The Secret to Getting Good At Anything

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I’m not a good writer.

In fact, I don’t consider myself a “writer” in the first place. I’m a strength coach who happens to have the ability to write sentences that don’t suck. Sometimes back to back; and sometimes including the proper usage of the semicolon.

Full Disclosure: I don’t even know if I used the semicolon correctly in that last sentence. If I did, sweet. I win the internet today. If I didn’t, whatevertheflyingfuck. I don’t care.

Kurt Vonnegut hated semicolons:

Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”

My buddy, John Romaniello, a talented writer in his own right (and someone who, too, lifts a metric shit-ton of weight), by contrast, loves the semicolon:

I think it’s a splendid little piece of punctuation.

While I don’t think it’s really necessary in any respect, I do notice that people who use the semi appropriately tend to be solid writers; or, at least, have a firmer grasp of structure than most. (An observation of cognitive bias, perhaps.)

….to me, the semicolon implies, “there’s always more to say.”

So, yeah, I’m not a good writer.

But I don’t think anyone who writes thinks he or she is good at it. Only a select few can be Kurt Vonnegut, Ernest Hemingway, David Eggers, Anne Lamott, Stephen King, or He-Man.1

Most people who write – at least in my experience – will describe their prose as “bat-shit awful” on average days to an “indiscernible, incoherent attempt at passable English” on the good days.

I 100% fall into this camp.

I’ll admit that writing doesn’t come easy to me. I am not one of those people who can sit in front of their laptop, swiftly tap away on their keyboard, and conjure up some masturbatory masterpiece that’ll live in literary lore.

Fact: that last paragraph alone took me five minutes to write. But hot damn, alliterations are awesome aren’t they?

Writing can, and often is, a marathon of agony for me.

However, what can I say: I love it. As a self-described introvert…nothing recharges me or satiates my inner “leave me the fuck alone” troll than writing.

I can sequester myself in some corner at a cafe, or, preferably, in my office with my cat, Dagny, and be as content as content can be.

Oh my god, I can’t stand it how cute my cat is. Writing programs for clients and she snuggles right up to my laptop.

A photo posted by Tony Gentilcore (@tonygentilcore) on

As agonizing as writing can be now, it used to be way, way, way worse.

However, as with anything, you get better at doing it by, you know, doing it.2

I’m approaching 1,800 blog posts on this website. That’s a lot of writing. And that number doesn’t include all the articles I’ve written for other publications and websites.

I started, and I got better.

I often receive emails from other fitness professionals asking me how they can get their names out there and how they can become better at writing.

I’m honored they’d ask me in the first place, and feel obliged to be honest:

“First of all, thank you for the kind words. You obviously have impeccable tastes in the strength coaches you follow. I bet you’re super good looking too. To answer your question: Just start. Shut up, and start. Stop emailing me (and everyone else you’re asking the same question to) and start.”

Okay, maybe I’m not such an awful “writer” after all.

I’m leaps and bounds better today than I was when I first started a little over ten years ago. I can see growth in my writing. I have a style. There’s better sentence structure, transitions, flow, and I finally know the difference between there/their/they’re.

But all this happened because I started.

And haven’t stopped.

Still working on that semicolon, though.

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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  1. To my knowledge He-Man never wrote a god-damn thing. But if he did, it would have ruled.

  2. FYI: This includes, also, the act of “DOING  IT.”

  • I had a friend who got a semicolon tattoo. It reminded her to “go; pause and reflect, then continue on”

    • TonyGentilcore

      Read Roman’s post I linked to above. He got a semi colon tattoo as well (for pretty much the same reasons).

  • Like most things we just need to shut the F up and get to work. I find we worry too much about being perfect instead of focusing on just making progress. I used to hate writing because it took me a week to compose a 500 word piece, now I look forward to the challenge even though it still takes days.

    Looking back at blog posts of mine from a few years ago and a quote from you really sums up my efforts – “something like this makes my corneas want to jump into a pool of acid.”

    • TonyGentilcore

      Couldn’t agree more Nathane. Writing used to be a real chore for me (and sometimes it still is), but it’s no where NEAR the “process” it used to be.

      I cringe at my early writing. I cringe at old programs I wrote. I think there’s something wrong with us if we don’t look back and cringe at our old work……regardless of the context.