Ahoy and happy Monday!
Welcome to another week of Start Writing Online—where every week we dive into 1 of the 10 biggest problems all writers face:
- Generating ideas
- Impostor syndrome
- Writing consistently
- Finding time to write
- Loose feedback loops
(And, of course, if you want to crush all 10 of these AND master the fundamentals of Digital Writing in just 30 days, we'd love to have you in the next cohort of Ship 30 for 30!)
This week, we want to help you improve your thinking with 7 “habits of mind” that will transform the way you approach your writing and, ultimately, fuel your idea engine.
In the age of AI writing tools like ChatGPT, there is only one superpower you can develop:
But writing begins in the mind, not on the page.
To craft engaging writing, you need to first think clearly. It’s not hard to write once you’ve done the thinking. But it takes time, practice, and discipline to learn to connect the dots in your mind—for yourself and your readers.
These 7 thinking habits will help you up your Digital Writing game and educate the robots!
Let’s dive in.
Habit #1: Be curious.
Most people will type until they run out of ideas and then stop.
When the initial excitement fades, so does the energy to explore further. But this is exactly when you shouldn’t give up. Because your initial ideas are obvious ideas.
Instead, ask questions.
Search for answers, even if they don't come easily. You’ll gain a deeper understanding of the topic. You’ll find fresh insights, setting you apart from other writers And ultimately you’ll create a more engaging and enjoyable piece of writing.
The more you ask “why?” and “how?” the better your writing will be.
Habit #2: Be open.
When you don’t consider other viewpoints, you are:
- Stuck in your head.
- Missing diversity of thought.
Consider what you receive before you reject it as irrelevant.
If you're writing about remote work as a single suburbanite, don't just focus on your own experience. What about the people who don’t have a suitable home office? Or the people who struggle with isolation and family distractions? Or even the companies battling with building a remote culture?
Don't limit yourself to sources that echo only your own viewpoint.
Habit # 3: Be engaged.
When you write with your reader instead for your reader, it unlocks:
- Your relationship with the reader.
- Your understanding of what matters most.
- Your confidence in what you are writing about.
The easiest way to do this to ask and answer questions. Engage with your readers in comments or over DM’s on Twitter. Get to know your readers and write with them.
- Ask what challenges they are facing right now?
- Ask what questions they would like answered?
- Ask what else they would like to learn?
What questions are you asking your reader?
Habit #4: Be resourceful.
Writing overwhelm comes from a lack of knowledge.
- Ask questions.
- Talk with friends.
- Search for examples.
What information do you need that you don’t already have?
Go find it (then curate it).
Habit #5: Be responsible.
Take ownership over what you write.
Most people believe that once a piece of writing is finished, the job is done. But on the internet, a post can be seen by 5 million people in less than 10 minutes. You have to stand by what you post.
So, before you hit "publish," stop and think about how you would feel if your boss or someone you respect read that post.
And if you are writing something you would say aloud, don't be afraid.
You're scaling yourself.
Habit #6: Be aware.
Gather inputs from all your senses.
Observe the world around you and make note of nuance and detail.
You don't always have to write what you know.
You can also write what you NOTICE.
Writing = Art.
Habit #7: Be obsessive.
Like my (Cole) mom loves to say: “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”
I have always been an all-or-nothing person. I went all in on Quora in 2014; by 2015, I was the most-read writer on the platform. Then in 2016, I went all in on ghostwriting and created the first “Thought Leadership” ghostwriting agency exclusively for founders & CEOs.
Being obsessive can be extremely productive.
You have to care about your writing.
- Every word.
- Every sentence.
- Every paragraph.
Care, and you'll be rewarded.
That's it for today!
Chat next week!
–Dickie Bush & Nicolas Cole