If you’re a creator, there’s a good chance you’re writing online. Whether you’re writing articles, tweets, a newsletter, or captions for your Instagram posts, you probably appreciate that writing online is a super-skill.
With a sea of content, you have to stand out. You need to keep your audience in mind. And your words need to spread value and build trust.
David Perell has mastered all of this and more. Dubbed "The Writing Guy”, he’s the person to go to if you want to learn about digital writing. And thousands of people already do, with his online course, Write of Passage. But if you're not yet ready for a 5 week course, David Perell distilled his knowledge about writing online into a 60 minute workshop. And, since we’re all about saving you time and the feelings of overwhelm, we’ve distilled David's knowledge further with notes and timestamps from the workshop, so you can watch what’s most relevant to you.
Get your digital pens ready, your online writing is about to skyrocket.
Anyone can write, but to write well, you need a system. There’s 3 main areas you should focus on: ideas, writing and building an audience.
1 . Ideas
Capture ideas (4:25)
We’re all consuming more content than ever before. None of us are short on ideas, so why isn't everyone a great writer?
It's because the best writers aren’t the ones with more ideas, they’re the ones who are better at capturing them. To do this, you need a good note-taking system where you can store your own ideas and those from other people.
Capturing other people’s ideas (5:48)
Passively consuming content isn’t enough, you have to actively seek good ideas that provide you with value. Be selective about what ideas you capture from other people, they should be:
- easily lost
- useful or effective
It's never been easier capture ideas, you can use:
- A Kindle or Apple Books for ebooks
- Instapaper or IFTTT (If This Than That) for online articles
- Liner for webpages
You can then collate all of your captured ideas and save them in one place using Readwise
Capturing your own ideas (8:30)
There are many ways you can do this:
- Write notes as you read using a kindle
- Create a digital diary, capturing everything from ideas, quotes, and images. Matthew McConaughey wrote a journal for 40 years, giving him 4 decades worth of ideas.
- Use Otter.ai or voicenotes to capture conversations with others or to capture your thoughts as you think aloud
And whilst you’re capturing your ideas, these are the things you want to keep in mind (13:07):
- Stories: what are your go-to stories?
- Insightful: in what ways do you surprise your peers?
- Memories: what’s a memory you don’t want to forget?
- Experiences: write about the once-in-a-lifetime moments
“Modern writing isn’t created. It’s assembled.”
Writing is a process (16:34)
It’s not just about capturing ideas and using it to write, it’s about about feedback, refinement and distilling ideas into something more powerful. A great way to do this is by taking a community approach using The Content Triangle:
When you get ideas, share them and have conversations. Use those conversations as feedback to refine your work, and continue that process until you’re ready to distribute your work. This is what James Clear, author of Atomic Habits did. He wrote weekly articles about habits for 5 years and used feedback to improve his ideas until he eventually compiled them into his bestselling book.
How to improve your writing (27:37)
1. Write CLEAR sentences
- Create a rhythm by using a combination of short, medium and long sentences
- Link your sentences- every sentence should follow on from the last, and lead onto the next
- Eliminate anything that’s confusing
- Add colourful details by making things more descriptive
- Remove unnecessary words
2. Consider the words you use - focus on words that people know, but don’t say often (32:30 )
3. Follow the Story Roller-Coaster (35:04)
- Set up things on a high
- Create conflict
4. Most people research first and write second, but this isn't the best way to approach things. Your research comes after you put your ideas out there and gain feedback. Use FAST writing to do this (39:45):
- Find ideas by living your life and taking notes along the way
- Assemble your ideas together
- Speak out loud to structure your ideas
- Teach others and get feedback
3. Audience Building
The public to private bridge (43:23)
David Perell explains that building an audience requires you to guide people across “the public to private bridge”.
You spend time creating high-value content on public platforms like Twitter, Instagram, YouTube. But to build relationships with people, you need to move them onto private platforms like email lists or a personal website.
Public platforms are great because they help with distribution, but private platforms give you greater control as they’re independent of any algorithm.
Building a personal monopoly (47:00)
Most people talk about niche, but really it’s about building a personal monopoly- becoming known for doing what you do. To build a personal monopoly, you have to find the intersection of topics, skills or interest, which may be:
- unusual as they’re not usually found together e.g. Ness Labs combines mindfulness and productivity
- complementary e.g. Alice Lemée talks about writing and freelancing
- experimental - skills gained through experience e.g. Ali Abdaal made videos about studying and productivity as a Cambridge medic
- specific - the more niche you are, the better e.g. Ana Lorena Fabrega doesn't just talk about education, she talks about alternative childhood education.
It can take 5 years to build your personal monopoly, but as David says, "get going, then get good".
Phew, that's a lot of value packed into one workshop! Thank you to the amazing David Perell for being a writing wizard and sharing his knowledge. We recommend watching the workshop to see David in action! If you found these notes helpful, let us know over on Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn