Jeff Goins is the best-selling author of four books: You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One), The In-Between: Embracing the Tension Between Now and the Next Big Thing, Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams Into your Comfortable Life, and his latest, The Art of Work.
He frequently speaks on writing, creativity, and making a difference. His website, Goinswriter.com, has been visited by more than four million people from all over the world.
He's also an instructor in this year's MarketingProfs Marketing Writing Bootcamp! He'll teach "Writing With Your Reader in Mind: The Secret to Effortless Writing That Gets Results."
I invited Jeff to Marketing Smarts to talk about writing (for marketing and otherwise), and to share a process for finding life purpose, as covered in his latest book, The Art of Work.
Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:
If you don't have an audience, write to yourself (08:15): "When you're first starting, it's really hard to know who's listening. I think you have one of two options. The first is to write for somebody who's already reading you. Could be your spouse, a friend, whatever. Somebody that recognizes that you have something to say, and they want to listen to it. If that's not an option... then I think the second option is to—at least initially—write for yourself. Now, here's what I don't mean by that: Don't just write whatever you want to write and hope that people care about it. Write for yourself from five years ago.
"Write to yourself, not for yourself. When I started my blog, I [said] 'I'm in my late 20s, what advice would I have for myself just starting out in my career? What have I learned about writing that would save somebody a few years of time?' And I just started sharing that stuff on my blog.... And as I was writing for that past self, really what I was building was that idea of an avatar: 'This is the type of person that I'm writing for, somebody who doesn't love marketing, they don't completely understand technology, but they understand that putting your words online is a great way to get your message heard.' I, who had been a marketing director at this point, understood online marketing, understood social media, and also understood writing and the aspirations and ambitions and also the challenges of being a writer. So I tried to write for that person, the young, starting-out writer."
Writing isn't easy, but it can be effortless (10:03): "The secret [to effortless writing] is practice.... When you start out, it is very, very hard. Practice is painful, and yet, as you get going, you build muscle and it becomes easier and easier. I wrote a blog post once called 'The Secret to Effortless Writing,' and in that blog post I make the distinction that there's a difference between easy and effortless.... Easy means the thing itself is inherently without friction. It's just easy. It's just an easy task. 'Effortless,' for me, is about doing the work so that it becomes second nature.
"The secret to effortless writing is to do it really hard and painfully for a while, and do it again and again and again over time to the point where it no longer requires effort to start. I'm not saying it's not hard. I'm not saying that at times I don't get tripped up... but most days... I open my laptop and I write 500 words without even really thinking about it.... Without that discipline, I would be lost."
To find your life's purpose, don't just "follow your passion" (28:35): "When I talk to people about the work that they're doing, about the life that they're living, most people feel stuck. Most people feel like they're not doing what they're meant to be doing or they're not fulfilling their purpose, or they don't even know what that is. I think saying 'just quit your job' or 'just follow your passion...' I think that's incomplete advice.... I wanted a practical process that also honored the mystery of 'man, lucky breaks will come and random things will happen, and you'll fail, but then that failure will lead to a success.' And these things aren't things that you can plan, but you can prepare for.
"And so, I wrote [The Art of Work], like I started the blog, for 20-year-old me. On the other end of building a blog and getting published as an author, and figuring out how to build out this portfolio of skills that allowed me to make a living doing this full time. Really going through a three-year transition that really lasted more like seven years.... Looking back, I go, 'Oh yeah, that all makes sense.' If somebody could have given me this road map, this path, ahead of time, it would have made things so much easier, and each step, each question, each obstacle and struggle would have made a lot more sense."
Jeff and I talked about much more, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!
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Show opener music credit: Noam Weinstein.