The most prevalent advice about writing is to write consistently. There are writing platforms that encourage daily writing and keep track of your streak. So let's say you've been writing consistently for 10 weeks and have 10 essays published. You know that some people have read your writing but you don't know their reaction to anything specific. How motivated do you feel to write that 11th post?
If your goal with writing is to improve your ability to articulate your thoughts and communicate ideas effectively, it's difficult to gauge progress at this point. Now imagine that a reader told you that your explanation of a concept was really helpful for them. Or another reader shared that your essay was thought provoking. You have more information at this point and that may motivate you to keep going. Otherwise, you can publish daily for 100 days and still not learn anything about your progress toward your goals.
So What Then is the Key to Improving Writing?
Feedback. What I mean by feedback is reaction from the reader. Getting answers to specific questions like is my explanation clear, is my copy convincing, is my argument thought provoking, do my observations resonate with you.
Getting reaction from others is the only way to know if what you transmitted with words is received by someone else's brain as you intended.
This insight about feedback can be generalized to other areas too — our thinking, our product ideas, and other creative work. If you're an entrepreneur and you come up with many product ideas in the course of a week, there is no way you will know, with any confidence, which one of those will work without talking about it with others.
Here is an analogy I came up with that helped solidify this insight for me. Imagine typing code in an editor and then sitting there contemplating it, the logic, the syntax, the style. For days, weeks, months(!). Never actually running it. To see if it compiles, and does what you want it to do. To see if it, you know, works? Just contemplating and day dreaming about the possibilities. (because maybe it won't work and then...). Whether you're a programmer or not, I think that you get the idea.
So how do we go about getting this feedback for our writing, our work? There is no one easy way. But it certainly requires talking about our work and our ideas openly. It involves publicly sharing our writing, our landing page, our product prototype. This sharing is also called promoting, marketing, publishing, working in public. And it requires practice, especially if you're an introvert like me.
Ideas for Getting Feedback
To put this into practice, here are some ideas for getting feedback.
– Start by making a habit of sharing your work widely and publicly. Instead of just hitting 'publish' in your blogging platform, actually share the link in places where you hang out online (online communities, social media) and with family and friends.
– Ask specific questions that are customized to each piece of writing. Asking "I wrote this. What do you think?" doesn't generally lead to useful insights.
– Ask readers questions within the article and invite them to reply. Indicate on your blog that you're open to feedback and make it easy for people to contact you.
– Offer others feedback. If you genuinely like something your read, find a way to let the creator know. Unsolicited feedback can be tricky, but most creators will appreciate hearing that something they wrote/created resonated with someone. This is a powerful one, first give what you seek to receive. I've done this recently with authors of books I read.
Writing is a super power. No matter your profession and role but especially for independent entrepreneurs (indie-preneurs? has anyone coined that yet). While consistency is important we don’t get better at writing effectively with consistency alone. Getting reactions from other humans fuels our desire to write better, and also allows us to learn when we've got it right.
Consistency is the secret to success and long-term consistency is actually shocking difficult to achieve. Sharing our work with others, getting reactions and doing the same for others by offering thoughtful feedback helps on the journey. Because sheer willpower is often not enough.