Writing Resources That Got Me Here
Alfred Lua / Written on 23 May 2021
My writing journey had an unexpected beginning. It took place on a smelly coach.
In college, my friend and I made an impromptu decision to visit Paris over the weekend. Being thrifty students, we took the eight-hour coach from London to Paris. We arrived at the coach station late and had to sit separately for the entire journey. I sat right next to the washroom.
Given that it is a long journey, I decided to chat with the stranger next to me. It turns out he is a designer who has several popular websites and has written for publications such as Smashing Magazine. In a few hours, he convinced me that I should start writing. When I objected that I am not an expert and do not have anything to write about, he said, "there's definitely something you are interested in. Write about that."
When I got back to my college hall, I figured out how to pay for hosting, buy domains, and set up websites with WordPress. I was into startup marketing then, so my first website was sumbuddy.com, as in Start Up Marketing Buddy. I wrote about WhatsApp not spending on marketing, an acquaintance's electric scooter startup, lessons learned from Simon Sinek's talks, and more.
It has been about eight years since my first essay, and I'm still writing about marketing! In the years between, I had the opportunity to write full-time for the Buffer blog, getting it to 1.5 million readers every month. I also experimented with a paid newsletter, which had 30+ paying subscribers at its peak.
Recently, several people have asked me about writing resources and advice. I thought I'd take the time to compile the resources that have helped me along the way. I hope you will find this list useful.
Have a purpose
I don't mean to sound cliché. But having a strong reason to write makes practicing a lot easier than "just write". And you simply need to write often to get better.
Here's what I have tried:
- Practice at work — Offer to help write a blog post, landing page copy, ad copy, email, etc. You get to practice, and people will appreciate your help.
- Write a weekly newsletter — I have tried curating articles and writing a full essay in the newsletters.
- Have a blog — Remember, "there's definitely something you are interested in. Write about that."
- Grow your social following — Followers is a vanity metric but if it encourages you to write, that might not be a bad thing. I like to post on Twitter and LinkedIn because the posts can be only text with no images.
- On Writing Well by William Zinsser
- The Elements of Style by Williams Strunk
- How to Write Short by Roy Peter Clark
- Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy
- Confessions of an Advertising Man by David Ogilvy
I have also read over a hundred books in the past eight years. Memoirs, biographies, sci-fi, fantasy, business, tech, science, and so on. They have all helped me improve my English and my taste.
Storytellers and writers
I read their articles, pick out what I like about their style, and try to form my style. Housel, Clear, and Mese write incredible stories. Zhuo and Lee always sound encouraging.
While I was learning to be a marketer to market a marketing software, I read these blogs on and off. They probably influenced my writing style in subtle ways. That said, there might be blogs in your industry that are more relevant to you.
I can't say this is the best list of writing resources but it is the one that got me to where I am today. It has served me well, and I hope it does the same for you.