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I Broke the Code on How to Gain Traction as a Writer, Faster

by | Jul 17, 2023 | Writing

The path to writing success is changing.

And many of you didn’t get the memo. You’re stuck in the past earning peanut royalties and pitching elitist publications that don’t give a crap about you or your family.

Stop it.

My personal database has more than 3000 strategies to get traction as a writer online that I’ve collected over the last 375 days.

I’ve pieced together the ones that’ll break the code of online writing and make it happen for you.

None of ’em are conventional. Soz not soz.

Find the one sentence in a long piece of content that stands out

The most viral pieces of writing are often built on one sentence.

Sam Parr sold his newsletter The Hustle for $30M. The kid knows a thing or two about writing online. I watched hours of his lectures so you don’t have to. Wanna know what he says?

His best articles were built on top of one sentence he found. He’d sit through 3-hour long podcasts.

Boring, boring, boring … wait … hold up … what?

In one example, he listens to a long interview with the founder of Pandora. The whole thing puts him to sleep. Then the guy says…

50 employees worked for 2 years without pay.

He wrote an article all about this idea. He found out the exact pitch the founder used to attract employees for free to his vision. Gold.

It broke the internet.

I did the same. One example that comes to mind is a mega-viral article I wrote about nice guy Keanu Reeves. I went down rabbit holes for days. Then I came across this paragraph:

Money doesn’t mean anything to me. I’ve made a lot of money, but I want to enjoy life and not stress myself building my bank account.

I give lots away and live simply, mostly out of a suitcase in hotels. We all know that good health is more important.

WTF.

That’s what I thought too. I was able to construct an entire philosophy around it that people found helpful.

Other people’s odd sentences are the foundation of good writing.

Write in a secret place like this…

I see writers fail all the time.

“Where do you write, mate?”

The answer always scares me. It’s either to no one, Facebook, or into a computer that has a manuscript they’re working on for a book.

Let me give you the secret:

Write where the eyeballs are.

Doesn’t matter if Elon owns the platform. Or Microsoft and evil Bill Gates own it (LinkedIn). Or Mark Suckerberg is involved. What matters is whether people are on the platform scrolling.

If millions or even billions of people are, then write there. Don’t be precious. If there are no eyeballs you have zero chance of building an audience and having a career.

And if it’s a dying platform or a new app that hasn’t got traction yet, stay the freaking hell away. It’s a waste of your precious time. Got it?

This one is so stupid it still shocks me

Let the example of my old mate Picasso spell it out for you.

He lived 33,403 days on earth.

He has a total of 26,075 works.

That means from the age of 20 to 91 he made, on average, one piece of artwork a day. See where I’m going with this?

You get traction as a writer when you publish something new every day. Doesn’t mean it needs to be a 10,000-word essay. It can be a note, tweet, thread … what evs. But consistency is a superpower.

Consistency compounds over the years. Post daily.

The messenger is just as important as the writing

Many people screw this up.

I go on social media all the time and see people sharing advice about money. I do the same. The wannabes never get traction on this topic and I do. Not because I’m smarter. Nope.

It’s because the messenger is different. I’ve worked in finance. I’ve made a lot of money, and more importantly, lost a lot of money. I’ve read almost any finance book you can think of. I’ve met millionaire and billionaire founders. I don’t say that to impress.

I say that because the messenger bloody matters.

Anyone can give advice. Anyone can tell a story. But if you haven’t actually lived an interesting life or got some real experience with your topic, ain’t nobody gonna listen to you. Therefore, you’ll never get traction.

What sets apart the copycats from the practitioners is actually living life. Go out there and do cool sh*t then write about it. It’s the missing step.

Doing hard stuff automatically writes interesting stories for you.

The trick to a sexy as hell writer’s voice

Most online writing puts me to sleep. Fact.

You know why? It reads like a Harvard essay written to kiss the butt of the professor and get an “A”. Your writing voice matters.

It’s how you stand out from the writing of AI and ChatGPT.

So I don’t get why everybody doesn’t just write as they speak. It’s the only way. It brings out your writer’s voice. In real life I say “mate” a lot because I’m a silly Aussie with a big nose.

If you do “Control + F” on my writing, you’ll see the word mate everywhere.

That’s not an accident. It’s how I talk. Ask writers like Sean Kernan, Michael Thompson, or Todd Brison.

Stop trying to sound smart. Sound like you.

Piss off the sentence geeks

Word nerds are everywhere.

My business partner Todd Brison is one of them. The kid reads Jane Austin late at night. Yuck. He loves nice grammar and perfect spelling. I don’t.

