Category : Writing


A Writer Is Only as Interesting as Their Life

Tim Denning News Break

Photo by Marcos Prado on Unsplash

There’s a lot of boring writing out there. I’m sure you’ve read it.

Dry, lifeless points thrown into a listicle and sealed with an overused, trending headline designed to make the writer go viral. What makes for boring writer is when the writer is boring.

Writer Isaiah McCall reminded me of a quote from the book “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up: The Complete Guide to Writing Creative Nonfiction.” The author explains “a writer is only as interesting as his life.”

Isaiah took the advice to heart. He interpreted what the author was saying to mean “have more experiences” to be a more interesting writer readers want to devour the words of over a bottle of red wine.

He joined the army for six months, became an ultramarathoner, began a career in standup comedy, and started writing for well-known publication, USA Today.

Those experiences are bound to make what he writes about more interesting. It explains a lot of his recent success as a blogger. He’s intentionally become more interesting. You have the same opportunity as a writer.

The missing component

What’s missing from a lot of writer’s work is a personal touch. They write a rushed intro that doesn’t grab the reader’s attention and then get straight into slapping the reader over the face with advice.

Context is crucial in writing. You’ve got to set the scene a little. Give some background. Explain your philosophy.

Add this sizzle to your intro

One of my favorite things to do in the intro is to define a key term. For example, if I write about being financially free then I define the term upfront.

Every term has a different meaning to the writer using it. The biggest argument I see in the comments sections of many blog posts is over terms. You can provide readers clarity when you define what you mean. If you say I can be retired by listening to what you have to say, what does that look like amigo?

Is the version of retirement you’re talking about involve Lambos? Are we talking private jets too? Or is it a small house in the woods that you can construct from materials you buy from Walmart? Does Ikea furniture cut it or are we talking primo leather couches with coasters to place your champers glass on?

Can I wear my undies while sitting on the couch or is this more of a Vanity Fair style retirement with photographers and the candy colors of the rainbow as background? Do I need to donate money to a good ol’ fashion Nelson Mandela endorsed cause or can I just gift a Ferrari to the nearest 21 year old in the street who is seeking a one night stand and qualify as worthy for this version of meaningful retirement?

Pro writing tip

You can create your own terms. People love it when you come up with a term. It helps people identify with what you’re saying.

A now-infamous Reddit User, Ryan, blew up online when he came up with the term “Zero Days.” He built a catchphrase off the term that went like this: No more Zero Days. It was unconventional motivation. It was a term he coined off his own personal experience.

A zero day is when you don’t do a single f*cking thing towards whatever dream or goal or want or whatever that you got going on. No more zeros….promise yourself, that the new SYSTEM you live in is a NON-ZERO system. Didn’t do anything all fucking day and it’s 11:58 PM? Write one sentence. One pushup. Read one page of that chapter. One. Because one is non zero.

You can create your own terms. Make them so simple, anybody can relate, and drop your newly created term into a tweet or a blog post of their own.

Experiment to become more interesting

I wasn’t born interesting. My career was crazy boring when it started in a call center. Maybe you can relate? The good news is you can use mini-experiments to become more interesting. Here are a few of mine you can steal:

  • Go to strange meetups with odd themes.
  • Read about weird topics — like the supernatural, higher states of consciousness, flow states, strange events in history.
  • Commit small acts of kindness. Notice how you feel.
  • Reach out to people you don’t know. Spend a bit of time researching them and then use what you’ve learned to see if you can have a 30-minute video chat with them.
  • Take several odd jobs in the space of a year.
  • Volunteer at a homeless shelter. See the brokenness.
  • Write down interesting conversations you witness.

If your writing isn’t being read. If you feel your writing is boring. If you find yourself staring at empty stats. The answer is to make yourself more interesting rather than get lost in chasing empty writing hacks — like headlines, virality, styles, or trends.

Do things that make you incredibly emotional

What makes writing boring is a lack of emotion.

Readers want to feel what you have to say, not only read your words. When we feel what you’re writing we can absorb it. You subconsciously ignore information that makes you feel nothing.

Emotion acts like a bookmark in your brain. You remember the emotion and then the writing attached to that emotion.

I remember reading a blog post with the cheesy title “How To Lose Weight In 4 Easy Steps” by Aaron Bleyaert. I have never been fat. (My look is more like a skinny version of the infamous green character Gumby.) I read Aaron’s post on weight loss and found myself sobbing like a child. It wasn’t a blog post about losing weight at all. It was a love story. It was the story of seeing the person you love move on, while you’re still stuck in the past loving them.

I was going through something similar when I read it. His words pierced my heart. As soon as I think of the headline for Aaron’s story I get emotional. That’s how powerful emotion is for memory recall.

You, too, can be Aaron. You can inject emotion into your writing. How? Simple. Ask yourself “how does this idea make me feel?” If you’re writing about playing tennis, then how does it make you feel?

If you’re writing about losing your job, then how did it make you feel on the day? If you’re writing about your friend that passed away from stage 4 cancer, then how did it make you feel to send them a message on Facebook, realize they were dead, and attend their Youtube funeral because of a pandemic?

Your writing isn’t intriguing unless people can feel what you’re saying. Too many writers prioritize quotes, facts, and throwing advice at readers. Instead, add the missing ingredient of emotion.

The beauty is in the tiny details

I am guilty of this one. My most boring pieces all go straight to big concepts that lack detail. You may skip over the tiny details to keep your writing concise. Don’t.

The tiny details help people relate to you and the humans you’re writing about. I tell people I’m Aussie for this reason. The Australian way of looking at things is laidback. “She’ll be right” is our country’s motto. It takes a lot to make us outraged. You can throw stones at our parliament building. It will take more than that to get our tanned buttocks off Bondi Beach, over to our phones, and logged on to Twitter to express disgust. Nature is just too good to take everything so seriously.

