In October 2017, I started a blog, set up a newsletter, and started writing and publishing one article a week. In early 2019, I upped this to two articles per week. For the last few months, Ive been averaging closer to three articles per week.
I havent missed publishing a new article in 111 weeks.Without exaggeration, writing has completely changed my life. Ive built incredible friendships, made some serious cash, amassed a pretty big and very engaged audience, and I think become a much better writer along the way.
What follows are some notes to myself on what has worked for me writing online. And perhaps theyll be useful to anyone else trying to get started writing whether youre a content marketer trying to grow a blog for a client, an aspiring indie author looking for a book deal, or just some guy or gal with a few ideas in your head that are too big and too important not to put into writing.Consistency Builds TrustConsistency is one of those things that your audience wont talk about or even notice explicitly but still matters a lot.
The internet is full of people trying to get rich quick, starting and not maintaining projects, and generally not having their shit together. You can really stand out by doing the oppositeby being that person who shows up rain, sleet, or snow, week after week, summertime, Christmas break, whatever.Your audience will trust and admire you for that.
And in return, youll start to build not just an audience or a following but what Kevin Kelly calls True Fansreal people who are truly invested in you and your work. In other words, youll begin to build a community.Trust Builds CommunityWhen you and your ideas consistently show up in your readers lives, you become an important part of their lives.
They learn to anticipate your writing, they look forward to it, and eventually, they tell their friends about it. This creates a community of readers, the benefits of which are staggering:Community leads to word-of-mouth marketing, which is by far the best kind of marketing.Community leads to easy sales.
Easy sales are easy when people already love you and your work and you dont have to do any convincing. Community leads to engagement. Its a lot more fun to announce a live Q&A session and have 100 people RSVP instead of two.
Community leads to connection. As a result of building a community of readers, Ive been offered jobs, gotten consulting gigs, made friends, and been approached by literary agents and publishers.Consistency leads to trust.
Trust leads to community. And community leads to everything good!Writing Gets a Lot Easier With an Idea Generation SystemWhen you write consistently, week after week, month after month, the process does get easier.
But writing gets dramatically easier when you have a reliable system for generating new, high-quality ideas to write about.On the other hand, when writing is hard, its often a sign that youre writing about the wrong thing, or at least your angle on the idea is poorly formed. Having a good idea generation system fixes that problem.
When you always have a steady stream of high-quality ideas, articles almost write themselves.In my opinion, the best idea generation system is to simply read a lot and widely, and then capture your ideas immediately in a notebook or file. I use Ulysses for all my writing ideas, organization, and drafting.
Speaking of softwareUse the Tools and Platforms You EnjoyStop dicking around with every shiny new writing app and trendy social platform. Pick the handful of tools and platforms that work well for your goals and that you actually enjoy using. This is the only sustainable path in the long-term.
The Riches Arent Always in the NichesIts common advice to new writers starting out online to pick a small niche subject and start building your audience and authority there. And while there are good reasons for that strategy, it doesnt mean you cant be successful writing about a wide range of topics.An alternative is to write about whatever interests you regardless of the content.
Then, over time, start to define a theme or style that connects your writing across a broad range of topics. I write about topics as diverse as insomnia and productivity to anxiety and habit formation. After writing enough, I realized that the theme that connected most of my writing (and what people started associating with me) is the habits that lead to emotional health.
This wide content strategy also has the hugely important benefit of sustainable motivation. When you write about what interests you no matter how diverse your motivation to keep writing will be far higher, which means your odds of staying consistent go way up.I Enjoy Writing More When I Write for My Readers, Not MyselfI used to write the type of articles I like to read: long, in-depth tutorials for how to learn a new skill or understand a complex subject.
But after about of year of this, I finally got the message that that wasnt primarily what my audience wanted. Instead, I realized that more digestible and accessible pieces were far more helpful to people.So I switched things up.
I started writing shorter pieces. I started using creative formatting like short paragraphs, lots of bullet points, and plenty of subheadings. And I used tons of concrete examples rather than elaborate chains of reasoning.
The result: Not only did my engagement and audience growth explode, but to my surprise I found that I enjoyed writing a lot more.Writing Makes You a Writer, Not the Other Way AroundLike most people, Ive had my moments of imposter syndrome: Who am I to write articles giving advice? What credentials do I have?
Will anyone actually want to read my stuff?But heres the thing. Being a writer doesnt lead to writing not at first, anyway.
