Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

How Minimalism Made Me a Writer

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Joshua Becker. Joshua is writer and speaker who decided with his family to become minimalists after cleaning their garage one weekend. You can find Joshua on his blog and Twitter.

One year ago, while driving my white Honda Accord across Phoenix Highway 101, the phone rang. I was surprised to see Jeff Goins’ name on the Caller ID. After exchanging a few pleasantries, Jeff asked an unexpected question.

How Minimalism Made Me a Writer

“Joshua, I’d like you to speak at my first Tribe Conference in Nashville. Can you be there this Fall?”

I immediately experienced two emotions. First of all, I felt incredibly honored. I respect Jeff and the work that he does—it was an honor to even be asked.

However, my second emotion gave me a slight pause before agreeing. I felt entirely inadequate. I believe my exact response to Jeff’s question was, “Jeff, you do know I credit my writing career to nothing but crazy luck? I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”

His response sent me on a journey I had never embarked on before. He said, “Joshua, that’s not true! You are not a writer because of luck. You are a writer because the steps you took brought you here. That’s the story I want you to share!”

He was, of course, correct. I am not a writer because of luck (or at least, not entirely because of luck). I am a writer because of some very specific steps I took along the way. And I began to retrace them.

I’d like to share the path with you about how minimalism made me a writer. Wherever you are on your personal journey into writing, I hope you will find inspiration and motivation.

1. Find an unquenchable passion to communicate an important truth

Eight years ago, my wife and I made a bold decision. After spending an entire Saturday morning cleaning out the garage while my 5-year old son played alone in the backyard, we decided enough was enough (literally) and began removing all the physical things from our home that weren’t used or loved. Nine months after discovering minimalism, we had sold or donated almost 60% of our material possessions.

Our lives were improved overnight. From that day forward, I became passionate about the promotion of minimalism. I wanted desperately to share this truth with as many people as possible. Even today, eight years later, the motivation to spread this message burns inside me. My new book, The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own, is a direct result of this unquenchable passion.

2. Remove the distractions from your life

Subtracting unneeded possessions from our surroundings multiplied our opportunity to pursue things we care about. When we own less, we experience life with more money, more time, more freedom, less stress and less distraction. The result is exponential growth in personal satisfaction as we find the time and the capacity to pursue our greatest passions.

For me, writing and spreading the message of minimalism became my passion. With my home and schedule less cluttered, I found the time and space to work on my craft because I had taken the time to remove many of the distractions around me.

3. Embrace the community of other simple-living writers

The world we live in is not friendly to the pursuit of minimalism. Its tendencies and relentless advertising campaigns call us to acquire more, better, faster, and newer. The journey of finding and embracing simplicity requires consistent inspiration.

Fortunately, the movement fosters a beautiful community of fellow writers and artists. There is a genuine understanding that any promotion of simplicity is good for society—and there is little concern over who gets the credit.

It is a pleasure to be part of such a wonderful group of people. And from the very beginning, rather than taking a competitive bent against other writers in my niche, I sought opportunities to connect with them and promote their writing.

As a result, they were quick to promote mine.

4. Seek to write only words that helped others

My blog, Becoming Minimalist, started out very different from what it is today. At first, it was little more than a personal diary. I wrote about decluttering projects and things I was learning. There were some visitors, but not very many.

One evening, roughly 20 months into my blogging hobby, I received an email from a reader seeking advice. She wrote, “How do I get my partner onboard with minimalism? Can you tell me how you and your wife navigate disagreement?”

The very next morning, I published a post that changed everything for me. It was titled When You’re a Minimalist But Your Partner Isn’t. It was the first time I wrote thinking about someone other than myself.

The response was overwhelming. And my writing changed. No longer was my blog a space for me to journal haphazardly. It would become a place to help and inspire others. Becoming Minimalist moved from self-centered, to others-centered. To this day, I seek to write only helpful material that benefits the reader.

5. Take strategic steps ‘just’ beyond your current skill set

Several years into blogging, I decided I wanted to self-publish a book. There was only one problem: I had absolutely no idea how to self-publish a book.

But I knew it was the next step I wanted to take. I spent countless late nights at my computer reading everything I could about self-publishing books. I emailed friends. I retraced the steps of others who had done the same. And eventually, after hours and hours of investment, I created my first self-published book.

As I look back at my journey, I can point to several times when the next step forward was beyond anything I had ever done before. The step would require significant investment of time and energy.

In almost every way, my new book is a result of taking another step ‘just’ beyond me. This is a project that has taken over 18 months to complete—easily the most time I’ve ever invested into a writing project. I was pushed and challenged along the way by a team of people: agents, editors, marketers, and publishing executives. It was hard work; but together, we accomplished more than I could have ever accomplished on my own.

There is more than one right path to the destinations we seek. But for me, becoming a full-time writer required the five specific steps above.

As you consider the path you are on to becoming a writer, how might you define the next step forward in your journey? Share in the comments

About Joshua Becker

Joshua Becker and his family live in Peoria, AZ. After a conversation with a neighbor on Memorial Day 2008, they decided to become minimalist and intentionally live with fewer possessions and cleared the clutter from their home and lives. As a result, they found a better way to live centered on more important pursuits.

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  • Great post.
    We’re going through a bit of clearing-out ourselves at the home. I’ve noticed that the approach to minimalism is almost always initiated by one thing, and in turn initiates other good things ten-fold. Like a “conduit of minimalism.”

    • Joshua Becker

      “A gateway to intentionality.” That’s how I like to say it.