This tiny detail helps you understand where I’m coming from. You can do the same. You can reference your hobbies, what stage of life you’re in, your age, what you do for a living, odd quirks about yourself, or even the car you drive as a way to reference your beliefs about material metal objects.

Tell us the micro so we understand the macro.

Add energy before your writing session

Your writing reflects the level of energy you were in when you wrote the words. When you’re in a lifeless state your writing feels boring. A simple way to lift the energy of your writing is to change your state.

Do a workout before you write. Drink coffee to wake you up. Have a nap if you feel tired, then write. Watch a video on Youtube that makes you feel alive with energy. I often watch music videos of my favorite singers to energize me before sitting down to write. Why couldn’t you?

Everything in this world is either adding to your energy or taking it away. Add energy to make your writing more interesting.

You are more interesting than you think

I get writers tell me this all the time: “But sir, I’m not interesting enough.” Yes you are. You’re more interesting than you think. The trick is to document the interesting stuff you easily forget. When I drill into writers who give me this excuse they quickly see they are interesting.

Writer Tom Kuegler said readers buy your view of the world. I agree. How you see the world is beautiful. Describe it to us so we can enter your mind and witness another dimension. It’s easy for readers to feel trapped right now with all the crazy stuff going on in the world. Your writing has the ability to set readers free from what holds them back, and teleport into your world for a bit, thus giving them incredible value.

Share your world as an escape for readers.


Boring writing lacks emotion, context, the definition of terms, tiny details and energy. Add each of these components to make your writing interesting. Then, make your life a tiny bit more interesting by conducting mini-experiments. Become an Uber driver for a few hours. Or do what Isaiah did and try your hand at standup comedy.

The answer isn’t to make more money or to improve your writing stats or to dance around complaining about a writing platform. If your writing sucks (and you know it) then intentionally make your life interesting again.

Interesting writing is found at the intersection of YOU, your view of the world, and the experiments you conduct.

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Creativity Has One Tremendous Downside That Is Rarely Spoken About

Photo by Thomas Franke on Unsplash

I always believed creativity was a superpower.

I learned how to be creative by spending a lot of time in recording studios. Recently, creativity has become ugly. Emily Sinclair Montague said it best:

Creative brains are annoying as shit. I love ’em, of course, but they cannot, will not, RELAX. There is always something to analyze, unravel, spin into a narrative, or picture in painfully vivid detail at 4 am. Creative minds have no brakes.

This is how I feel as a writer.

A conversation becomes content.
A book you read becomes content.
A disappointment becomes content.
A romantic relationship becomes content.
A huge frustration becomes content.
A random email becomes content.
A movie you watch to relax becomes content.

Then your creativity muscle wants to riff on the idea you’ve discovered while you’re trying to do something else. Creative multi-tasking doesn’t work. When your creativity is switched on you can’t turn down the noise in your head.

All you can do is succumb to your creativity in the moment.

The problem is when your creativity takes over every moment. That’s the phase I’m in right now. I have to get off the creativity treadmill. You might suffer from the same phenomenon. Learning to put the brakes on your creativity is key.

It’s during your time away from being creative that your creative energy levels are restored. If all you do is let your creativity rage, like an out of control drunk, you’ll eventually crash.

Not everything you do in life has to have meaning. The things that have zero meaning can feel incredible when you know you need to relax.

The “do it for the hell of it” approach

What’s the solution to stop your creative brain for a while? I use the “do it for the hell of it approach.” I experiment with doing random stuff and promise myself not to creatively analyze it, looking for a content idea.

The do it for the hell of it approach is a rule. When you want to slam the brakes on your creative brain you choose an activity. The more meaningless the activity the better. I tried walking and it made things worse.

When you walk or have showers your creative brain seems to be amplified. It’s when all the ideas and experiences of your life seem to marinate best.

The do it for the hell of it approach works best when you do things you dislike. I dislike watching the tv show Friends. I hate trying on new clothes because nothing is made in big bird size for 6-foot giants who wear size 11 clown shoes. I don’t like cleaning windows because I always leave a streak mark.

But while doing each of these activities for the hell of it, I get a reprieve from the creative takeover operating my brain.

It’s as if frustration quietens my creativity for a bit. The frustration is calming. The challenge of the task I dislike takes over from the usual goal of doing the task and analyzing it for creative ideas.

Read your critics’ comments

Another way to shut down your creativity for a while is to read the feedback from your critics. If you’ve ever dared post anything online then you’ll have at least one critic. Congratulations. You made it in life.

If you read enough negative comments about yourself you’ll start to question your creative reality. You’ll think to yourself “Am I too much?” or “Is my creativity out of control?”

These are helpful pattern interrupts. They’ll almost certainly stop your creativity. Here’s the thing: every time your creativity is stopped by critics, it comes back even stronger.

You need to halt and question your creativity so you can come back better than before. Otherwise, you get stuck in an echo chamber of your own awesomeness — with random strangers telling you how brilliant your creativity is when, perhaps, it has become a rotten apple.

Let critics help you put the brakes on your creativity.

Slow down your creativity to speed up your progress

Writer, Sean Kernan, shared the quote “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” Growing up around navy seals taught him this mantra.

Your creativity is amplified when you vary the speed and spend time slowing down and completely putting the brakes on it. It has taken me seven years of publishing thousands of long-form articles online to understand that lesson.

Progress happens when you go slow or completely stop, so you can reflect.

Emily said our creative brains have no brakes. I can resonate with the feeling as an overly creative person, but there is a solution.

Use the do it for the hell of it approach, read your critics’ comments for a pattern interrupt, and remember to slow down your creativity to speed it up.

Creativity can be a burden unless you vary the speed.

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You Are Overpromoting Yourself as a Writer

Marketing a book.

