Journaling makes me vomit.
It feels all self-helpy and I’m already run off my feet with a baby girl to manage. An online writing habit is different.
The value extends beyond yourself.
You can take brain farts that would normally go in a journal and find a way to use them to give advice, tell stories, or distill your real-time learning.
You can even build something in public and document the journey through online writing.
Since starting a daily writing habit it’s changed my life.
The weird thing is I could never have predicted how. That’s the thing about writing — it helps you find opportunities you weren’t even looking for and that you could never imagine.
At the start of my writing journey 9 years ago, I used to write 4000 words a month. Now I write 480,000+ words a month using the formula below.
Here’s how you can unlock the power of a daily writing habit.
1. Start so small it feels stupid
Writing a daily newsletter or 10,000-word essay is near impossible.
You might be able to do it for a few days but it likely won’t last. Don’t shoot yourself in the head by starting big.
The best writing habit starts small.
It’s why I like posting tweets (there are other similar platforms too that can work). Everyone has time to tweet.
It’s one sentence or perhaps a few more if you feel like it. Tweeting gets your habit going. It forces you to think of ideas and go inside your brain for a visit.
Get comfortable posting one sentence a day.
2. Go deeper with a mind map
All of us can think of one sentence a day to tweet.
Longer form writing takes more thought. It needs ideas. What I did (and still do) is create a mind map.
Unlike this example, I also like to add subtopics and micro niches.
Subtopics of productivity:
- Flow states → Deep work
- Life hacks → 20 pushups a day
- Sleep routine → Beds → Pillows
- Morning routines → To-Do Lists
- Time-saving software → Notion/Trello
- Mindset → Meditation → Meditation apps
- Energy management → Exercise → Diet → Juicing
As you can see, every topic is connected to other topics. More topics equal more ideas.
3. Write headlines
Now you’ve got topics you need headlines.
Headlines help you know what you’re going to write about. They’re an anchor. Rewrite other people’s headlines if you suck at writing them.
Write the headlines so they make you feel emotion. You want a headline to excite you and make you want to write more about it.
4. Add dot points
Under each headline start writing dot points.
These are just random thoughts. They’ll eventually become sections of your piece of writing. Don’t overthink them. Just think of them as a shopping list. Get the ideas out of your head and under the headlines.
5. Collect quotes
Collecting other people’s quotes helps make daily writing easier.
- Level 1 is to directly quote people.
- Level 2 is to rewrite other people’s quotes in your own words.
When writing your dot points under a headline, don’t forget to add relevant quotes too. Remember: quotes can even become headlines, subheadings, or topics.
6. Read more books than your doctor advises is healthy
A writing habit needs a reading habit.
(Read that again.)
You can’t write daily like I do and not read like a crazy person. Reading provides the inputs needed for you to output writing.
I find high-selling books are more helpful to read than a lot of online content because they’re heavily curated and edited, and have social proof.
7. Get a networked note-taking app
Collecting quotes and reading books is useless if you have nowhere to store what you discover.
Normal note-taking apps won’t work for writing online because they rely on the user to do the sorting. Networked note-taking apps like Notion, Roam, Obsidian, etc help to do some of the sorting for you.
The default action is to add hashtags to every note you store so can sort by topic, author, or keyword.
Let a second brain help upgrade your writing brain.
8. Create a timeline of your life
Books and quotes will help you write daily about other people’s experiences, but the best writing also contains yours.
Instead of a journal I have a timeline of my life. I’ve spent months filling out the first 37 years of my life (this is fun as hell). And each day I add new dot points as I experience new things.
One cool thing is I now have a timeline of my baby daughter’s life documented on my personal timeline. Everything from her birth to her first flu appears there.
When I need a personal story I go to my personal timeline to find one and then drop it into the piece of writing.
9. An obsessive why
To write daily you need a why.
This is cliche as hell so I prefer to call it an obsession. What are you so obsessed with that you can’t stop talking about and can write about every day, even if you weren’t paid?
That’s what is needed to create writing a habit.
10. A long time horizon
A writing habit takes time to work.
Like a good piece of meat destined for the BBQ, it needs time to marinate. You’ve got to let the writing do the work for you. I set my initial time horizon for writing online at 5 years. I then extended it to decades.
My daily writing goal is now until death.
Go do this right now….
Start your writing habit today by posting one sentence on your favorite writing platform.
Then work your way up to posting a one-sentence headline with five dot points. And eventually get to the point where you can publish 1000–2000 word essays on auto-pilot.
A writing addiction is the best thing you can have. It helps you think clearer and attract new opportunities.