Want to Write, but Don’t Think you can? How to Face Your Fears

BY Emily Tate ON FEBRUARY 14, 2019

Last week, I was at a conference where people were invited to offer their expertise to others for conversation. Working at Mind the Product, I put forward a topic I know well, and decided to offer it on Twitter as well.

Over the past few years (and multiple times in the past week), I have had many conversations with great product managers, encouraging them to write or speak. In nearly every chat, the storyline is consistent: people want to write, but they don’t think they can. Their fears usually fall into three categories.

Fear #1: I Don’t Know What I’d Write About

The initial reaction of most people is: “I’d like to write, but I don’t know what I would write about.” The truth is, we all have things we’re passionate in talking about. Or can easily get pulled into rants about. Or have “war stories” of the craziness we have encountered as product managers (have I ever told you about the time we sent over 600 text messages to a single user in a day? True story.) These are all the beginnings of blog posts. I find inspiration for blogs in things such as:

  • Case studies of something that went well. Success stories.
  • Case studies of things that went terribly! Learnings from failure.
  • Philosophical discussions I get in (or want to get in) over Twitter or Slack.
  • Questions that come up a lot that I feel like I have a pretty good answer to.
  • Challenges I’m going through that I’m trying to build my own thinking around. I may not have all the answers, but structuring my thoughts in a blog can be helpful to myself.
  • My go-to product happy hour stories – if it’s worth telling people over a drink, there is probably a learning in there somewhere.

There is inspiration in every aspect of your job. Just think about the topics that get you talking, and you have the beginnings of an article.

Fear #2: Someone Else has Already Said Everything I Have to say

Once I have gotten someone to realize they have topics to write about, the next response is typically along the lines of “But I don’t have an original take on the subject.” Or, “There are already articles written about that.” Or, “A really big thought leader just tweeted about that last week.” I understand this concern; with so much product knowledge in the industry already, it feels like my take on any given topic is subpar at best.

I’ve learned that you are probably right. The topic you want to talk about has probably been covered before. Write about it anyway. Because what hasn’t been written before is your perspective on this topic. Your examples attached to it. And even if several people have covered similar things, your experience may be the thing that helps someone else gain clarity on the issue. Your article may be the one that finally gives a product manager enough examples to take to their leadership and convince them to change. It may even just be another take that a reader agrees with, but helps them realize they aren’t alone.

Even beyond the inspiration for others, I find my writing is often an exercise in clarity for myself. Writing an article on a given topic forces me to put my thinking on paper, which causes me to examine what I believe. It makes me articulate why I have a given opinion, which is useful as I grow in my own craft.

Fear #3: I Don’t Know how to do This

The final thing I typically hear is some form of logistics:

  • I’m not sure I’d be a good writer. How will I know?
  • If I try to start my own blog, I feel like I’ll have to keep it going. What if I don’t like it?
  • There are so many articles out there. How would anyone find mine?

The biggest piece of advice I can give here is, don’t do this on your own. Write for a network like Mind the Product. We accept guest posts all the time, have a team of experienced product managers who give you feedback, and have an editor to help you with those final tweaks, or be really honest if it’s not ready for publishing. We have a built-in network to get your writing seen, and if you write one article and decide you hate the process and never want to do it again, you don’t have to commit to continuing. But I suspect once you experience the fun of engaging in conversation with the broader product industry, you’ll want to do it again!

A Very Meta Conclusion

I have been talking with people about writing and speaking for well over a year. I put out the Tweet at the beginning of this article on February 4th. During my conversations over the week, I started thinking “I should really write a blog about this – it could help people get over their fears.”

Five days later, Melissa Perri put out this tweet about her new book, Escaping the Build Trap:

With a closing statement:

I read this, and my first thought was “Well, now I can’t write that blog post. Melissa already said it.”

That’s right. I nearly used Fear #2 as a reason not to write this blog post outlining Fear #2. And the post that triggered my fear was from another thought leader saying she had Fear #2 in writing her new book. It’s actually quite funny when you think about it.

What are you Waiting for?

The real lesson to take from this is, no matter who you are or at what level, we all think we don’t deserve to share our thoughts. But that is exactly why we should share our thoughts: to help our fellow product people be successful in our craft.

We’d like to help you share your experiences! If you want to get started, come write for us!

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Emily Tate

About

Emily Tate

Emily brings more than 10 years of product management experience to her role as US General Manager for Mind the Product. While she has worked across a variety of industries, she will always have a soft spot for the travel industry where she spent most of her early career building software for airlines and developing a leading consumer travel app, TripCase. Emily is passionate about the craft of product management and loves talking about new ways to make products people love.