Photo by Janne Rieck on Unsplash

As a writer it’s easy to become a billboard of broken dreams.

Overpromoting yourself makes you look desperate. Nobody wants to follow a desperate writer begging for attention. It’s not in our human nature, and we don’t even know why.

I see this mistake all the time. You’ve seen it too. There are writers who over-ask. It looks like this:

Follow me here.
Read more from me here.
Subscribe to my email list here.
Oh, and don’t forget to…

25% of the blog post becomes a call-to-action. It’s painful to read.

Why? When you ask a reader to do something, what you’re really doing is giving them an ad.

Every ask is an ad.

That’s why I’m extremely careful as a writer how many asks I request from a reader and you should be too.

What Is Misunderstood About Readers

Readers have a short attention span.

When I see a writer who over-asks I switch off. It’s exhausting to read and it’s easier to click away than stay for the ads. Even if the content is good, ads ruin your writing.

Why Writers Overpromote Themselves

It happens for a few reasons. I overpromoted myself as a writer in the beginning because I was desperate. I had unrealistic expectations about writing online. I thought you needed to have a big audience within a year. I followed writers like Ryan Holiday and thought to myself, “if I don’t achieve what Ryan has done in a year then I’m no good and should give up.”

As a result I jammed asks down my reader’s throats. I asked them to follow me on every social media platform. I begged them to take actions that were good for my writing career as opposed to good for them as readers.

My focus was on my writing progress, not the reader’s problems.

You’re taught as a writer that you have to market the heck out of your writing. It’s why writers paste links to their blog posts all over social media, not realizing social media platforms will never send traffic out of their apps and to their blog. It’s why my facebook feed is full of writers begging me to read their articles.

If a reader doesn’t find your work out of their own curiosity, they sure as hell won’t find your writing by you begging them to read it.

Asking people to read your work just doesn’t work.

It Gets Worse

The problem doesn’t end there. Writers spend so much of their energy trying to get people to read their work and then commit a cardinal sin. What’s the cardinal sin?

Writers send readers to platforms they don’t own.

It makes no sense. You spend all your effort asking people to follow you on social media platforms you don’t own. It creates a brick wall between you and readers who like your work.

You’ve got to stop thinking, as a writer, that followers matter. I posted a story a few days ago on LinkedIn to my 250,000 followers. The story was read by less than 200 people. Does that math not make you a little curious?

Divert readers to platforms you own. You own your mailing list. You can also own a group chat on apps like Telegram, WhatsApp, Slack etc.

Or if you really want to own your destiny you can get a developer off a freelancing platform like Upwork to build you a group chat app that is 100% yours. Personal finance expert, Alex Saunders of Nugget’s News, did this with his Collective Shift platform. Alex had a developer build this personal finance community of his followers after his bitcoin videos were being suppressed by media giant Youtube, along with other content creators.

Asking people to follow you on social media is a waste of your energy and marketing power.

There Are Too Many Platforms for Writers

You don’t know what platform readers prefer. So when you ask readers to follow you on News Break or Instagram you could be wasting your time. If a reader doesn’t use the News Break app then it’s like asking them to join a church when they’re an atheist. They’re probably not going to do it.

There are so many platforms for writers to use now that getting readers to find you on one isn’t worth your time. Let readers organically find you on a platform they already use.

Save your marketing power for activities that will actually boost your writing.

A Bigger Audience Isn’t the Answer

Another reason you overpromote yourself as a writer is because you’re trained to think bigger is better.

Having 100,000 followers doesn’t make you a better writer. You won’t earn more money from your content by having a bigger audience. The secret is to have a tiny, highly engaged audience, who are interested in the topics you write about. An audience like this can help you earn 6-figures as a writer.

A huge audience is an illusion. They come to see your work once and then often never return again. You get the pleasure of a vanity metric known as a follower, but you don’t get any value as a writer.

A highly engaged audience of less than a thousand readers can do wonders for your career. Look at writers like Zat Rana on Substack. While there is no exact way to check how many subscribers he has, I estimate it’s around a few thousand. Zat used to be on many social media platforms, where he racked up hundreds of thousands of followers. Now he writes for a few thousand readers a month. Zat discovered something interesting: focus.

A focused audience is more fulfilling for the writer, is more likely to purchase premium content and will comment, like, and share your work without you having to beg them — because they’re true fans, not fake fans.

Underpromote your work to reach a focused audience who will do the marketing for you.

I’ll Say This Until I’m Blue in the Face

You don’t own your followers. You can’t speak to them when you like. You don’t have their contact details. They can be taken away from you.

I got accidentally banned from LinkedIn four times. I had to learn the hard way that a social media platform is a privilege to be on, not a human right.

Implement These Things to 10X the Impact of Your Writing

We’ve talked about the problem of overpromotion. Let’s get to the rock solid solutions you can use to level up and escape the neverending treadmill that can easily become the writing rat race.

1. Use this simple rule

One ask per piece of content.

Have the discipline to limit yourself to one ask and you’ll respect your audience more, who will appreciate it. At the most I place one link to join my email list at the end of some blog posts. You can do the same if you choose.

2. Use the superpower of underpromotion

Dare to publish a piece of content with zero asks.

It will hurt. It may feel wrong. It breaks all the marketing rules. And it works, big time. What if you didn’t feel compelled to promote yourself all the time and just got on with the writing, which does most of the work for you?

3. Put your asks in the comments section

Asks are ads. You can remove ads from your blog posts by placing the asks in the comments section. I see this on LinkedIn all the time. It works. Readers read the comments section.

You can keep your content looking stunningly beautiful, and make the comments section ugly. If you don’t ruin the comments section of your work a troll will — beat them to it.

4. Use micro snippets of your content

Placing links to your blog posts on social media is dumb. Micro snippets of your writing placed as native content on social media works. Let me break this down for you so we can skip past the fancy marketing lingo.

