Book: Elmer Gantry by Nobel prize winner Sinclair Lewis. First published in 1927, the book follows the life of a rowdy young man who happens to become a preacher. He makes his way up in the church, but still regularly succumbs to vices of drinking, smoking and chasing women. A controversial book at the time, it provides a striking, often amusing, study of hypocrisy.
  2. 📖 Article: The Helsinki Bus Station Theory by Arno Rafael Minkkinen. In Helsinki all the buses follow the same loop when they start their journey. Eventually, after 4-5 stops, each bus branches out and follows its own route. The same applies for creators – we start by copying the work of the people we admire and eventually we branch out and create our own unique style and voice. The key is to not quit along the way. Bottomline: "Stay on the bus. Stay on the f*cking bus."
  3. 👨‍💻 Resource: my friend Angie Wang and I hosted our 3rd co-drawing event last night. The theme was Reflecting on 2022. It was a good opportunity to think back on the year that has passed with writing and drawing prompts. We used Jonny Miller’s annual review template, called Reflecting Forwards, which you can download here. If you want to stay in the loop on future events, sign up for Creating Visuals for Writing here.
The CV4W crew!

Wishing you a creative, restful festive season!

– John


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John Nicholas Twitter

Actuary and creator.

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