Doing a ziggity zag on writerly-ness

AKA how not to be a reclusive person whom nobody learns from (i.e. the Writer)

Hi everyone. This post is more of a private reflection made public, which is how I like it, though it may come across as a little off the cuff to you. Anyhoo, hope it gives you something to think about!

I feel like I've definitely gotten a little precious about writing... like I'm thinking of myself too much as a writer.

a man sitting in front of a loaded typewriter looking very serious, waving hands in the air
A scene from the movie Ruby Sparks, just before the Calvin creates a fictional character that literally comes to life.

This morning I woke to read a totally different kind of article by  in his  newsletter. He usually writes philosophical ramblings, but today he published a post about how to grow an audience in TikTok — to me, that's a very sharp turn! And he admits that it's not going to be a regular thing, just something he felt compelled to do for fun to show himself and the world that he still got his marketing chops.

When I think about Nat, I think marketing guy + reading guy. Now I think of him also as a philosophical ramblings guy because of the newsletter. (He cleverly nudged me to think of him this way by opening his latest newsletter with “This week’s post is a digression from my normal philosophical ramblings.”) The cool part is that I don't even know this guy. Before today, before visiting his TikTok profile, I had no idea how he even looked! But I know the name, Nat Eliason, is associated with marketing, books, and philosophy. How?

Clearly, it's because he is prolific. He publishes one substack post every week. Apparently, he's also been recording and publishing a video on TikTok every day. He is consistently publishing bits of himself online. And not in a TMI1 way. He's just using himself as a conduit to talk about things he has found interesting that we might too.

I like that and I want to do more of that. But, what I don't like is how calculated it all is. I always disliked manipulative people, and this feels somewhat, though not blatantly, manipulative. Is understanding how humans think and knowing what they crave and then providing for that considered manipulative? Arguably yes, right?

But maybe I’m just being naive here. People want to be entertained by you. People want to learn from you. If you know roughly — or even better, exactly — what they want, and you produce something for them, then they're more likely to sit up and pay attention to that thing you produced just because they liked it. You may get rewarded in some way for that. Win-win. It's really okay to be "manipulative" in this sense if that word is usable in this context.

Back to Nat Eliason. He talks about books a lot, and then he writes a lot, and as a consumer of his posts and videos, I've started to think that they must go hand-in-hand. Like, don't write until you read a lot. This makes me feel like whatever he's doing is inaccessible to me, or at least inaccessible to me for a while until I have put in a lot of time to read a lot of books. But this is only true if I'm trying to do exactly what he's doing, which is silly and likely going to be devoid of fun. He is best at what he likes doing.

The real question I should be asking fresh off from riding the inspiration wave from knowing about his techniques is, what shall I be best at, based on what I like doing?

  1. TMI = too much info. Like when your colleague tells you the colour and consistency and stink of their recent poop. Or, more relevant to this post, like when someone is clearly relishing in the moment to talk more about themself than the topic you’re actually interested to read about.

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