  • Take a popular sentence or paragraph from your work.
  • Copy and paste this micro piece of content to twitter, as an example.
  • Make sure the link in your twitter bio leads to more of your work.

These micro snippets of your writing are incredibly effective. They give readers a sample of what they can expect from you. Then, if the reader likes your micro snippet of writing they will click the link to your blog, which you must place in your social media bio.

Better marketing is keeping the reader on the platform they found you, rather than taking the reader away to a place they didn’t ask to be led.

5. Offer value instead of asks

The best marketing as a writer is to offer value. Instead of begging readers to read your work, give them something that can help them. Value just means lessons, helpful links, checklists, eBooks, strategies they can try, people to follow, books to read, movies to watch, experiences from your own life, etc.

Readers are starving for value and drowning in a pile of shitty asks.

When you provide value readers will bend over backwards to find more of your writing.

Readers are smart. They can google you if you’re worth their time.

The Best Strategy I Know of to Promote Your Work

All the time you spend promoting your writing is mostly a waste. The ROI is terrible. Funnel your time into writing better, and publishing content. Write in one place consistently that has an audience (not your wordpress blog nobody can find unless you’re an SEO nerd like Neil Patel).

Your writing is what readers are dying for, not your punch in the face asks sprayed all the way through your writing.

Let your writing do the marketing for you.

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From $0 to $100,000: The Business Side of Writing Is the Hardest to Learn and the Easiest to Implement

Tim Denning $100,000

Photo by Martin Katler on Unsplash

Treating writing like a business is crucial. It’s not about the money.

When writing is a business, you market it.
When writing is a business, you invest in it.
When writing is a business, you learn about the business.
When writing is a business, you market the business.

That last point is key. The old days of just writing, hitting publish, and letting the book publisher gatekeepers take care of everything for you are over.

If you write, you have to market your work.

But marketing is a messed up word. It causes people to shove selfie poles in front of their faces and fall head over heel in love with themselves. We don’t want that. You’re a writer, not an insecure influencer searching for a Lambo in the Hollywood Hills.

A friend of mine calls what I’m referring to here as the “business side of writing.” I’ve made a business out of my writing and gone from $0 to more than $100,000. I believe you can do the same with a shift in thinking.

As writers, most of us suck at the business side of writing.

I don’t market my blog posts as much as I should. I publish and prey like many other writers. The world is shifting though.

You can’t rely on social media platforms anymore to get your work out to the readers who want it.

Their algorithms are complicated and they simply can’t please everyone.

Most writing platforms don’t age well. The ability for a writer to reach readers on a social media platform diminishes over time.

I remember when it happened on Facebook. Entire online businesses were wiped out. I was standing backstage at a startup event when it went down. There were literally grown men and women crying into their startup t-shirts.

I felt their pain. They’d spent so much time on Facebook only to have them shift their attention to ads, and away from their users. Now Facebook is a rotting carcass. Even my grandma doesn’t use it anymore. All that’s left is local clowns and cinemas looking for customers, who buy ads in the hope their dreams can be repaired because of a global health crisis.

When you treat the tools you use — like the places you write — the way a business does, your thinking changes.

I think of writing platforms like LinkedIn as a partnership. I’m lucky to have them and they are free. They may change over time, but as long as I can reach a few people then it’s a pretty good deal.

All writers are renting the social media platforms they use.

You can’t control them but you can certainly appreciate them. In the end, most platforms have a business to run just like you. Can you blame them for trying to please the majority of users while attempting to pay their building rent and staff with the attention their content gets? I certainly don’t.

Lesson: Treat writing like a business and de-risk your work by publishing in a few places.

Can you write for free?

This is a huge test for writers. See, what is missed by the glossy blog posts promoting billionaires who went from their carport to a luxury mansion overlooking a lake full of white swans is that these business people started working for free.

When you choose to start a business, you work for free for a long time.

Normally that free work happens outside of your paying job until you validate your business enough that you can cut the bungee cord and make the business your everyday thing.

The problem with modern-day writers is they’re entitled. They expect to get paid on day one. This is flawed thinking.

Most writers you respect started doing it for free. Many of them (like me) didn’t even know you could make money writing. The test of any business owner and writer is whether they can do it for free in the beginning. And I don’t mean for one month; I’m talking about years.

If you can write for free then you’ll build up the skill to make it into a business — but not before.

Lesson: Time in the online writing game equals more financial upside.

These are the parts of a writing business.

Let’s get into the detail. Business means making money from your work. The ways writers make money are as follows:

  • eBooks
  • Premium subscriptions through their personal blog for paid content
  • Traditionally published books
  • Paid newsletters using Substack or ConvertKit
  • Royalties from writing platforms like News Break
  • Selling online courses
  • Companies who pay to advertise on their website or newsletter
  • 1–1 coaching on an area of expertise
  • Ghostwriting for people who want to be thought leaders but don’t have time to write.
  • Copywriting — writing words designed specifically to make a sale of a product or service.
  • Freelancing — writing words for anybody who wants them, and getting paid either a per word or per article fee.

So the business side of writing is just understanding the different ways you can make money as a writer and then mastering them. Obviously you pick more than one way. And obviously you don’t pick every single way to make money and end up mastering none of them.

The trick with thinking of writing as a business is that readers are potential customers. I say potential because not every reader has to become a customer in order for writing to become a business for you. My rough formula is this:

90% of readers access my work for free.
10% of readers access my work via a paid channel.

When you think about writing in these terms, you treat readers with empathy. Instead of jamming stuff in their faces, you think about how you can solve their problems and instruct them through your words.

100 readers can make you 6-figures.

I wish all writers knew this so they would go narrow rather than broad with their writing.

Why do most writers never master the business of writing?

They get greedy or impatient.

They think writing is all about them and how quickly they can make a bucketload of money and pour it over their families.

