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What a Heroin Addict Taught Me About Writing

November 8, 2013

Photo courtesy of Nikon Film

I once met a musician who told me she’d written “over 2000 songs.” I know a well-known blogger who bragged to me about the “millions of words” on his site and how that was the equivalent of “hundreds of books.”

Every business that I’ve been involved with, whether it be marketing, music, movies, books, or speaking, involves writing. So I feel confident in telling you…

Not all writing is equal. Just because you have “over 2000 songs” or “millions of words” doesn’t mean you have anything substantial.

How to Write Better

I went to school for music. When I started, I thought I was going to be a professional guitar player.

I got connected with a piano player named Josh (not his real name) via a composition class. He was almost never there. And when he was, it looked as if he’d been up all night.

He probably had been up all night. He was known for his extracurricular activities and a mutual friend of ours once described him as “a human pharmacy.”

Still, even with his drug use, Josh was one of those guys who made playing music look easy. And the dude could write as well as he played.

I remember thinking, “I never see this guy practice and he never shows up for class. How did he get so good?”

The Secret

A few years after meeting Josh, after I’d made the transition from musician to the business side of music, I got a demo from a songwriter that I think sums up good writing.

His song told the story of a brand new songwriter who had just moved to Nashville and immediately went to the guitar store to pick up a new instrument. After he’d written his first song on it, he took it to a music publisher who rejected it, but gave him this advice…

“You need a brand new song and an old guitar.”


Josh was out living. He didn’t get his writing skills from the classroom, he got them from his relationships and experiences.

I think that’s the secret to good writing, no matter what kind of writing you do — get out in the world and live.

Equipment doesn’t matter. To improve your output, you simply need more input.

ABOUT THIS SERIES: Every Friday, I give tips on how to build the foundation needed to have a successful business and platformSee other posts in this series here and, if you have a request for me to cover something specific, let me know via Twitter.

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