Jennifer Kim, startup advisor, former Head of People at Lever, and Diversity & Inclusion strategist joins Stew Fortier to discuss making space for purpose-driven work, collaborating with other writers to compound your results, and the benefits of Twitter as a publishing medium.
The interview summary below was prepared for Compound Writing, a paid invite-only community of online writers. Apply here
1. Pretty much anybody can be a great writer if they’re willing and able to put in the work and time.
Jen doesn’t subscribe to the idea that there are good writers and bad writers. Instead, she thinks anyone can learn to write well if they dedicate the time.
“I think anyone can be a great writer. You just have to produce a lot of words first, most of which will be crap. For some of us, maybe that's 100,000, but maybe for others it's 2 million. But the act of creating allows you to learn so much.”
2. Seek emotional resonance in your writing.
Jen knows from personal experience that writing that resonates with people is incredibly powerful.
“Help people feel less alone by articulating a struggle or a feeling. That's what emotional resonance is. People are so hungry for that kind of emotional truth, and good writing helps us confront reality with compassion.”
3. Writing down your ideas frees you up to scale your impact.
In her work, Jen leverages her writing to educate her startup clients on foundational concepts. Since people have different needs, different pieces of content can meet people where they’re at, and she can focus her energy on the initiatives that are the best use of her time.
“The sense of urgency [around diversity, equity and inclusion] can be a little bit tricky, because it’s difficult to work with companies that are in panic mode. In those cases, that's where I point them to my writing: ‘Here's a way to educate yourselves. Please ask me any specific questions based on these resources.’
It’s a way of protecting my energy, my time, and my boundaries. I'm really grateful for the investment I made to create so much content over the last few years, because it’s an effective way to scale myself and my message.”
4. Working with other writers is one of the fastest ways to find ideas and inspiration for your work.
Throughout Jen’s career, she’s been surprised by how much value she gets out of working with other writers.
“Writing can be such a solo activity, but I just have so much fun actually bouncing ideas off other people, editing each other's work, and learning from each other. If you find great collaborators, cling on to them for dear life.”
5. Professional editors are a powerful resource for organizing complex thoughts and concepts.
Sometimes experts find that their depth of knowledge can actually hinder the writing process, because diverse, complex thoughts are hard to organize. This is where professional editors can help.
“The number one lesson I learned [contributing to the Holloway Technical Recruiting and Hiring book] was the value of working with a professional editor. I could just dump out my raw thoughts, and they were so good at pulling out a structure. Whatever your expertise is, you might find it difficult to pull out and put a structure around. But that's what a really great editor can do for you.”
6. Use Twitter to try out ideas and explore your voice.
If you ever feel stuck in your writing, Jen suggests exploring other mediums and formats that break you out of your current routine. For Jen, that was Twitter, where she grew her following to 19K followers in 2 years.
“A few years back, I had a really bad writer's block. I've written blog posts and essays my entire life, but I was at a point where I just couldn't anymore. So I started tweeting. It’s less pressure to post a thought that fits into 280 characters. Plus, if you can post it, and if you don’t like it later, just delete it.
You can choose to see a low follower count on Twitter as the freedom to explore, because no one cares what you're posting. That means you can post anything and get real-time feedback.
Twitter is also a platform that rewards consistency. Often the most successful people you see have been doing it for years, and learning a lot along the way.
A lot of folks who want to get better at Twitter are intimidated by people with really large followings. You can't compare yourself to someone who's been doing it for years and years and years. Just learn for yourself, try out what works, and take note of what doesn't. Delete liberally."