Writing Is The Product

Written by Ryan Hoover

Writing is introspection, therapy, branding, learning, teaching, relationship building.

I write for all the reasons above, but it's my genuine interest and passion to articulate and share my ideas, that fuels my writing.

As I've invested more time in writing this past year, I've begun to see the fruits of my labor. To my surprise, I've built an audience - albeit small - of people who genuinely care about what I have to say. And several of those followers have asked me about my writing process.

Startups and writing have a lot in common. In some cases, I treat my writing the same as building a product.

The First Rule

As mentioned, I'm inherently motivated to write. But not about just anything. As in startups, you better be passionate about the market, product, and problem to persevere. And like product, writing isn't easy but passion carries you through as labor becomes fun and routine. The best writing comes from a place of honesty, authenticity, and passion.

Measure Interest

Instrumenting lean startup practices in my writing allows me to measure interest in a topic or idea that I think others care about. I use Help Me Write to record blog post ideas to share with the nascent community. In some cases, the idea is met with little interest and other times there's an explosion of appeal ( see Blog-First Startups ).

I also pitch questions or comments on Twitter about a specific topic I'm considering writing about. I recently tweeted:

There's a lot of talk about product design, less on company design. Culture and org structure is arguably most important.
- Ryan Hoover (@rrhoover)
July 12, 2013

Clearly there's interest in company design, something I'm particularly fascinated in as of late.

The Braintrust

Getting validation through a short description or tweet is useful but as with any product, you never really know if people will like it until they get their hands on it. Once I've written my first draft, I share it with a group of bloggers and people I respect using Draft. Their feedback is immensely valuable, providing suggestions to improve the piece, identifying inaccuracies, and poking holes in my ideas to make it better.

So Now What?

What do you do after it's written, published, and (hopefully) met with enthusiasm? Most writers stop there. I always encourage readers to follow me on Twitter and subscribe to my email list (see what I did there?). After all, as with any product launch, you might get a spike in traffic but without a way to re-engage your audience, attention is short-lived.

I also do things that don't scale, personally thanking everyone that shares my work on Twitter or subscribes to my email list. It doesn't take much effort but builds a deeper relationship with my readers as they often reply with enthusiasm, surprised by the personal note.

That said, writing isn't for everyone and neither is building a product. But if you have the passion and capability, act on it. Writing is a powerful tool that can change people's thoughts and sometimes even their life.

Ryan Hoover is a Product Manager, and the creator of Startup Edition .

Visit his website: ryanhoover.me