Writing online doesn’t require geniuses.
It’s a game any person can master. Like all games, it comes down to the habits that drive your daily action. If you want your writing to break through, it matters what you do on repetition and for how long.
One month of these habits is good. Twelve months of these habits can make you extraordinary.
Habit #1 — Stop living in a bubble
The top 1% of writers all know each other.
That’s no coincidence. The best writing is a collaboration. You learn tips and tricks about what to do from those on the way to the top with you.
If you’re not in a private writing community, you’re missing out.
Network with other writers. Get on Zoom calls. Share their articles without asking for anything back.
Writers need distribution and we think it comes from algorithms. But the most overlooked distribution is other writers.
Habit #2 — Post gut-punching tweets daily
I don’t care whether you like Elon.
It has nothing to do with it. These silly little social justice movements that rely on activism go nowhere.
Tweets are a must for a writer because they’re quick to create and act as a surface-level funnel into the rest of your content library. The point of tweets is to post powerful ideas.
It’s to take the best one-liners from everything you write and let them shine as tweets. Let those tweets lead to more tweets, and eventually, your newsletter.
Bonus tip: reshare your tweets as $ubstack Notes, if you write there.
Habit #3 — Leave comments daily
This one might look out of place. It’s not.
The secret habit of some of the most popular online writers is they leave comments on posts from big accounts. Even US presidents.
But they don’t just leave some silly comment like “nice job.” No.
Their comments are like mini-posts. One of the best comments to leave on someone’s work is a listicle. Let’s say I write a post that says “the best books to read in 2023.”
You can leave a comment that says “the most underrated books of the last 10 years” and list them with bullet points. This strategy is a fast way to skyrocket your online growth.
Just don’t overdo it. And do it on lots of different creator’s posts.
Habit #4 — Send this stupid annoying thing weekly
Newsletters are a pain in the ass.
Who wants another newsletter in their email inbox? Not me. But newsletters are the most important format for online writers.
The key is to call your newsletter something other than a boring newsletter.
If you can come up with a clever name and avoid the temptation to spam it with self-promotion and affiliate links, you’ll grow faster than most of the competition. But most can’t resist.
They just have to make money with every email they send. So they stay a starving artist. Harsh but true.
Send a weekly newsletter for at least a year to join the top 1%.
Habit #5 — Learn how to use dystopian AI
Is AI the next Skynet?
I don’t know. I’m a bum from Australia who buys crypto and lives in a shack with a giant mortgage and two in-laws who need to shower more.
ChatGPT and AutoGPT are massively overhyped.
I don’t think AI will do the writing for us. Not for a long time anyway. AI sounds like Wikipedia but worse. And its ability to get facts right is a long way off. But don’t dismiss AI.
AI is a free research assistant. It can help you find stories.
The top 1% of writers tell more stories than the rest. In the old days, you had to collect stories in scrapbooks and remember which story to use when.
Now you just ask ChatGPT for a list of stories based on your topic and choose one. If you’re not leveraging AI you’ll fall behind.
Habit #6 — Sell digital assets
Non-fiction writing is also known as education.
People pay for education. They want to learn from those who can teach them about life and help them acquire new skills.
So if you’re educating people through writing and it’s working, you can 100% start offering digital assets that are a paid upgrade — books, webinars, courses, communities, etc.
The point of paid digital assets is more work has gone into them. Typically there’s 10x more curation so it saves the people who buy your assets time. And there’s nothing wrong with making money from that.
It sure pays more than waiting for Youtube’s algorithm to choose you and collecting checks from bank ads that ruin people’s lives.
Habit #7 — Always write cheeky outlines
Writer Nicolas Cole said “If you don’t know the bullet points of what you’re writing, you don’t have clarity in what you’re saying.”
Boy the kid is smart (and he raps). Get good at writing outlines days before you sit down to write.
All you do is come up with a title and then add 5–8 dot points below it. You can even add a one-sentence intro or conclusion, too. I used to find sitting down on a pre-scheduled writing day felt like torture.
I had no idea what to write.
So I’d stare at a blank screen or drown myself in Youtube videos and call it “research.” Don’t do it. Writing days are 10x easier with pre-written outlines.
You’re not tied to an outline either. You can always change it. But when you have an outline it gets your brain fired up and makes it easier to start writing about a topic. Smart.
The best place to write outlines is in Apple Notes.
Habit #8 — Put notes in a personal database
“I have nothing to write about.”
“What I have to say isn’t interesting.”
These are the comments of a writer who doesn’t have a personal database — a fancy way of describing a notes app that links together different ideas without you having to do anything.
I use Roam Research for notes. I just bought Notion to experiment with too.
When I need a quote or a new idea that doesn’t come from my brain, I let my previous notes do the heavy lifting. My favorite part of my notes app is the stories section.
- It’s where I capture other people’s stories.
- I also write down personal stories — anything from what my daughter is doing, run-ins with real estate agents, coffee chats I have, etc.
Some of my most viral articles are secretly thanks to a well-kept content library that makes me look like a genius with 10/10 memory. The truth is I have a goldfish brain 🙂
Leverage a personal database like Roam or Notion.
Habit #9 — Practice self-education
Today I bought my 6th course on how to write tweets.
My wife thinks I’m nuts. How many courses on a single social media platform does one person need? Depends. The top 1% of writers aim for mastery. They self-educate after hours and learn about the platforms.
The goal isn’t to do one course and learn everything. It’s to do regular courses and get 1–2 new ideas that are game changers.
Master 1–2 social media platforms … or don’t bother writing online.
Habit #10 — Write 10 headlines a day until your brain explodes
Headlines are the #1 way to get people to read your stuff.
Mess up the headline and there’s 0% chance of a writing career. “On life” ain’t gonna get you any readers, sorry to say.
Headlines aren’t something we’re naturally good at.
Just like my 5 month old daughter isn’t naturally good at crawling (dad has to watch her fall over and cry many times). The antidote is to practice.
- Take a headline you like and rewrite it ten different ways
- Come up with ten different headlines from scratch
- Write a short headline then practice adding detail (Example: “How to live a good life” becomes “The path to the good life is found between 5–9 pm.”
Headlines are hard and will make your brain want to explode. After a while though, you’ll get better and more readers will be convinced to take a chance on your writing.
Headlines have to sell your story. If you fail to sell in the headlines, there’s no chance to tell the story. And that sucks.