Greed is a distraction.

Greed and creativity are poisonous mix. If you have to write for money then you will probably do the wrong thing. This is why I suggest to start writing because you like it, rather than it being a forced survival technique.

Here’s my deepest secret: I’m scared to make 100% of my living from writing because I’m scared I’ll mess up the magic of it all, and destroy the good luck I’ve had. Writing because I have to scares the shit out of me.

Many writers face this challenge. The answer in business is always diversification.

Find multiple ways to make money. Then invest the money you make wisely so it works for you. Then reduce your spending, lower your desire to buy stuff you know you don’t need, and you’ll have enough money to work when you choose, without stressing about the size of the paycheck.

Lesson: Think about writing in 5-year blocks. Build your writing business slowly. Make money from more than just writing.

Setting up the business side of writing is the easiest part.

The setup of a writing business is easy.

  • Choose one place to write for free.
  • Collect your readers through an email list or online community.
  • Speak to your public and private readers through regular, helpful content.
  • Find a second writing platform that pays writers and sign up.
  • Write a short eBook and sell it on your website.
  • Experiment with a paid newsletter to service your superfans.

Each of those steps is obvious and easy to do. If you’ve already set up a profile on social media then you’re already a master at setting up a writing business.

The part where writers stuff up

They set up all those tools and then nothing happens. That’s because the tools have several levels of learning.

Level 1 = you can use the tool.
Level 2 = you can find the hidden features of the tool.
Level 3 = you can use the tool in ways it hasn’t been used before.
Level 4 = you can stand out a little in the way you use the tool.
Mastery = you can help others use the tool and have them be successful.

A lot of writers stay at level one and try and turn writing into a business from there. It doesn’t work. Learning the writing tools means mastering them, so the value of your writing skills can help you earn a living.

The other problem: mastery doesn’t happen overnight.

If you use a writing tool like an email list for long enough then you’ll start to see patterns.

Patterns are where mastery is found.

After a while a complex tool can feel stupidly simple. Then you add another tool like a paid newsletter to level up your writing further.

The 2 skills you must have.

Business owners are investors — so are writers.

You have to be smart with the money you make from writing. There will be big months and periods where politics takes the attention off your writing. You’ve got to be prepared for both and invest your money.

The second skill you must have is collaboration. I haven’t seen any writing businesses worth replicating that are based on a single human. A single human writing business will become overwhelmed, eventually.

I spend a lot of my time with a group of writers who understand the business side of writing. They help me with my business and I help them with theirs. The revolutionary idea I came across recently was to pool resources.

If you have 1000 email subscribers, and you had ten other people with similar sized lists, then that’s a lot of email subscribers. You can reach a much larger audience when you collaborate.

Publications, editors, the writing platform you write on — they’re all partners, so treat them that way.

A user says “what can I take?”
A partner says “what are you working on and how can I help?”

Successful writers don’t follow the blind.

Many writers looking to turn their passion into a business are following the blind. Then the blind writers follow more blind writers who have no idea.

The result? The blind lead everybody towards blaming, complaining and extreme frustration.

The mental toll of writing is hard enough. You don’t need blind writers who have never made a dollar from writing telling you the sky is falling in and spreading conspiracies. I follow writers who have made their work into a business. They keep me calm and show me ways I can de-risk my business.

A giant shift in thinking is needed.

The business of writing is built on a solid foundation of high-quality content. You can’t build a writing business on terrible content.

Write quality content readers find helpful and you’ll have thousands of ways to repurpose that same content into online courses, books, and premium subscriptions readers will pay money for.

The business of writing is simply being helpful to a small audience who want you around to inspire, tell stories and teach them in return for a small amount of money they will gladly pay you.

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You Can Easily Avoid Being Just Another Boring Writer

Medium Make Money

Photo by Woody Kelly on Unsplash

This is going to sound harsh. Most blog posts I read are boring. The writers are good, but the content is presented in a boring way.

I am no writing god, although I have learned a thing or two over the last six years from writers who are much smarter than me. When I reached a point where my writing wasn’t going anywhere, a friend, Joel Brown, told me I needed to jazz things up a little.

It’s easy to fall in love with your boring writing. It’s easy to be a boring writer and not even realize it. What you have to share is amazing. Let’s elevate your writing and make it interesting.

Drop Verbal Bombs with Subheadings

Writer, Ayodeji Awosika, reminded me of Gary Korisko’s advice on subheadings. I had completely forgotten it.

A subheading is another headline. Your subheadings matter. This is what typical self-help article subheadings look like:

Go for a walk
Listen to podcasts
Read a book
Say I love you
Get passive income
Cliche quote
Final thought

Who’s pumped to read those subheadings? They sound obvious. Readers are skimmers. Boring subheadings just force readers to skim and then click away. It’s the reason a lot of writers have very low read times. Beef up your subheadings. Here’s a few radical examples from Gary’s lessons:

  • “Tell your mother to go to hell.”
  • “The conversation that saved my life.”
  • “What is my business for? What is my life for?”

Boom! These subheadings take your writing from boring to interesting. And readers can’t stop sharing interesting writing on social media and sending it to their friends.

Don’t give away the farm with a subheading

Gary Korisko teaches writers not to be so obvious with subheadings. Build suspense. Hint at what you might be about to say, without saying it.

Leave the juicy bits for the body of your writing. This forces readers to actually read what you wrote — and when they do, they are more likely to fall in love with your story and be curious enough to read the whole thing.

Writer, Shannon Ashley, does this with elegance. She gives you all the best parts of the story in the body of the text, not the subheading. You can’t skim her stories or you’ll miss everything and find yourself all the way back at the start again, reading every word in awe.

Cryptic subheadings give readers a migraine

You can go in the opposite direction too. Writers do this a lot with headlines. They don’t tell you what you’re about to read or why you should — the ultimate purpose of the headline.

