Ceramic shield glass, blazing fast, two cameras, three if you’re a Pro, look at those curves, oh baby… do I want one? Yes yes yes. Do I need one? No no no. But you know what? A crazy idea dug itself into my head this morning. I could write myself a new iPhone.
You know there are sites now which let you spill your ideas out for cash now right? I’m talking Medium, Substack, Ghost, Gumroad, hell, you could even make your own site and add a link to a Patreon page.
The point being: if you want to create something of value, which scales infinitely, you can.
Oh but that’s where I lose people. They see the opportunity of being a paid writer and get four-year-old about to get on a jumping castle excited but the moment they realise it actually requires writing something worth being paid for (shock), they tap out.
The internet has given birth to a new kind of hunter-gatherer, some have figured this out already, others (perhaps you) are coming around to it.
Knowing this, how about we do a little experiment?
The iPhone 12 comes out in about month for me. And I plan on making enough in that time with my writing to buy one. Will it be relevant in 2024? Good gosh no. But will the works I create be? You bet.
Who knows, with what you read in this article, you might be able to get one of the shiny new 5G devices yourself.
A letter to a friend
Where to start?
Nowhere. There’s no perfect place. Inspiration comes and goes. I’ll tell you how this started, I opened a blank page and starting punching my keyboard.
I like to think I’m writing a letter to a friend. How excited do you get when you see a close friend? That’s how I want to feel when I’m writing.
My ailments, my problems, my solutions, my good times, my bad times, that’s what goes down. That’s what my friend wants to hear about.
Who can you trust these days? You read something and you don’t know whether to believe it or not.
But when you’re talking to a friend, chances are, you can trust what they say.
A good friend tells you if you’re talking sh*t. A good friend doesn’t always seek to please, a good friend seeks the truth. And sometimes the truth hurts, especially if it’s something you need to hear.
You write to your friends to profit them, not please them. As with this post, I am not interested in whether my words please you, I’m interested in whether they profit you.
I told my friend this morning, “I’m going to write myself a new iPhone.”
“By writing letters to you.”
Messages to myself
It all starts when I start sending messages to myself. That’s when I know I’ve got to sit down and check-in with the blank page.
If I think of something more than three times, I write it down.
“Is it a banger?”
Everything I write down has to answer one simple question: “Is it a banger?”
What’s a banger?
Will this thing go viral? Will this article get read by thousands? Will this piece earn me enough to buy that sweet pacific blue iPhone 12 Pro? Christ, I hope so…
If the answers to any of the above questions are no, I don’t write it down.
What? You don’t agree?
Good. Because none of those questions matter, you can’t answer any of them.
“So, tell me Daniel, what’s the real question?”
“Would I read this article?” That’s it. That’s a question you can answer. If you answer yes to that question, it’s a banger.
“But isn’t that selfish?”
Yes. But I don’t know what you want as much as I know what I want. So I figured if I create something I’d like to read, maybe you’ll enjoy it too.
Ho ho, we’re on a roll here. Another trick: open up a page on 750words.com (where I’m writing these lines) and keep tapping until you see the green button come up.
Do not stop my friend. Keep those fingers tapping. You are entering a dance with your thoughts. The second you stop, the dance stops. And we don’t want that do we?
Vomit out what’s on the inside, you can clean the floor up later. The previous sentence is a metaphor for writing. Get some kind of first draft out in a sitting and come back later to make it legible to others. Write drunk, edit caffeinated.
A new iPhone? Why on Earth would you pay $1000+ for a time suck? It even tells you. Every Sunday, “here’s your screen time report, you averaged 1.5 hours per day looking into my gorgeous (soon to be 11% less bezel) display.”
1.5 hours per day? You mean in the last week I sank 10 and half hours into what? Exercising my right thumb?
I got my first iPhone in my final year of high school. Of course, as a lucky (read: spoiled) kid, I didn’t pay for it, my parents put it on their phone plan.
And you know what I did? I turned into a consumption machine. Never would I have to be bored in an English class ever again. I could play bubble wrap and Doodle Jump instead of reading Orwell’s 1984. My teachers never knew. Or maybe they did. “Gee, Daniel seems to be spending a lot of time looking for things in his pencil case”. Little did they know I was crushing my friends score on Fruit Ninja.
