Why Good Writing is Hard

Nathan A. Cunningham
3 min readJul 3, 2023
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Good Writing has value. For you or for someone else.

For me, its value is a sense of achievement and it helps me think more clearly. But I want it to be good. And to hit the Publish button with confidence that I did my best. I want it to make sense and help someone else who reads it make positive change.

But writing anything valuable is hard. Why?

One reason is because we don’t read enough.

Or when we read we don’t take note of what we read.

If you don’t cultivate insights from what you take in, then the value of the stimuli in your life decreases dramatically.
— Todd Henry in The Accidental Creative

And thus our thinking is sloppy and it proves difficult when it’s time to get something coherent out.

Another reason is Resistance, introduced to me by Steven Pressfield. I’ve defined it here and also wrote about what do do about it here. It is about fear, self-doubt, procrastination, akrasia, addiction, distraction, timidity, ego and narcissism, self-loathing, perfectionism, etc. — things that keep you from doing good work.

Today, I’ve struggled to write anything worth publishing, but eventually the habit of reading and taking notes served me well after hitting the Open a Random Note button multiple times in my Obsidian knowledge base. I discovered another reason.

It’s hard to write something valuable if you don’t have a content journey.

commenting on blogging strategy in the context of marketing funnels and product / service conversion rates said this once:

Content without a structured journey is a waste of time.

It’s one thing if you are Seth Godin. He’s so prolific a blogger that if you type “Seth” into Google, the first thing that comes up is his blog. And I’m not saying that he doesn’t have a structured journey. I assume he does given how prolific he is. BTW — here is why he writes every day.

Tiago Forte makes a similar point in his book Building a Second Brain that has been impactful, that note taking must have an aim. By definition not having an aim for something is pointless.

But if you are trying to write a blog for your business or your cause, or seeking to communicate a broader message, or like me you want to re-build the habit of writing and publishing regularly, you need to have a plan and a structured journey that you take your readers along.

I’ve had a content journey in the past:

  • on in my self installed WordPress site cunningkids (a family news blog)
  • on LinkedIn and here on Medium by grouping posts w/in certain themes, e.g. “The Value of _ _ _ _ “ or “Expert Tips”, or my best performing published content ever here, with the theme “What is _ _ _ _ and why care?”. NOTE: this last one is about having an essential intent which could be helpful in coming up with a content journey.
  • in an earlier blog focused on self improvement called Keep Training for Life.

But this time around, I’m still trying to define the precise aim, but this post is part of the journey.

If you want to create value with what you write, define your journey and destination. Know what your aim is. Even an approximate one. It will come into focus in time.

Then just do it. (“just” as in merely, HT: Seth Godin in the reference above as to why he writes daily.)