Instead, they use cryptic titles trying to sound clever. Smart writers don’t perform well online. Resourceful writers who are willing to learn do (and who can avoid blaming, complaining, and throwing poisonous arrows at social media platforms).

Simple always beats cryptic. Say what you think without being fancy.

This headline example I saw today illustrates the point perfectly: “The start of a conversation…” You’d have to be psychic to know what an earth that article is about. You’d have to be channeling your inner monk after a green tea and a dose of magic mushrooms.

A lot of bloggers use subheads merely as a label. Labels are used to identify, not to pique interest — Gary Korisko

Nobody gets all hot and fuzzy or full of emotion by reading a label. Turn your subheadings into tiny little masterpieces.

Give your subheadings as much attention as your headline. You can write your story with boring subheadings and then always go back later and give them a spit shine, so you can bring them to life and enhance your piece.

Divide an Audience

Tell people right at the start of your story what you’re about to do when your goal is to divide people.

Here’s a example: Unprofessional writers make more money than professional writers. There are writers who want to hunt me down with a buffalo knife for that headline. It’s a strong opinion, and strong opinions are anything but boring.

What’s boring is mediocre ideas that aim to please everybody and do nothing. What’s worse is trying to be every reader’s little friend. If you write, you will upset people. Guaranteed. Go from a boring writer to one who backs themselves and dares have an opinion.

Pro tip: if you really want to push your boundaries as a writer then dare to change your opinion. Because as Niklas Goke said: “All writers are liars.” We change our opinions because they evolve through experience. I once told people to wake up at 4 AM. Now I have changed my mind. Dare to admit you were wrong or you changed your mind, then you will be interesting.

Remove Apologetic Sentences

“Sorry if I offended…”
“I think…”
“I am not sure.”

You don’t need to be sorry for writing anything. Your life will be over quicker than you know it. There isn’t time to be sorry and stop yourself from stepping on internet landmines. Say what you think. Say what you know. Publish the best version for that moment in history. It’s too late to apologize. And there is no reason to apologize. Boring writers apologize.

Your job as a writer is to type the words as they come out — and try not to filter the words too much, thus destroying them.

“If you expect to succeed as a writer, rudeness should be the second-to-least of your concerns.

The least of all should be polite society and what it expects. If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”

– Stephen King

The Trend Isn’t Your Friend

Painfully boring writers follow the trend.

Here’s the thing: the trend isn’t the real you. By following trends you end up writing the same as everybody else.

Do you think readers want to go to places like Twitter and see links to hundreds of articles saying “What I learned from 14 days publishing content and earning 3 cents,” while they drink their money coffee? Now I helped create this trend. (I’m so sorry Hemmingway. I hope you can forgive me and still buy me a chai latte in the afterlife.)

Trend followers make for the most boring writers.

Don’t Be a Copy and Paster

There’s this dude that uses the same image I use on every article of his. His content is incredible. Yet this technique makes his work less appealing. It takes two seconds to find an image. Don’t be a lazy writer and copy and paste from the same person on every article. Add 1% of your own style.

Care for the reader

Boring writing does nothing for the reader. It’s content designed to make money or help boost a writer’s ego. It’s known in some weird alien circles as ‘influencer content.’

Readers go nuts for writing that is helpful. All a reader wants is for you to care about them. If you show care for the reader then your writing becomes much more appealing. Here’s how to show care:

  • Talk to the reader like a friend.
  • Use conversational language.
  • Throw yourself under a bus for their benefit and share a difficult story or truth from your own life.
  • Hold their hand and walk them through the jungle.
  • Identify problems and then give them solutions to consider.
  • Don’t tell a reader something. Show them.

Use Formatting to Create Visual Delight

Boring writing all looks the same. You can make your writing more interesting by going wild with formatting. The trick is to use one type of formatting occasionally in a piece. Otherwise it gets tiring.

Here are your formatting options: italics, capital letters, ellipses, one exclamation mark, a few quotes, underlines from links, subheadings, an image or graph, page breaks, etc.

My favorite type of formatting is to change between long and short paragraphs. You can really take the reader on a journey when you change paragraph lengths, and even sentence lengths a lot.

Dare to Add Your Personality

Most writers leave out their personalities.

They tell someone else’s story or they don’t use language from their everyday life. Writing without your personality is dead boring. Who wants to read facts, figures, quotes, and how-to’s all day? You can do a Roz Warren and show readers who you are. You can be funny, wild, playful, serious when you need to be, and interesting as much as you want. Don’t overdo it, obviously.

Readers are dying to see your personality because whether you understand it or not, you are interesting. Everybody’s life is interesting in some bizarre way. What you think is normal or uninteresting is actually cool and worth reading about.

Break Every Writing Rule with a Smile

I have a huge secret: I purposely spell things wrong and mess up popular catchphrases or quotes. It keeps the reader engaged. They have to read over sections to figure out whether I made a mistake, have no clue what I’m doing, or whether I’m joking. It stops your writing from becoming boring and keeps readers on their toes.

Grammar rules were invented to be broken by interesting writers.

The Biggest Thing Missing in Modern-Day Writing

One word: Emotion.

People want to feel what you’re saying to be interested in your story. Too many writers make you feel nothing. You read their story and leave feeling empty. You don’t break a sweat or shed a tear.

Here are two examples of writing with emotion that will leave you speechless:

  1. “Do not Fall in Love with a Smart, Introverted Man” — Jennifer Lowe
  2. “The Last Time I Had Sex With My Wife” — Greyson Ferguson

It’s easy to hide behind a desktop computer and type words. It’s hard to sit there and share emotions you’re too afraid to admit to yourself. Or to share the emotion of people who inspire you so you can move an audience to action.

If you take away nothing else from this story then know this: if you make people feel what you’re talking about, you will become wildly successful as a writer. I am not great at it. But I’m learning.

