It takes a while to catch your stride
What’s so special about 49 articles?
Nothing at all, but also everything. The number doesn’t matter. I’m simply talking about a lot of articles.
49 articles mean you’ve put in the time, conducted hours of dull research, suffered the agony of the first draft, and felt the sting of rejection from that certain publication. The injustice!
If you’re still writing after all that, well, that’s not nothing.
I received a bit of brilliant advice from an entrepreneur friend. It was early 2020, and I had just started a blog that reviewed business books for post-graduates. The blog was awful! Every day I felt the sinking feeling of failure. Imposter syndrome crushed me, and I finally understood what Einstein was talking about when he called himself an “involuntary swindler.”
Here’s what he told me:
“You’re new to writing, so write online for six months and find out if you like writing book reviews. You might pivot, or you might find a new interest entirely, but give it a real go.”
100% the truth, my friend.
After six months, I lost interest in book reviews but enjoyed blogging about productivity, leadership, and the young professional experience. A few months later, I fell in love with the business of online writing.
During that time, I learned that the key to online writing is to actually write online.
Let me explain.
Influential blogger Nicolas Cole compares writing online to how many famous musicians started their careers “practicing in public.” A pleasant way of saying they sang in subway stations and outside of Starbucks shops.
“Justin Bieber was playing guitar on the sidewalk full volume before he was a teenager.”
“Ed Sheeran played in Subways for years before being signed by a record label.”
“Taylor Swift played at rotary clubs and county fairs before becoming one of the biggest artist in the world.”
(Now she plays with Bon Iver, see people change their interests).
Writers post online (practice in public) not because they need the loose change, but because the craft demands immediate feedback in the form of views, comments, shares, and publication rejection or acceptance.
Posting articles online produces the following data:
· You learn about what you like to write.
· You learn about what the audience likes to read.
· You discover your writing voice.
· You discover what topics resonate with your audience.
· You discover a productive writing routine.
After each post, whether a book review or personal development article, I learned something about myself and about the audience I was trying to reach. The data I gathered dictated my next decision and pointed me towards exciting avenues I didn’t even know existed.
The internet is a powerful feedback loop. A mentor acting as a 24/7 marketplace.
Nicolas Cole expressed it well in his book “The Art and Business of Online Writing:
“There are two types of writers today: those who use data to inform and improve their writing, and those who fail.”
Why 49 articles?
It’s a number I plucked from business influencer and podcaster Pat Flynn. A guy who started a marketing podcast from scratch and ended up with fifty million downloads and a few years later.
Pat says he finally caught his stride after 49 podcast episodes. Episodes 1–48 were garbage — riddled with mistakes, dead air, and irrelevant subjects. He often received feedback from his peers commenting on the blandness of his show.
After months of working out the kinks, testing material, and finding his voice, Pat dropped episode 49, caught a stride, and the rest is history.
Here’s the moral of the story:
The number of articles you post online doesn’t matter, but if a number in your head helps you put in the time and submit your work to the universe, so be it.
It’s not a sexy thought, but it should an encouraging one because now there’s no reason to beat yourself up over minor setbacks like an article rejection on Medium.
Focus on the data and getting better at writing every single day. Bust your ass to article 49, and you will catch your stride.