I chuck a “because” “and” or “but” at the start of sentences all the time. It pisses him off. The thing is it makes your writing sound like it was written by a human with a heart, not a robot with an AI brain.

While you’re at it … break up big paragraphs.

Comma splice and chop sentences so the cognitive load for the reader is lower. Grammar rules were created pre-internet.

Now all any reader wants is not to get a migraine reading your “content.” Give them a panadol, do ’em a favor, and break those sentences up.

Make mistakes on purpose

Readers operate mostly on auto-pilot.

The way to break their programming and make them pay attention is to make mistakes on purpose. I do it all the time. Sorry not sorry.

When there are no mistakes in your writing, meaning you licked the butt crack of Grammarly and accepted all its suggestions, you sound like AI.

*Vomits in mouth*

One way to shatter the spell is to spell a word wrong or turn someone’s name into a nickname. Don John Trumpet. Mr Zuckerburger. Papa Elon. You get the idea.

Make mistakes.

Scratch that … make it fun. Entertain us.

Uncommon writing advice from Charlie Munger

My buddy JK Molina says “Writing is just saying the same thing 1000 different ways.”

Charlie Munger says “Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”

You get traction as a writer when you repeat yourself in lots of different ways. Originality is overrated. The goal isn’t to be original and qualify for a Stanford English degree. The goal is to…

Say it better. Say it simpler.

You need a newsletter but not for the reason you’ve been told

Newsletter … smoozeletter.

We’ve heard it all before. Blah, blah, blah. Own your list. Build a fanbase like Brittney Spears. Hit my newsletter one more time.

What nobody is talking about is what a newsletter now means. It’s not just about owning your readers so Suckerburger can’t steal them off you with his latest copycat app. What matters is…

Newsletters now have a recommendation feature.

Instead of relying on social media to create an audience for your writing, you can outsource a decent chunk of it by using newsletter recommendations.

It’s a simple feature. I start a newsletter on one of the popular newsletter platforms. Then I click the recommend button on 1–10 newsletters I think my readers should read. Other writers do the same for me.

Now what you have is automatic reader growth that’ll compound over time. Readers get a great deal too. Chances are if they like your writing they’re keen to discover what writers you read.

Win-win as we say down under.

Newsletters are a must for their built-in audience growth.

Now, if you’re a savvy little thang, then you can artificially bend the odds in your favor. How?

Conspire with other writers.

Find other writers with similar-sized audiences or who write about the same topics as you. Hit ’em up and see if they want to trade newsletter recommendation swaps.

All the hip kids are doing it. It’s like trading Pokemon cards but cooler.

Make people look good

Wanna know the secret to writing on LinkedIn and getting traction?

Let me tell ya. Stop posting selfies and trying to show off. Stop with the status updates and announcing your new job title. Nobody gives a fudge sundae about any of it.

Write content that makes people on LinkedIn look good.

Ask yourself “Does this post make my LinkedIn readers look smarter in front of their boss, customer, supplier, or future employer?”

If the answer is no then bin whatever you wrote and start again (this is a reminder to myself too). Social media is a performance.

People show their status by what content they engage in.

Help them increase their status. It’s why productivity and success are such popular topics. Who doesn’t want to share an article on success that makes someone look smarter in their career?

I just gave you one of the biggest cheat codes there is. Use it.

Nuke your bio

So many writer bios suck.

“Cat mum. Seinfeld. Love writing”

No one cares. Your bio is supposed to do one thing: tell the reader what you write about that can help them. OMG. Piece of piss.

Stop being clever or fancy. Just be clear and simple. We have to know how you can help us or we’re running for the hills to hug Mary Poppins.

Mess with people’s minds

I love to read listicles with a cold beer on a Saturday and a bucket of french fries. The problem is 99% of listicles are snoozers. There’s a simple solution: change things up.

Make one of the items in your list weird as hell.

Or you can copy me and make them all weird LOL. I read an article the other day about coding. One of the tips was to eat pineapple pizza.

It made me think twice. I had to contemplate why eating pineapple pizza would help me code better. This writing device is a pattern interrupt. It makes you pay attention so you can get the ideas you really need to read.

Be weird.

Final Thought

Writers who follow some or all of these types of strategies get traction. The rest get ignored and scream at their computer “Why is no one reading?”

It’s you NOT them.

Learn about psychology. Do a copywriting course. Understand human motivation. Stop being selfish. Draw attention honestly. Break patterns.

That’s how you get traction as a writer. Once you do there’s the very real possibility you can earn a living from it and even get a book deal from a publisher like Penguin Random House with a sweet as advance. Try it.

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