Today for the Write Blog, we interviewed one of our full-time writers, Austin.
Austin first began his career as a pro writer when he left his hometown of Los Angeles, California to travel the world and document his experiences along the way. He has toured with rock bands in Europe, written technical documentation for Australian engineering concerns and executed social media strategies for major international brands across the globe. A talented writer, Austin has been a long-term member of Express Writers for over a year, working full-time as an Authority Writer, Content Strategist and all-around gifted copywriter.
What were your earliest writing memories?
Like many introverted pre-teens, at the age of 10 or 11 I kept a journal where I’d write down my thoughts and occasionally try my hand at poetry.
Shortly thereafter, I migrated to the then-popular LiveJournal platform and share these thoughts with the small handful of close friends who took an interest.
Back then, everyone had a Myspace account, but keeping up a LiveJournal took a bit more effort, and it was a far more convenient way to share opinions and tell stories.
What (or who) were your early influences in writing?
I’ve been an avid science fiction fan since I was first introduced to Isaac Asimov. My father gave me The Foundation Series as a birthday gift. Asimov’s influence is easy to identify in both my creative and practical approaches to writing.
In particular, one quote of his made a huge impact on my creative goal as a writer:
“I made up my mind long ago to follow one cardinal rule in all my writing—to be clear. I have given up all thought of writing poetically or symbolically or experimentally, or in any of the other modes that might get me a Pulitzer prize…”
I’ve also adopted many elements of his famously hyper-productive workflow – Asimov wrote almost 500 books during his lifetime, which calculates to an average of one full novel every two weeks for 25 years. I haven’t quite reached that volume of output, but if I had received George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones that year, this interview would not be online until the year 2050.
What kind of topics get you excited/passionate to write about and why?
I find inspiration in anything new, innovative, or otherwise under-explored. For the most part, this happens in the tech sector, where entrepreneurs and startups are constantly coming up with fresh and exciting challenges to the status quo.
But this can happen anywhere, in any subject. Usually, I try to address this frame of reference in almost everything I write – synthesizing the well-established facts of the past with the new insights of today to create a better perspective of tomorrow.
Do you have any daily/typical writing rituals?
I continuously engineer just about every aspect of my daily writing routine to reduce inefficiencies and keep myself focused. Most of these rituals prevent decision fatigue from tiring me out throughout the day. For instance, I work at home, but always dress to a tee beforehand. Music is almost always playing (loudly) while I write, but only specific albums and playlists on repeat – radio host banter would get in the way and break my concentration. I keep my office immaculately clean for the same reason.
I don’t smoke cigarettes, but I do hold an unlit antique tobacco pipe in my mouth while writing. That’s just a personal idiosyncrasy I suppose stems from popular depictions of writers like Ernest Hemingway or Mark Twain. Somehow, it just feels appropriate.
What books, tools, websites have helped your writing the most?
This is a small list of resources I reference the most:
- Kevan Lee’s list of copywriting formulas. This is a great tool, not just for introducing articles to readers, but for introducing just about anyone to anything.
- Google Scholar. I’ve found that more often than not, great sources form the crux of great content. Finding better, more recent, and more complete data about a subject than anyone else practically guarantees that you’ll be able to deliver a clearer and more compelling argument about it.
- Practical Content Strategy & Marketing. Can’t go wrong with this one. This book offers a bird’s eye view of content strategy as a discipline and then goes deep into what defines a successful approach, step-by-step.
- Buzzsumo. This tool is extraordinarily useful for synthesizing topics and strategies out of already-popular content. Used in the right way, it can be your go-to topic generating tool for almost any industry.
Importantly, these are all technical resources that help get content made. For the creative work of actually writing content, I rely on two philosophical disciplines more than anything else:
- Aristotelian Rhetoric. A lot of motivational speakers, speechwriters, and life coaches will claim to teach you the secret of how to convince anyone of anything, but few, if any, do anything more than paraphrase Aristotle. When it comes to persuasion, the definitive work has been written and its about 2,400 years old.
- Critical Theory. This one is a little less user-friendly, but it’s incredibly useful when you need to disprove something, or otherwise poke holes in people’s existing prejudices, principles, and belief systems. Handle with care. Don’t try this at home.
What is your favorite article that you wrote?
My favorite project so far was a white paper for a cryptocurrency designed to operate in the healthcare sector. The level of research involved can only be described as legendary – decades of aggregated healthcare spend in multiple countries compared with each nation’s respective changes in fiduciary policy and the effects of those changes, transformed into a projection of future trends and used to argue for the need for a new form of currency to compensate for the discrepancy in inflation rates between fiat currency and healthcare products and services. Psychedelic stuff.
A favorite client that you worked with?
There’s a fellow whom I know only as “Sean”. One of my most memorable projects with this client involved long-form content about space travel, artificial intelligence, and robotics.
Then he comes back around in a month or so and wants in-depth content about golf, or a listicle of the best waterparks in the United States. He’s a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re gonna get.
What is the oddest writing assignment you’ve ever had?
Probably all that stuff about golf. Product descriptions can get pretty weird, too. Sometimes you’re looking at some everyday item you’ve never thought of as the product of a commercial enterprise – like cable ties or threaded washers – and you have to rack your brain for a few minutes to come up with pain points customers may wish to see addressed.
How does your writing career help you either creatively, personally, or financially?
Creatively, there is something profoundly satisfying about generating value using only one brain, ten fingers, and twenty six letters. Seeing the words you write actually inspire people to take action is a wondrous experience. If my writing career is a means to an end, that’s the one I’m looking for.
Personally, being able to set my own hours and work from anywhere on the planet is hugely empowering. This work environment instills in me a sense of liberty that is hard to find anywhere else.
Financially, writing has been a lifesaver. Initially, it started out as a convenient option for scraping out a living in inconvenient circumstances. It blossomed into a full-fledged career that is now generating enough profit to finance other initiatives – things I’ve always wanted to do but never had the combination of time and money to really dedicate myself towards. It’s a beautiful thing.