You can go beyond being another boring writer when you master emotion.

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Unexpected Advice for Any Young Writer Who Has Seen Their Social Media Stats Get Annihilated

Blogging by Tim Denning

Photo by Manny Moreno on Unsplash

Many writers have seen their social media stats take a beating.

My LinkedIn, Twitter, Vocal, and Facebook stats are the worst they’ve ever been. Writers all around me are falling to pieces. Then there are the rare ones like Ayo that keep writing, even when the sky seems to be falling in and there are humans in hazmat suits knocking at your door, and seeing if you’ve been taken down by a mystery virus sweeping the world.

“This ain’t my first rodeo,” as George Bush once said to the former Prime Minister of Australia (who once told me the story). I’ve been living this writing dream for the past six years.

Writing is bloody hard.
It’s also the single best thing I have ever done in my life.

Here are the tips you need to pick yourself off the floor and keep writing.

You can’t rediscover yourself in your stats.

Writing stats do not reveal the meaning of your life. Your writing stats won’t make you happy. If anything, they’ll confuse the hell out of you.

You’ll start acting as though horoscopes are real and it’s only a matter of time until the universe conspires in your favor and the secret law of attraction graces your precious words on a screen.

For the last 30 days I committed to ignoring my financial writing stats. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. Writing for money kills the art.

Step away from your stats.

Your stats don’t determine your effort.

You control effort. The effort produces the results. If you want better results you’ve got to put in more effort. Writing progress isn’t linear either. You don’t spend a few extra hours a week writing over the course of a couple of months and magically qualify for a gold watch and 100,000 views.

You can easily become a robot attached to a computer.

Writing can easily become slave labor.

Over the past few weeks I’ve started to notice, at times, that I am a slave to my computer and my writing goals. The thought of not having a 9–5 job and solely writing for a living scares the hell out of me. Writing to pay bills instead of for fun changes the meaning. I don’t want to screw with my creativity and attach it to a mortgage.

Robots write to achieve stats. Humans write because it gives us meaning, and it helps others who we may never get to meet. Don’t choose the robot approach to writing.

You can’t beat time in the game.

People look at my writing career and think I woke up this way. I wrote for free, for years with hardly any readers.

Here is the evidence of my pre-game.

There are more than 10,000 hours of writing on the first place I ever wrote. There were no royalties, or sponsorship deals, or affiliate link income. When I emailed other publications or writers they mostly ignored me.

I got good at being ignored. Until the number of hours of work was too hard to continually ignore for any longer. And even after all this time I’m still a nobody and get rejected by publications every week.

Forget what the other writers are doing.

You’re not other writers. Stop trying to figure out their formulas. There are no formulas other than find a day that suits you every week to sit down and write.

Other writer’s success is none of your business.

Cheer when your fellow writers do well and then get right back to work. A writer’s words are shaped by their style, life experiences, unique voice, books they’ve read since being alive, and people in their network.

You can’t mimic, copy or recreate someone else’s life. Trying to do so is the fastest way to a huge amount of frustration that will cause you to give up writing altogether.

Going viral won’t achieve your writing goals.

I watch writers talk about virality all the time. Here’s the thing about virality: by it’s very definition it’s a random event.

Unless you plan on becoming Jesus and turning water into wine, forget about virality. I can’t predict it and neither can James Altucher. I’ve been lucky to have many pieces go viral over the years. You know what? Each piece took me by surprise. They were all crappy and published quickly. If you focus on virality you’re guaranteed never to go viral and experience the randomness.

Just write. The internet owes you nothing.

Don’t calculate your hourly rate.

I’ve seen bloggers calculate their hourly rate. This is a quick way to demotivate yourself and end up quitting.

Blogging pays hardly any money until you’ve done it for a while. If you don’t like writing then blogging isn’t for you. Sorry.

You’re not too late.

There isn’t a magic time to become a writer or join a platform. Thinking there are special writers who are lucky because of the time they started writing — on platforms like Twitter when it was cool and hip — is ridiculous.

Your creativity determines your writing results, not the platform. There are people (like me) starting out on Twitter 14 years after it launched and making it work. Platform timing is a fallacy. Get a grip.

Writers who chase the latest and greatest platforms are pathetic. They’re at the clutches of tech companies who manipulate them to build their business.

Write somewhere, anywhere. That’s it.

“Write what works” equals extreme boredom.

There isn’t anything that works 100% of the time. This mindset causes great writers to follow trends and end up crying in the corner of their home office.

If there’s a formula for writing that works then Tim Ferriss would have already dissected the heck out of it and published it under the title “The 4-Hour Writer.”

You get bored when you follow writing trends. This extreme level of boredom then starts to bore readers. It’s this mindset that creates generic writing, worshipping Steve Jobs and his brilliant apple.

Most writers fail. They give up.

Not giving up is most of the battle.

All you have to do to be a successful writer is not give up. It’s kind of funny: If you can stick at a hobby like writing for 5 years, there’s a high chance you will make 6 or 7 figures.

The problem is most humans can’t stick at one thing for 5 years, so they have to get a job and run away from creative pursuits like writing. That is the really harsh truth — there I said it.

You can be a successful writer if you play the 5 year game.

It’s *not* the social media platform’s fault.

When LinkedIn banned me for the 4th time I was frustrated too. I was ready to throw a toaster at the CEO of LinkedIn. Then I calmed down and drank some green tea and ate vegan chocolate biscuits. I even squeezed my smiley face stress ball. Calmness entered. Everything was okay. The world didn’t stop. My landlord didn’t kick me out of her student apartment with a leaky tap and candle wax on the bathroom floor that won’t come off.

Nobody can ever dissect a social media company’s algorithm. You know why? A) It’s top secret B) It’s always changing.

