When I was a kid, I got accepted into a gifted program for 7th and 8th graders at LaSalle Academy in Providence, RI. Don’t ask me how. I’m no slouch, but I’m not exactly Einstein either, and there were some maniacs there that aced the SATs when they were, like, 12. I always felt like one of the dumbasses of the group, and one of the reasons I defend the construct of EQ as valid is probably because my IQ is embarrassing and I need something to latch onto in order to justify my otherwise meaningless existence. So. Yeah.
Needless to say, when the Director of the program, Michael Scanlan, told me one day how much he enjoyed my writing and remarked that I “express myself beautifully with words”, I was floored. I have never forgotten those words, to this day. Self-esteem wasn’t one of my strong points. I sucked at sports and was a pacifist to the point of getting my ass kicked fairly regularly, so when someone that I held in such high regard told me I was talented at something, it was amazing.
Since then, I have always identified, at least in part, as a writer.
To put this in perspective, I was a trainer and “fitpro” for years, but never identified as such. I was also a Navy Chief, which is kind of a big deal, and I don’t really identify as that, either.
By no means am I claiming to be good at writing. Sure, I admit there is a particular flow to my writing, but I would blame that on my futile attempt to write something (ANYTHING) that sounds like Vonnegut. Or Wallace. Or maybe even Pynchon’s trolling ass. If you enjoy reading what I write, it’s probably because I write like I talk, or, at least I write like I WOULD talk if I often did talk and people didn’t give me all anxiety and whatnot.
Most of the time I am just thinking about things I need to say to people while simultaneously forgetting to say them and you can see that I couldn’t even get five paragraphs into this without veering off into left field.
Yet I do public speaking gigs. The irony is palpable.
My writing has ADD because I have ADD and if you think this article is all over the place you should come to my place of work and just observe me for a bit.
But hey, this isn’t about me.
In fact, where the fuck am I going with this?
That’s right: this is about why you (yes, YOU) don’t necessarily need to be writing a goddamn thing.
So, yeah, there are a lot of “mastermind” people (god, just writing that made me feel pretentious) out there in the coaching/leadership/fitness industries who always be like: “If you want to be successful, you gotta write.”
Then I’m like: “No. Please no. Please let’s not start writing.”
And this isn’t only because I don’t want to log onto the fitness side of the internet, for example, and read another dull, needlessly written article about hingeing vs. squatting. Rather, I find that there are two fundamental problems with this whole “I-need-to-be-writing-a-bunch-of-stuff-in-order-to-be-marketable-and-get-clients” mentality.
Problem one: It’s majoring in the minors, and you probably have other, more important reasons why you can’t get or retain clients.
Let me explain this by way of an analogy, if you please…
A plumber doesn’t NEED to start doing electrical work. Now, that being said, there may be a multitude of reasons why a plumber would want to do electrical work, but if you are really serious about marketing yourself as a plumber, it would follow that you focus on getting the basics of plumbing down.
For example, if I call a plumber, it is reasonable for me to expect them to be able to do practical plumbing tasks…like unclogging my throne. Now, if I call a plumber and he is somehow able to sing Bocelli’s hits, I’m going to be impressed, but if he is belting out a flawless rendition of Con te Partiro and my toilet is still clogged, I’m going to be pissed off. I’m also not calling that person back or referring them to friends.
Why? Because I needed a fucking plumber, not an amateur opera singer.
If you find yourself lamenting over your lack of clients, maybe the problem isn’t that you need to start writing more. Maybe the problem is that you need to refocus on doing more basic, fitness and coaching/leadership related tasks….like, oh, I don’t know…ACTUALLY LEARNING HOW TO FUCKING COACH SOMEONE!
Problem two: Writing just might not be your “thing”. Seriously. And that’s actually fine.
“Authenticity” is another word that I’ve smashed so many times that it bores me at this point. Generally, I tell people to sprint in the other direction whenever they come across a coach telling them they will help them be more “authentic”. And yet I see a lot of this creep into the writing game and it’s nonsense. Writing authentically, or from the heart, or whatever other bullshit phrase you want to finagle into you marketing also means jack squat if the mechanics of your writing are poor.
Conversely, some of the best copywriters (and fiction authors for that matter) are completely full of shit but write extraordinarily well. They flow, have good vocabulary choice, and can even tell a story, but it sure ain’t from the heart. Regardless of how great it looks as it scrolls on your screen, the entire piece of copy was written, essentially, to manipulate you into a specific outcome. It’s written more from the gut than from the heart, demonstrating that being “authentic” is only one part of the writing recipe.
Knowledge doesn’t necessarily help, either. This is a point I’ve made countless times with leadership and management. There are tons of people out there who rolled through a 5 year MBA program and have a ton of theoretical knowledge and the practical leadership capacity of a squirrel.
Do you need knowledge about English rhetoric to write? Well, I consider myself relatively proficient at writing and couldn’t tell you what a fucking conjunctive adverb is without looking it up. And I break more rules than I stick to. About the only thing I’m semi good at is properly using semicolons. So I write more good than you.
Finally, “practice makes perfect” is another load of shit.
I have also torn apart the “10,000” to mastery bullshit that Gladwell liked to misrepresent so much. 10,000 hours does NOT automatically get you to mastery, regardless of whether or not the practice you engaged in could be classified as “deliberate”. Ten thousand hours was the median of a bell curve, not the definitive guidepost to greatness.
Some people reach mastery well before 10k hours and others…well…others never reach it regardless of the time they have in the tank. Writing for 10,000 hours isn’t going to make your prose more palatable. Sorry.
I’m not saying practice isn’t necessary, because it is. Improvement, however, is relative. Trust me, I practiced my jump shot for hours on end in my parent’s backyard while growing up, and though I improved, I’m no Kevin Durant.
I still suck.
And so does your writing.
So the moral of the story is you should actually be a good coach, trainer, leader, plumber, basket weaver, or artisanal bread baker before you start writing about how good you are at it. Also, there’s kinda another moral floating around here that you don’t need to write at all, especially if you are terrible at it. There’s no shame in that. Don’t feel like you need to do something because everyone else is doing it. Chances are, they suck too. This is the internet, after all.