Tommy Lee

“Before WOP, it felt like all Internet’s serendipity was hiding behind a thick wall. Write of Passage felt like stepping through a doorway to the wall’s other side.”

Info about you

  • My personal blog / EM newsletter link is: Website, Newsletter  
  • My current job title is: Video producer
  • One of my favorite blogs/online writers is: Ellen Fishbein
  • Best book I’ve read recently: The Overstory
  1. Why did you first sign up for Write of Passage?

I entered WOP with 1,300+ notes of unpublished ideas. As a filmmaker, I wanted a faster way to express myself. Video is a tank. It’s formidable but lacks the agility of writing. 

Writing is the advance scout for curiosity. Text’s accessibility and immediacy make it the best medium to explore the frontier edge of our thoughts. My theory was I could test 10x the ideas through writing. I’d then double down on ideas that resonated and evolve them into visuals. 

  1. What did you like most about the course?

Before WOP, it felt like all the serendipity of the internet was behind a thick wall. Podcasts gave me a one-sided telephone. I could listen in on fascinating conversations, but I wasn’t a participant. Write of Passage felt like stepping through a doorway to the wall’s other side. 

There I was surrounded by curiosity, ambition and a collective growth mindset. There were 320 of us from all around the world. For 5 weeks, the small talk didn’t exist. Writing prompts let our relationships start at a 6/10, rather than 0. 

Peers I met in Write of Passage are now my good friends. They’re a daily part of my life. And we’ve never met in person. Before Sept 2021 I would’ve read those last three sentences with skepticism. To anyone who reads this fifth sentence with the same doubt, well, there’s a passage to this side of the wall 🙂

  1. What’s your #1 takeaway or lesson learned from WoP?

Everything you do is a building block. Once internalized, this reframes each tweet, article and newsletter issue. Everything you publish is a component of your creative ecosystem. Each building block can compound and remix the ones before. 

This mindset lets you write from abundance. It encourages you to get feedback early, iterate, and treat everything as an experiment. I now worry less about making each piece “the definitive XYZ…” and focus on adding consistent tiles towards a mosaic.  

  1. What surprised you about the course?

How sincere, engaged and alive the community was. Every online course, conference, and coworking space nowadays hypes its ‘vibrant community’. I began to ignore ‘community’ as a filler buzzphrase. Then WOP actually delivered it. 

I used to view writing as a solitary activity. I’d only show a piece for feedback when it felt 95% done. Writing from conversation has been a much more fun and effective technique. I’ve realized the earlier you share a draft, the better. 

When we design homes, we confirm the floorplan before beginning interior decoration. The same principle applies to writing. Talking through raw ideas lets you solidify their structure. This approach is only possible with people whose feedback you trust. 

The ongoing feedback exchange in WOP has transformed my creative process, and the new friendships have fueled it. 

  1. How has Write of Passage impacted your creative output?

Before I didn’t understand the value of social media. I’d go tunnel vision on a big project and re-emerge at the end to post the final project. My weekly actions weren’t building an audience. 

Standup comedians don’t write out a comedy special, then go record it for Netflix. They workshop jokes, tweaking the phrasing of ones that land in small clubs each night. Once they’ve honed and mastered a set, they record it. WOP opened my eyes to use Twitter and a newsletter as an ongoing testing ground for ideas. 

It’s been key to have friends figuring this stuff out at the same time. Before WOP all the people I followed online were 10-1000x further along in their career than me. Their advice wasn’t actionable. Now my friends and I can learn from one another’s blisters. We’re all within a few steps of one another. It’s much more accurate than the map from someone 1000km ahead on the journey

  1. What advice would you give to a new Write of Passage student? 

Make the first move. You’ve already self-selected into this group, so know you’re talking to curious and enthusiastic people. Send someone a DM. Give feedback on their writing. When you feel a rapport, suggest chatting on a call. Cultivate the mentality of an online neighbour.

If you wrestle with perfectionism, share your ideas sooner than feels comfortable. You can plant your ideas here as saplings. The nutrient-dense soil of the community is a nurturing catalyst for growth.

  1. Any final thoughts or recommendations about the course?
  • Create a functional version of your website during implementation week. 
    • Having that foundational structure sets you up to refine it with feedback throughout your cohort. 
  • Come into breakout rooms with as much specificity as possible. 
    • Being vague gives your peers nothing to help you workshop. 
    • If you’re unsure about your thoughts on a prompt, try on one specific option you’re considering, see how it feels. 
      • You can always change to another direction later. 
  • The chat during Zoom live sessions can be overwhelming. It’s like watching a movie for the first time with the cast commentary on. We don’t do that. 
    • Most people active in the chat are doing WOP for the second or third time. They know the core principles. They’re riffing on them in real-time as a way to internalize the ideas further.
    • If you find yourself overstimulated, pop out the chat then drag the window to the bottom corner of your screen so you don’t see it. 
      • This helped me adjust to the knowledge firehose in the first couple weeks.
  • Put your article link at the top of your circle post, easy to click. The friction of having to click a ‘see more’ button and find a link makes people less likely to read.