Discover more from Oleksii Sidorov
I became a hostage of my writing and I need to break free. My reflections for all the writers out there
I'm back, bitches, or "the beginning of the substack"
Writing is a big part of me, and my personality is a big part of my writing.
Why do I write
To structure my thoughts, fill the gaps, and offload them from my active memory.
To share interesting and unique information that otherwise would be wasted. The feeling of wasting something valuable makes me really uncomfortable.
To put myself out there and familiarize the public with who I am and what I’m doing. Quote-unquote, build a personal brand.
That’s it, no more, no less.
The problem with publicity
I write about the most interesting things I do, and sometimes I do things to write about them. After all, I have 5,000 pairs of eyes looking at me and expecting me to perform and bring outstanding content to the table.
…And it partially became a problem. I received enough publicity and false recognition for the expertise I don’t have to tie my ego and make me cautious about risky actions that may affect my public image.
Sometimes it’s good, and it doesn’t let me stop grinding in the tough times, because later I will need to report on it. But other times it makes me risk-averse and doesn’t let me freely experiment and fail, or even just take a rest, because again—later I will need to report on it.
I feel a tremendous weight of accountability and transparency with every action I take, which paradoxically, no one forced upon me or asked for, it was just an invention of my silly mind.
Transparency is a challenge in itself. I started by writing my thoughts to a small group of people while being brutally honest, like in 1:1 conversation with a friend. It was authentic and it was vulnerable, unlike always positive media stories or LinkedIn bullshit. But, as you could expect, it quickly became more and more difficult to control when my private began to mix with my public. In the end, I had:
The original storyline which I knew and had to act upon
Local telegram community with whom I tried to be fully transparent and vulnerable, while still having to filter the most sensitive points, or delaying the information until it won’t hurt the ongoing process
A public face that I would present on twitter or LI with a put-on smile.
Try to combine!
I want to tell about the struggle, the uncertainty, or someone being a dick because that is the rarest and most valuable information, but I cannot, because investors, teammates, competitors, or even the dick himself will see it, and it will bring a lot of damage, in exchange for a “quality post”. Really?
As any writer, I want to write when I want to write, not on a schedule. And I want to write my real thoughts, without crafting alternative safe scenarios or singlehandedly damaging my public relationships. Therefore, we’ll have to find a middle ground, and this substack is a step toward it.
Not everything is designed to grow
Fun fact: the largest trigger of unsubs on telegram is a new post
I started by writing personal thoughts and observations that I just couldn’t keep for myself. The stuff, that would be a pity to waste, and that I felt obliged to share. This is what I want to write till today, but there is a problem—no one cares about it, and eventually, it hurts the numbers.
How to grow your reader-base
One can grow following by bringing two parts together: discovery and retention
Discovery is achieved by writing highly-sharable content that will bring net new eye-balls to the media
Retention is achieved by writing entertaining or useful to the audience content, preferably focused on one topic (the topic a person decides to read you for)
Fundamentally, growing a social channel is simple—just post memes or news, because that’s what people like and share the most. If you want to grow an audience in a specific domain—post useful educational content that would add value to a reader.
Unfortunately, I have no motivation to do either of those. There is no point in the following that is attracted to the free service I provide. I’ve never signed up for being a bitch for my audience.
I want to write for my personal joy, and attract people who will be interested in the ideas I discuss, my life, or my way of thinking. Having 100 people like this is more valuable to me than having 100,000 people who follow me for the utility I provide and leave when I stop. Anyone can get there, start giving away free stuff and there will be a crowd standing in no time.
In short, that’s why I decided to decouple the essence and the numbers. And start writing only what I want to write. And if I’ll ever have a goal to grow the followers—I’ll create a news channel or start doing top-5 capybaras tiktoks.
The biggest dilemma of building social presence is choosing between “writing what the audience wants to read” VS “writing what you personally want to write”. And as with any big dilemma, there is no single analytical solution. The unique individuals that made it are ones who naturally combined both.
The language barrier
You can tell that my English sucks. Or at least imagine that I sound 100x smarter and funnier in Russian—my first language.
And yet, I see English as the language I’m going to speak in the future, and that more and more of my surroundings speak. Empathetically, I don’t want to leave them aside and force them to translate. Selfishly, I want to tap into a much larger market of attention and bring my ideas to more people.
Funnily, I tried it before and it didn’t work out. But here we go again. You know it’s a real thing if it forces you to go through the humiliation of reverting a reverted decision.
I’m a researcher at heart, and my first conscious writing was in the form of research papers. I’m not going to burden you with a literature review, but I am going to write long and thoughtful content. A few know, but even on telegram posts of 2,000-4,000 words I usually spend 2 to 4 hours, and it may easily become the whole evening activity. But that’s just how I do it, I like this process of making tea, removing distractions, and diving into the flow.
I’m notoriously bad with sharp relatable observations like those on twitter or memes, and that’s maybe why I appreciate them more than anything else. The ability to connect unrelated dots in a funny unexpected way is the strongest manifestation of human genius and sharpness of mind that awes me.
Feedback is a gift
Feedback is rubbish. My single source of stress and mental unwell in my writing was the comments section. I realized it way later than I should’ve had. I didn’t start to write to argue with someone or teach them how to live. Neither did I plan to be a free consultant helping everyone with their questions. And yet, I felt the responsibility of the status people bestowed on me in combination with a desire to stay humble, which pushed me to reply to all the stupid DMs and craziest questions in the comments. In the end, it peaked at ridiculous lazy questions asking what has already been written.
As of today, there are no more comments, reactions, or always-open DMs on telegram. Just because reactions are not what I’m writing for or trying to optimize. I couldn’t care less. Hence, no more attention draining for me.
After all the negative, I’m excited to start, and looking forward to bringing my content to my English-speaking brothers and sisters.
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