Andrew Chen Archives

Subscribe · Featured · Recent · The Cold Start Problem 📘
Dear readers, I have moved to Substack and I will be writing here from now on:
In the meantime, I will leave up for posterity. Enjoy!

How to write more

Dear readers,

As we enter a new year, many of us are setting goals to write more and create more content. As someone who has been writing consistently for the past decade, I wanted to share some strategies that have helped me in my writing journey, particularly in a professional context.

Collecting ideas
First and foremost, I emphasize the importance of collecting ideas. These ideas can come from anywhere – opinions, statements of fact, interesting factoids, statistics, or even visual content such as charts and graphs. These are things from X or books or Reddit or whatever.

I use an app called “Email Me” to quickly email myself these ideas and then compile them into a single note with a headline that inspires me to explore the topic further. So then my workflow is to open up this note with a bunch of bullets, each one a headline for a post, and then decide what to pick from

Let yourself write small
You should allow yourself to write things that are both big and small. But particularly, it’s great to give yourself permission to do much shorter pieces – tweets or LinkedIn posts – and they can even be a few lines. The frequency of creating helps you build the muscle for more later. Short helps you get over perfectionism, or a feeling of imposter syndrome, etc

The idea of “templates” is useful too – these are commonly repeating versions of posts that you can repeat, over and over, that always generate interesting content. Here’s some examples:

  • reviews of books
  • quotes from podcasts/articles
  • lessons learned from past projects
  • Q&A with a colleague/friend
  • top links about a particular topic
  • your answer about a particular topic
  • reflections on the past year/quarter
  • a factoid/statistic you found surprising

If you can collect these templates together, you’ll never feel writer’s block!

Setting aside time to brainstorm, and to write
Another strategy that has been effective for me is to have regular brainstorming sessions with a writing partner. This not only provides accountability but also helps in generating new and fresh ideas. At a16z we actually have a weekly content where people talk about what they’re working on each week, and riff on different concepts. It helps a lot.

Setting aside dedicated time for writing is also crucial. I find that scheduling 60 to 90 minutes, particularly in the morning when I’m fresh, helps me focus and eliminates distractions. I often do my writing Sunday afternoons as well, in prep for the week ahead, and try to crack out something that takes a few hours. These are my routines, and maybe you’ll find yours!

Distraction-free devices
I own a whole series of distraction free devices – I wrote my book on a dedicated laptop for writing that has nothing installed on it besides Ulysses, a writing app, and a browser. There’s some really cool Android tablets called BOOX that can pair with bluetooth keyboards – or you can use the Remarkable tablet that’s recently been out, with has a keyboard attachment. I also lock my phone into a plexiglass container with a timer to force myself to stay off my entertainment apps

In addition to these strategies, I’ve found that leveraging technology, such as using AI for brainstorming and voice-to-text apps, has been incredibly helpful in enhancing my writing process. I found chatGPT to be a strong brainstorming tool – just say something like, “I have X opinion, make a list of ideas that align, starting with Y and Z.” Then if you want more ideas, ask it for more. The hit rate sometimes isn’t great but you curate things down and then use that for your topic sentences for what you’re going to write. Voice-to-text is useful as well since it’s often easier to talk than it is to write. So if you ramble for 5-10 minutes there’s tools like Oasis AI that will clean it up into acceptable prose, which you can edit more later

Why “quality” is the enemy to writing
The top top obstacle to people writing/creating/building more (and this includes me!) is a misguided focus on “quality” as an excuse to procrastinate and to enable many other bad behaviors

Some thoughts:

1. quality focus hinders more writing and content creation
2. leads to procrastination and restricts experimenting with styles
3. taste develops faster than skills, causing disappointment
4. it’s important to accept failure as part of learning
5. start small, expand based on audience feedback
6. regular writing, experimenting with styles keeps process enjoyable

People often use quality as an excuse, thinking they need to craft a masterpiece to stand out online. They aim to produce only their finest work, expecting it to be widely recognized.

They say, look, there’s so much writing on the internet, and so much content. In order for my work to break out, what I need to do is I need to sit down and put down a masterpiece, something that will be recognized by people and I’m going to come up with the best ideas in the world.