Give the social media platforms a break. It’s hard to police the firehose of content being sprayed in readers’ faces. It’s hard to hand out content to users like it’s Christmas and you’re wearing a santa suit.

In the time it takes to complain you could have written an 800-word story that helps people.

That’s the truth. Complaining is wasting your writing time. Take your complaint and put it into words that might help a person in the same situation as you. Have a conversation with yourself through writing.

Writing is designed to test you.

Can you pass the writing test and keep going?

There isn’t a fixed number of years to be successful as a writer.

There’s no point comparing your writing journey to someone else’s.

Just because Brigette fancy pants did it in 12 months that doesn’t mean you can or will replicate her results.

Writing isn’t university. You don’t show up for four years and get yourself into 6-figures of debt and then walk away with a certificate most employers couldn’t give a damn about that you can frame and show your parents.

It’s time to move from problem to solution. Now we’ve debunked all the possible excuses you could ever come up with, it’s time to move forward.

Here’s what you can do to win the writing war

These are the exact strategies I use when my writing stats fall off a cliff. It’s taken me years to figure these things out. They will help keep you writing.

The Biggest Writing Hack: “Diversify your income streams”

Out of everything I can tell you this one is the most important. Many writers do it to make a living and pay rent. I’m not naive. I get it.

If your situation is you need to write to stay alive then the best advice I can give you is to bring in lots of different revenue streams.

Here are a few of my writing income sources:

  • Royalties from more than three platforms
  • eBooks
  • Online courses
  • Coaching
  • Writing business content for tech companies

On top of all that I have a 9–5 job. See how diverse you need to be? If one income stream falls off a cliff then you can make up your lost earnings. Diversification of income is important in writing like it is with investing your money. You can breathe a sigh of relief with careful risk management.

Your best pieces will be impossible to predict.

My best stories all have one thing in common: I cared. Publish your story and then move on quickly. I wrote a piece about Chernobyl horses. I thought I was so smart. I shared the story with Sean Kernan. He liked it. The results are in: I’m an idiot and can’t predict anything.

Network *hard* with other writers.

Your fellow writers will change your perspective. Ohhh… and they will introduce you to new income streams and writing opportunities. To attract good writers you’ve got to put out good energy.

Bad energy equals blaming and complaining. Good writers who can help you run from that. Negative energy sucks the life out of you and your writing.

Take a course to level-up your writing skills.

If you’ve stalled with your writing career then you may have reached your peak. It might be time to take a writing course and discover what skills you’re missing. Failed writers think they’re too good. Writers who crush it are always willing to learn and expose themselves to brand new ideas/strategies.

Get genuine feedback on your work.

Do a trade. Ask another writer for feedback and then do the same for them. The best people who will likely help you are people playing at the same level as you. Don’t reach out to Hemingway while he’s trying to enjoy the afterlife and ask him to give you feedback. He’s not going to do it.

Start believing in yourself.

Negative self-talk and pity aren’t going to get you anywhere. For once, believe you can do it. Build yourself up rather than tear yourself down in your head, quietly. You can achieve phenomenal results as a writer but if you don’t believe you can then readers, editors and publications will never believe you.

Change your expectations.

If everybody could publish once a month and make 6-figures then all writers would be doing it and quitting their jobs. Writing is hard.

Maybe your writing is fine. It might be your expectations you need to hone in. Check yourself before you wreck yourself, as Ice Cube said.

Don’t be impatient for progress.

Quiet patience helps you write better and stay the course. A writing career is built over many years. As soon as you make progress you’re only going to want more. You think your thirst for success stops when you make 6 figures or 7 figures? Hell no. You can never get enough progress and that’s the problem.

Slow down. Progress isn’t everything. Enjoy the ride instead.

Writing is playing a video game against yourself.

Writer, Nicolas Cole, compares writing with when he was one of the highest-ranked players in North America for a computer game called World of Warcraft.

The only person you compete against as a writer is yourself.

Audit your inputs.

What the heck are you consuming? If all you ever listen to is Joe Rogan then you’re going to have a one-sided view of the world. Your writing can become boring when your inputs don’t change. Change your inputs to change what you output through writing.

Become Einstein.

The man couldn’t stop experimenting. Try and find a trend in my writing. You can’t. There is no trend and very little commonality. That’s because I learned to treat writing as an endless series of experiments.

Experiment a lot. Don’t see what works. See what makes you smile.

Syndicate your content.

This month has been difficult. Did I complain? Hardly. I started syndicating more of my work to platforms like Ladders and Business Insider.

You can complain, or double down. Be the Samurai — not the fat dude at the bar drinking full carb beer and complaining about everything that is wrong with the world (the armchair critic know-it-all who really knows nothing).

Publish in different publications.

Publications all look for different things and have different rules. Adding certain constraints to your writing can help you find a creative spark. Remember this

  • The owners and editors are not your slaves.
  • Publications are a partnership. Treat them like partners and you will get to work with more of them. They have the power to elevate your work.

Two questions to get you out of a funk

  • What can you teach?
  • How can you help?

It’s hard to fail if you’re consistent.

It’s not what happens month to month, but what happens over the course of a year plus. Writers who are consistent and write a lot win the writing war. It’s when you’re not consistent that everything can fall apart.

Look for unusual topics.

  • Niklas Goke wrote about an orange juice campaign.
  • 80% of Sean Kernan’s content will show you unusual topics.
  • See my weird-ass Chernobyl horses piece.

Honestly ask yourself: Are you still interesting?

You can’t write the same crap over and over and expect to get a book deal and retire. That’s the definition of writing insanity, and many writers I’ve met over the last six years suffer from it.

If you’re not interesting through the medium of writing, then how on earth do you expect the reader to care?

Go back to being interesting again. You know how to be interesting.

Mind-Bending Conclusion

Bad news: writing isn’t about you. Writing is about the reader.

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