You are staring at your computer’s screen.
You don’t know where to start.
Ideas seemed to be so bright, yet when you sat down, that paper castle collapsed.
Writing is hard. Your mind without writing is like a room plenty of clothes, scattered around.
Writing is like taking those clothes and placing them in the proper drawer.
Many believe that the most challenging part of writing is the creative part.
But that is only a tiny part of the story. Like an entrepreneur needs an idea to start a business. So a writer needs creativity. But once the spark of creativity is on the rest is all about execution, patience, and dedication.
If writing is so complicated, time-consuming, yet paramount for any business, how can we make sure that the content created through our writing will generate a long-term return for a business?
The Lindy Effect
You are waiting in line at the post office. In front of you, there are two people.
One is a young fellow of twenty years, and the other is an old folk, he seems to be about eighty years old. In your mind, there is no doubt. The old fellow will die way sooner than the young fellow.
Of course, we are thinking regarding probability. In other words, we know that there are way more chances that the old folk will die sooner than the young fellow.
While this reasoning works when we are in the domain of something perishable (things with a determined life expectancy); this kind of thinking becomes flawed when we switch to another area, the non-perishable.
In other words, As Nassim Taleb, author of Antifragile explains, when we get into the non-perishable domain the probability distribution of something happening, change altogether.
In short, while the life expectancy of two people (humans fall into the perishable domain) follow a Gaussian distribution (also called normal distribution). When it comes to the non-perishable (such as the content you are about to create by pounding your fingertips on the keyboard), it follows a Power Law distribution.
What does that mean?
Practically speaking you are creating something that has the potential to live forever!
But how can we leverage on the Lindy Effect to create such content?
The Power of Content
Over two thousand years ago, a man, from Cisalpine Gaul (a region that stretched throughout the Northern part of Italy) aspired to become a poet.
His name was Publius.
Publius was already quite famous in Rome. In fact, the Roman Emperor, Augustus, had commissioned him to write a poem.
Although Publius had spent the last years of his life, working and drafting that poem, it always seemed to him that something was missing.
The work never seemed to be ready for being published.
The years went by, and although Publius’ work had become encyclopedic, he didn’t feel ready. While visiting a town, called Megara, he got sick and not long after he died.
As the story goes before dying, Publius ordered his literary executors to burn his work. But Emperor Augustus ordered them to disregard Publius’ wish.
That was how the most influential poem of Western literature was born. Indeed, that man was Publius Vergilius Maro (better known as Virgil), and his work was the Aeneid!
What can we learn from this story?
Three basic but incredibly powerful principles!
Number One: Press the publish button
Arms and the man I sing, who first made way,
predestined exile, from the Trojan shore
to Italy, the blest Lavinian strand.
Smitten of storms he was on land and sea
by violence of Heaven, to satisfy
stern Juno’s sleepless wrath; and much in war
he suffered, seeking at the last to found
the city, and bring o’er his fathers’ gods
to safe abode in Latium; whence arose
the Latin race, old Alba’s reverend lords,
and from her hills wide-walled, imperial Rome.
Those are the opening lines of Virgil’s Aeneid.
A literary work, drafted by Vergil over two thousand years ago, still read and studied all over the world. We can not only expect this content to be relevant for another one-hundred year. According to the Lindy Effect, we can look forward Virgil’s work to be “alive” for other two thousand years.
The great paradox of the whole story is the fact that Vigil did not want his work to be published. Once published it was a great success!
Even though we will never know for sure why Virgil didn’t want to publish his work, one can learn one great lesson.
Independently of how you feel about what you wrote it is still worth to post it.
In other words, creating content is almost like managing a Venture Capital Firm.
You are aware that most of the companies you invested in will be not successful. Yet if one of the companies you invested in becomes exceptionally successful, you will be paid off.
Assuming you are not a famous author, but someone which is building his reputation, the cost of failure for publishing something unsuccessful is petite. None expects you to be the next Dostoyevsky.
If you don’t feel ready to create your blog, but need validation from others to know whether you are a good writer, then Quora may be a right place to start. Here you can help other people, while you refine your skills as a writer.
Number Two: Let readers validate your content, not your Persona
Once you press the button “Publish,” it isn’t anymore about yourself. It is about the content you created.
When you receive negative feedbacks; when none cares about what you wrote, that must not affect you.
Once again, you have to approach writing a la Chris Sacca. You are creating content like a venture capitalist is investing in Startups.
You believe in what you are doing, yet you know for sure that most of what you are going to publish won’t be successful.
Number Three: Tweak content like a scientist in a Laboratory
A passion is a theory. Now you have to test your theory. The world is your laboratory. Construct the experiment that will test your theory. Then test and test and test and tweak and test more.
In the article “How To Quit Your Job the Right Way,” James Altucher got the point, which I believe is fundamental for anyone in business.
More specifically for content creators, we could replace the word “passion” in the statement above, with “article.” In other words, when you are about to create an article, you have a theory about what appeals to your audience.
Once you have that theory, you must test it. Once tested, you must tweak it until it reaches its maximum potential.
In other words, you have to avoid to treat an article, like it was a finished thing. But as a never completed artwork.
Once you get feedback from your audience, you should go back to that article, and tweak it, until it reaches its maximum potential!
In other words, as James Altucher puts it in the same article,
Life does not promise you stability. IT PROMISES YOU A LABORATORY. In that laboratory you can experiment.
Wrapping-up, and Conclusions
We saw how the Lindy Effect teaches us how powerful content creation can be. Yet to make it compelling we learned three essential principles, from Virgil‘s story:
- Press the publish button
- Let readers validate your content, not your Persona
- Tweak content like a scientist in a Laboratory