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What's Wrong With Online Writing

Writing advice is always the same: it’s not about you, it’s about the reader. 


Yet find that what I enjoy reading most is someone waffling about themselves.


I’m sick of I went to the Galapagos and here are 10 lessons I learned type of writing.

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I want to read about a stranger’s lived experience.


What happened in their childhood. Their relationship struggles.


I’m interested in things someone’s been contemplating recently. I want to know about their inner life.

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I feel both jaded and overwhelmed by the self-development type of writing. It’s too self-assured, too this is the way.


I get the irony given that I sort of write about this topic too.


What Good Writing Is Made Of

Good writing needs to follow a story arc and the ‘life-lessons’ articles follow that arc 👇


  1. Set the scene and introduce the topic.
  2. Outline conflicts and problems people experience.
  3. Offer the solution.
  4. Wrap up with a summary.

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I recently watched Atlanta. It’s great. 


But what I like about the show the most is that it doesn’t follow the typical story arc.


Yet, Atlanta is on the list of the best shows of all time.


The lines are blurred, there’s dead air and a lack of resolution. You just follow the characters as they go about their everyday lives.


But it’s riveting.


Because it’s less of a Holywood-y here’s a happy ending vibe and more of this is what life is really like. There’s not always a resolution, deal with it.


That’s the writing missing in the online writing space. But it probably wouldn’t be too popular.


Short-form content

I hate short-form video content. And short-form punchlines Twitter is filled with.


They’re saying something without actually saying anything.


Of course, to stay relevant in an ever-changing medium, you have to stay on top of the consumer’s mind. That means posting frequently.


Why write anything in-depth if almost no one will read more than 3 sentences in one go?

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I don’t blame the writers, I blame the medium.


They hacked our dopamine centres. One can scroll endlessly and that’s by design.


Every moment spent away from their platform is an advertising dollar they don’t get.


Mental Masturbation

When I’m on a train in London, I always observe what others are doing. 9/10 are on their phone. 5/10 peeps are scrolling.


They barely watch/read whatever comes on screen because there’s more swiping to be done.


We’re swiping our lives into oblivion.

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One reason short-form content is popular is because it gives consumers a boost of dopamine. It feels like you learn something.


I call this feeling mental masturbation. You read the punchline, feel like you get it and move on.

But if I tracked what you scrolled for 10 minutes and asked you to tell me what you learned, you’d tell me about the last few pieces of content you scrolled past.


It’s called the recency effect. Most recently presented information is remembered best.


But if I asked you what you remember learning a day later, you wouldn’t be able to tell me.


Sanitization Of Content

Most content is written in a sanitized way.


It creates a false sense that life is simple. It’s neat. Just follow these ‘clean’ outlines and get ‘there’.


Some examples 👇




I’m all for taking 100% responsibility for your life and agree that climbing the wealth ladder requires a mindset change.


But life doesn’t work in bullet points. It’s messy. Complicated.


Filled with human emotion. Limitations (be they real or self-imposed). Taking two steps forward and five steps back. Breaking down. Going down a different route than you thought you would.


It’s filled with Human-ness.


If reading such content worked, everyone would be ripped, have a gazillion $ business and be fucking perfect. No one would be there to read the advice.


The Benefit of Hindsight

Yes, it’s helpful to have systems and mindsets in place.


But such pieces are written with the benefit of hindsight and omitting the difficult, boring, slow parts it took them to get there.


It omits reality. But sells the product.

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We’re in a time where the mind rules everything. We are required to appear rational.


But in reality, we blaze the path and then, in hindsight, reason our way of getting there. 


With the boring, unlucky and ‘irrational’ parts that helped us to get there, edited out of memory.

That’s how the smart-sounding soundbites get written.


But they don’t produce real results for the reader. Because it doesn’t map onto reality. 

So the reader is ultimately disappointed.

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Schopenhauer once wrote:


“The result is that much reading robs the mind of all elasticity, as the continual pressure of a weight does a spring, and that the surest way of never having any thoughts of your own is to pick up a book every time you have a free moment."


Having constant access to a sea of opinions on just about any topic on earth robs us of doing our own thinking.

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This is where I find myself.


I like the opposite of what most people like to read.


And I want to do the opposite of what most writing advice is.


But I also want people to read what I write.

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