I’m going to polish, polish, and polish. I’m going to put out only the best work. And then once that masterpiece is out there, then people are going to recognize it. Now, I would argue that that does not work at all. And the reason why that doesn’t work are really rooted in some really practical things.

Here’s why this approach is flawed
Firstly, focusing too much on quality is a great way to procrastinate. It leads to endless editing, turning what could be a quick tweet storm into a months-long essay project.

Secondly, it hampers your ability to experiment. When starting out, finding your voice is crucial, and it often takes time and trial and error. For instance, my own blogging and writing journey took about two years to find its stride. Experimentation is key, and a high-quality standard can stifle creativity and output. Initially, you might dislike your work as your taste develops faster than your skills, creating a frustrating gap between your taste and abilities.

It’s essential to embrace failure and learning. An over-focus on quality can prevent you from trying new things and accepting that some attempts might fail, setting unrealistic standards.

Increase the writing feedback loop
Instead, you should aim to increase your feedback loop. This means experimenting, seeing how your audience reacts, and evolving your content based on their responses. For example, start with a tweet, expand it into a thread if it’s well-received, and then develop it into an essay. This approach helps align your work with what your audience wants.

Good writing habits include writing regularly and giving yourself the freedom to experiment with different topics and styles. Discover what resonates with your audience and yourself. This way, you can build a diverse portfolio and find your unique voice or niche. It took years to figure out that people like when I write about charts and graphs

Remember, writing should be fun and conversational. Treat it as if you’re talking to friends. Don’t fret over a piece that doesn’t hit the mark; you can always try again. This philosophy of frequent, enjoyable content creation is what I’ve adopted in my creative process.

Remember you can always delete a stupid tweet!

PS. Get new updates/analysis on tech and startups

I write a high-quality, weekly newsletter covering what's happening in Silicon Valley, focused on startups, marketing, and mobile.

Views expressed in “content” (including posts, podcasts, videos) linked on this website or posted in social media and other platforms (collectively, “content distribution outlets”) are my own and are not the views of AH Capital Management, L.L.C. (“a16z”) or its respective affiliates. AH Capital Management is an investment adviser registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Registration as an investment adviser does not imply any special skill or training. The posts are not directed to any investors or potential investors, and do not constitute an offer to sell -- or a solicitation of an offer to buy -- any securities, and may not be used or relied upon in evaluating the merits of any investment.

The content should not be construed as or relied upon in any manner as investment, legal, tax, or other advice. You should consult your own advisers as to legal, business, tax, and other related matters concerning any investment. Any projections, estimates, forecasts, targets, prospects and/or opinions expressed in these materials are subject to change without notice and may differ or be contrary to opinions expressed by others. Any charts provided here are for informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon when making any investment decision. Certain information contained in here has been obtained from third-party sources. While taken from sources believed to be reliable, I have not independently verified such information and makes no representations about the enduring accuracy of the information or its appropriateness for a given situation. The content speaks only as of the date indicated.

Under no circumstances should any posts or other information provided on this website -- or on associated content distribution outlets -- be construed as an offer soliciting the purchase or sale of any security or interest in any pooled investment vehicle sponsored, discussed, or mentioned by a16z personnel. Nor should it be construed as an offer to provide investment advisory services; an offer to invest in an a16z-managed pooled investment vehicle will be made separately and only by means of the confidential offering documents of the specific pooled investment vehicles -- which should be read in their entirety, and only to those who, among other requirements, meet certain qualifications under federal securities laws. Such investors, defined as accredited investors and qualified purchasers, are generally deemed capable of evaluating the merits and risks of prospective investments and financial matters. There can be no assurances that a16z’s investment objectives will be achieved or investment strategies will be successful. Any investment in a vehicle managed by a16z involves a high degree of risk including the risk that the entire amount invested is lost. Any investments or portfolio companies mentioned, referred to, or described are not representative of all investments in vehicles managed by a16z and there can be no assurance that the investments will be profitable or that other investments made in the future will have similar characteristics or results. A list of investments made by funds managed by a16z is available at Excluded from this list are investments for which the issuer has not provided permission for a16z to disclose publicly as well as unannounced investments in publicly traded digital assets. Past results of Andreessen Horowitz’s investments, pooled investment vehicles, or investment strategies are not necessarily indicative of future results. Please see for additional important information.