  • Rachel Clair

    This was great! Thanks for sharing your steps with us. It made things feel more attainable to consider what my very next step is rather than trying to define the 10 year goal (I can never do that!) I think for me, the next step that has been lingering in the back of my mind is to write my life story from the last 10 years. So much has happened, and I’ve been dramatically changed by it all, but have never taken the time to step back and look at what the overall story might have to tell me or other people about pursuing God and pursuing your creative passions. I also have a children’s book that my husband and I wrote last year that’s just been sitting in my google drive. I think it’s time to explore publishing and finding an illustrator….I just don’t know where to start!

    Thanks again for writing this post!

    • Joshua Becker

      Sometimes your next best step is just beyond you. But no doubt, just like a grocery store door, as you begin to make a movement toward it, it’ll open for you and you will find all that you need.

  • Joshua, love this. You reminded me of something I really need to focus on at my blog. I need to simply write posts answering questions that people have asked. I have over a year’s worth of questions to answer, too. Thank you for being the real deal brotha.

    • Joshua Becker

      My pleasure. A year’s worth of content already planned? I’m jealous.

  • Sandy Kreps

    Great post Joshua — thanks so much! Love our community of simple living bloggers — they’re the best!

    • Joshua Becker

      Very true. Thanks for being a part of it.

  • N K

    Wow Joshua, this is amazing! You took one step to improve your life, and it ultimately led you to become a writer. It’s kind of similar with me, I went vegan several months ago. Then I started sharing tips and recipes on FB which led to my friends asking me to write a blog. One step leads to another, and that’s how we become writers 🙂
    Thanks for sharing !

    • Joshua Becker

      Thank you also for sharing your talents and gifts with others.

  • I thoroughly enjoyed this post Joshua (and Jeff), and am happy that I’ve discovered Becoming Minimalist. My wife and I have been going down the path of owning only what we love for about a year now and are glad that we have.

    • Joshua Becker

      Well then, I am happy you found Becoming Minimalist as well.

  • jenjenyoust

    What if you realize your “unquenchable passion” is mundane (i.e. being a great mom and raising and homeschooling your kids). Is that enough? Often when I read blogs about personal development, I feel like success has a very narrow definition — that if you don’t “help hundreds or thousands of others” or “contribute something to the greater good” then you are somehow a failure. No one talks about the quiet sacrifice of people who choose to keep their “success” within the family unit and put all their effort towards creating the most inspiring and supportive environment for the ones they love the most. I have struggled with this very thing for a long time, thinking I had to somehow be something MORE. Always more. More successful. More interesting. More of a contributing member of society. What inspires me? My family. My kids. My nest. The people I love. Because in the end, no matter how many books I may or may not have written, the ones that will cry and be affected when I go are the ones I gave my all to…my family. I find striving for more success an empty goal because I have reached goals and then thought “wow, that’s it? What’s next?” It’s a vicious cycle, and I feel happy having stepped off the success train. I am just posting this because I would like others to know that following an unquenchable passion can be something small and mundane and simple — it does not have to lead to society’s idea of success (i.e. money, fame and the high from helping a large group of people). That is my idea of simple.

    • That’s something that I always think about. The people, like yourself, who decide that ‘living their best life’ (as many put it online) is being a parent and caretaker. I find that really wonderful and find it slightly irritating when I see articles of personal development written in such a way. It’s not true. You can find complete and utter happiness doing all sorts of things. If that’s what calls to you then that’s great 🙂 I’m glad you shared this. It’s important to see the all sides of spectrum of what personal success means to one.

  • Nicholas Lucchetto

    Minimalism is also what partially inspired me to start writing online! It’s pretty obvious to see in my own writing blog (essayer.net). Loved the post!

  • Absolutely LOVE Josh’s thoughts here! I think it’s crazy because many of us are minimalists at heart/soul without always acknowledging this in our mind. His thoughts here are worth so much! Thank you, Josh Becker, for writing such an insightful post and writing in a way as to communicate actionable steps!

  • I love all of these 🙂 Great article! I’ve recently become intrigued with the idea of minimalism based on some conversations online. I can see where aspects of the idea have been part of my life and way of thinking for some time now. This article caught my eye as a writer and aspiring author to be. 🙂

  • Donna Cole

    I just recently began the journey toward minimalism, realizing that all this STUFF was cluttering my home and my mind! I’ve been retired for about 3 years now, married to a pack rat (well, me too!)… I am trying to slowly but surely pick through the accumulated collections of books, computer parts and software, clothes, etc that seem to grow exponentially even as I toss/donate. I want to write and have a blog and website that I hope to grow into a Bible study website … I have gotten more consistent and believe this IS my passion in these “fall of my life” years. Well, that and family! In recent days after a nice trip away, I realized that this blessed mess keeps me from being more disciplined and consistent in my writing. Thanks for this post at just the right time! I am inspired to work harder to get rid of all that distracts me so I can follow my passion!

  • Anne R. Wicks

    I love this article. I have been thinking so much about writing about Highly Sensitive People. The thought makes me cringe or brings up a lot of stuff for me. Is it suppose to be easy or did you have any reactions to writing about minimalism, that would help me move past this?

  • Jay Warner

    A thoughtful and inspiring post, it’s helping me in my journey to pursue writing full time. I have been down sizing my possessions too, not so much because I am a minimalist, but because I am the child of a hoarder and I’ve seen how hoarding and accumulating possessions can wreck lives. The way for me to fight the urge to clutter is to have the mindset of a minimalist. Not there yet, as in most things, but getting there.