Let’s not forget the sessions in the toilet. I wonder what the average time spent sitting on a toilet has gone to since the release of the first iPhone?
I’m guilty. In previous jobs I’d look forward to nature calling, pants down, excrement out of body, phone out, excrement into mind.
How about the countless nights switching between the infinite scroll?Facebook, Instagram, Facebook, Instagram, Facebook, Instagram. And when that ritual offered nothing, porn was only a few taps away. My teenage brain pumped full of dopamine, searching but not knowing what for. A device in my hand which thousands of engineers had worked very hard to keep it there.
Turns out I was paying for something (again not me, my parents, I do pay for my phones now though) which degraded my health. With that kind of logic, I might as well have taken up smoking. Woah, did we just deduce smartphones are the new smoking? Except this time you don’t lose lung capacity, worse, you lose thought capacity.
It took a few years but I figured out. What I’d been searching for was not what I could be given. What you’re given doesn’t count. I was searching for what I could create.
Consumption offers short-term pleasure, creation offers long-term pleasure. Shallow happy versus deep happy. What all self-help boils down to; sacrifice short-term fulfilment for long-term fulfilment.
I fixed my balance. Started consuming less and creating more. Replaced the emptiness of the infinite scroll by filling the emptiness of the blank page.
And you know what?
The hole inside me I’d been tricked into thinking I couldn’t fill started to close in. The consumption machine in my hand turned me into a creation machine.
Scared to publish
There’s a reason why kids learn faster than adults. It’s because they don’t spend all their time thinking of reasons they can’t do it or about things that could go wrong.
I told a girl the other day my two favourite activities are writing and fighting. I treat them both the same. Writing like fighting.
When I sign up for a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fight, I sign a waiver. A way of saying, if my sh*t gets f*cked up, it’s on me. The same goes for writing.
What do you mean you’re scared to publish?
You signed up for this. You signed the waiver.
What’d you think it’d be? You sign the form and that’s it? Hah. You make me laugh.
Time to say what the hell and enter the ring. Except there’s no opponent, you’re fighting against yourself.
I don’t want to publish anything I’m not scared of putting out there. If I haven’t taken it to the edge, then I’ve played it too safe.
I’ve come here to read your thoughts, your perspective, your arguments, your opinions, your problems, your solutions, not someone else’s.
Instead of littering your articles with quotes, give your readers the respect of ingesting them and regurgitating them with your own spin. Like a mother bird feeding her young.
There’s nothing wrong with stealing the wisdom of others, I do it, I’ve done it several times throughout this article.
“But what I’m putting out is nothing new…”
Tell me again what’s new?
We’re all rearranging the same 26 letters in different patterns.
New material is overrated, new perspective is underrated. The internet began as a means for military communication, and if you’re reading this, you know how that worked out.
One of my favourite things to do is to take a line from a good book, or a saying I’ve overheard at a cafe and remixing it with whatever I’m writing.
A little known secret of reality: you can repeat ideas you’ve heard in other places and get all the credit for them.
One of my most read posts of all time, 6 Techniques Which Help Me Study Machine Learning 5 Days Per Week, aside from the clickbaity title, is a ripoff of a page in Johne Fante’s Ask the Dust where he describes Arturo Bandini getting up in the morning and going through a day. I replaced Fante’s narrative of slogging through hunger and hangovers with the nerdy rituals I go through before sitting down to study.
Show me what the world looks like through your eyes.
Reading is foreplay, writing is sex
Two things: you’re overthinking it or you’re not stealing the ideas of others enough.
Before I go into a fight, I move my body. Get the blood flowing, break a sweat.
To break a sweat for writing, I read. Like the Fante example, if I’m stuck for writing, I read the writing of others as a warm up.
25-minutes of reading into 25-minutes of typing, sometimes more, sometimes less.
Try this: read 10-pages of a book, read an article, write down a single line from each, then use your 750 words to make them have sex with each other.
Who knows, the offspring might look terrible or it might come out stunning, something you’ll look back on in five years and ask yourself, was that me? Yes. It was.
Fun to write, fun to read
The minute writing requires any effort on my behalf, I stop and go do something fun.
If I’m sitting here struggling to pop words off, how’s my reader going to feel?
I refuse to make my readers sit through drudgery. There’s enough terms and conditions documents and emails written by business executives out there for that.