Instead, the causality goes the other way: You become a writer by writing.My pal Niklas Gke is my hero here. Hes an amazing writer whom I really admire, but the dude is just a machine, too.
He writes and writes and writes and then writes more. But hes always changing up his style, the things he writes about, and even where and when he writes. The point is, he doesnt do all that because hes a great writer; he has become a great writer because he does all that stuff.
So yes, that means for a while you absolutely have to fake it till you make it. Which, honestly, is what were all doing all the time anyway. No one actually knows what theyre doing.
Were all just trying our best, failing often, and hopefully, learning a thing or two each time and jumping back in the saddle.Join the club.Dont Be Afraid to Put a Little Cheese on the BroccoliI learned this one from my buddy Ayodeji Awosika.
If you have something worth saying, youre doing yourself a disservice by not packaging it in a way thats appealing and accessible to your readers. Youre also depriving your readers of quality content when, understandably, they choose not to click on your oh-so-subtle and clever article titled The Art of Art or some other self-indulgent nonsense.Just because you write clear, appealing headlines doesnt mean youre a clickbaity huckster.
Embrace Formulaic WritingFormulaic writing doesnt mean boring writing. It means embracing a handful of formats for your writing that work well and sticking to them. I learned this from my friend Michael Thompson.
Basketball players dont reinvent their free-throw shooting form every time they step up to the line. Violinists dont invent new fingering techniques each time they play a piece. So why are you, a writer, trying to invent new article structures every time you sit down to write?
Find a few formats that work for you and stick with them for a while. Not only will this make your writing more efficient, but it will also free you up to be more creative with your ideas and content. Literally Every Time I Get Nasty Feedback, I Watch the Same VideoEvery writer should have a ritual for handling negative, nasty comments, and feedback.
I watch this video and then get back to making cool shit, satisfied and proud of myself for being a creator, not a critic.Avoid Long-Winded Introductions at All CostsLong-winded, overly explainy introductions are just the worst. I was, and occasionally still am, guilty of this.
But Ive worked like hell to eradicate interminable introductions from my writing.One of my early writing mentors in this and many respects (although he didnt know it at the time) was Tom Kuegler. He has this amazing knack for just diving right into what he wants to talk about, which, as a reader, is a big part of why his writing is so compelling.
It literally makes reading his work fun and exciting.I suppose theres a place for long introductions, but when in doubt, just jump right in. Use the Seinfeld Strategy to Cure Procrastination and Writers BlockProcrastination is a complicated issue with lots of moving pieces.
But theres one technique Ive found immensely helpful in just about any situation: The Seinfeld Strategy.Its a simple tracking system that takes advantage of some clever psychological hacks to make sure you stick with any goal, including consistently writing and producing content. The Best Headlines Are AspirationalI think it was Steve Jobs who said: We dont sell people devices, we sell them a better version of themselves.
Its my experience that people dont primarily read for information or to learn something. They read to feel something. People want to feel inspired, excited, curious, joyful, whatever.
Figure out what your readers want to feel, and your writing will soar to a whole different level.Make Your Conclusions QuotableThere are different schools of thought about how to end an article, but heres the strategy I like best: When I write my conclusion, I ask myself, If someone were so excited and moved after reading my piece that they just had to share it, what would they say to convince someone else to read it?When in doubt, find the two or three most important ideas or insights from your article, condense them down into short, one-sentence zingers, and simply end your piece with those.
Choose Creation Over CorrectionOne of my superpowers as a writer is that Im an anti-perfectionist. Typos dont really bother me. If I cant phrase a sentence just right, I leave it as it is, hit publish, and move on excitedly to writing my next piece.
Because I write to make stuff.I write to bring ideas into the world in a way thats inspiring and helpful to people.I write because I love it.
Which means I choose creation over correction every time. RELATED QUESTION I didn't get Google Glass Explorer Edition. Is trying to learn Glass dev without the hardware a futile effort?
No, you can still learn the fundamentals of Glass development without the hardware. There are three main approaches for accomplishing this: 1) Visit the Mirror API documentation, get into the playground, and start hashing up some code. Download the PHP, Java, and Python library, whichever you're most comfortable with.
Familiarize yourself with the jargon and converntions (timeline, bundles, menus, etc). Read the support documentation (second link below) to see how the Glass hardware actually functions. Build some apps to this specification.
Soon enough, you will find a friend with hardware to t