You know what’s fun to write about? A life worth writing about.
“But Dan, my life’s not worth writing about…”
Again, please refrain from such statements, you make me want to cover my ears.
Do you think there aren’t people out there like you? People who want to read about people like themselves? The internet has made it so no matter how weird your interests, you can find people like you and ignore the ones who aren’t. Find your own group of weirdos. And if the group doesn’t exist, create it. The weirder the better.
All my best opportunities have come from writing
Let’s talk about getting you paid. There’s a reason we haven’t yet. Because most of the effort requires turning you into a frozen yoghurt machine of words. Then and only then can you expect dollars to flood your bank account.
“But Dan, isn’t writing for money not pure?”
And starving is?
And letting your dream die because you can’t create something of value worthy enough to replace your salary?
Hah. Real artists don’t starve. Do not be scared of money. Money is societies’ agreed-upon way for measuring how much value you have delivered.
Write for money or write for free, either way, you’re writing.
Actually, you don’t even need to get paid for your words. One of the best ways to live is having a job to pay the bills and creating for leisure. Like driving Uber during the day and writing your novel at night.
I prefer the opposite: working for free and getting paid for leisure.
Writing on your own terms is not work, it’s play. The second you have to write on someone else’s terms, it becomes work. Good thing you don’t have to.
So now, let’s discuss two ways of getting paid for your writing:
- Getting paid now.
- Getting paid later.
Getting paid now
Hamza emailed me this morning (incredible timing) asking if it would be possible to start a Medium blog and make money from it?
Yes and yes.
Medium makes it easy. You can sign up right now, write down your thoughts and ideas and share them with the world and get paid for it. The latter part is what some seem to forget.
To receive value (in the form of money), you have to deliver value.
If you want people to pay you for your work, give them a reason to.
In Hamza’s case, can you make $500–1000 per month?
Yes, Medium has paid me $1000’s per month in the past. You write something, you get paid for views and reading time. Simple. I’ll use this model to buy the delicious new iPhone 12 with the two cameras and the case.
How about Hamza’s more modest $100+ from the beginning in the first three months?
Impossible to answer. Is what you’re writing worth $100+ per month? If so, yes, if not, no.
But Dan, what can I do to grow my Medium following and make more money?
Write. Better. Sh*t.
Other options for getting paid for your words now:
- Starting a paid Substack newsletter.
- Having a members-only Ghost website.
- Selling an eBook on Gumroad.
Each has one thing in common: write something others are willing to pay you for.
With everything you write, ask yourself, does this make someone wealthier, healthier, smarter or better? Does it make them laugh, cry, sing or smile? And if these don’t work, ask yourself, would I read this?
Getting paid later
Medium is great for getting paid now. But who knows if like the iPhone 12, Medium will be relevant in 5-years time?
For those reading this in 2043, Medium is/was a publishing platform where anyone could bare their soul to the world whilst having the option to immediately get paid for it.
The solution to potential irrelevance: have your own place to publish.
I’m talking about your own blog (most important), your own Substack newsletter, a self-published book on Gumroad and Amazon.
Right now, I take a three-pronged attack: blog first, Medium second, Substack/LinkedIn/elsewhere third.
Again, the tools are irrelevant, the words are what matter, the words you use to educate and entertain others.
Lucky for you, once you’ve put the words down, they replicate infinitely and over time, start to work for you.
Chances are, you’re reading this (or any of my other works) whilst I’m asleep or playing in the fields or climbing a tree or sitting at a cafe watching pretty girls walk past.
I got a job in machine learning with no prior experience by sharing what I was learning online.
After leaving my machine learning job, I wrote an article describing the most important things I’d learned. Andrei read it, reached out, asked if I wanted to partner, I said yes, we’ve now been in business together for over a year.
The posts I put out were free. But the opportunities they created have led to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
I cannot stress enough how rare a good opportunity is. When one comes your way, you best seize it. Better yet, increase your chances of them coming your way — share your words.
Let me be clear, unless you’re a mobile developer or run a business off of your phone, buying an iPhone 12 is completely unnecessary.
Your time is finite, your words are infinite. The amount you can earn pure hour is limited, the amount you can earn with words is unlimited. Rather than buying assets which suck your time, create assets which multiply your time.