How To Find Viral-Worthy Stories In Small, Everyday Moments

Dickie Bush & Nicolas Cole

Ultimate Guide Table of Contents

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:

  • Distractions
  • Over-editing
  • Perfectionism
  • Procrastination
  • Self-confidence
  • 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 generate dozens of writing ideas by mining your everyday life for stories.

If you can tell a compelling story, you can shape the world.

Some of the best content on the internet sits at this Golden Intersection:

  • It tells a story
  • And it solves a reader’s problem (with a lesson, answer, or realization)

If you have these two elements, you can create viral and relatable content over and over again.

You might be thinking, “Well, I have nothing interesting to say—nothing storyworthy ever happens to me.”

Quick newsflash: this is not true. And you don’t have to use the most dramatic or personal moments from your life to get attention with your stories. You can use simple, every day moments to write about subjects your readers will find interesting and want to know more about.

Here’s a perfect example: a recent trip Dickie made to Starbucks (a simple story that went viral):

Before you can craft and tell great stories in your content, you need to learn how to spot them.

And in his hit book Storyworthy, Matthew Dicks explains three frameworks to build your story-spotting muscle:

  • Homework for Life
  • Crash and Burn
  • First, Last, Best, Worst

Once you have these frameworks setup and humming, you will generate endless stories to use in your content, conversations, and throughout your life.

Let’s dive into how to use them.

Framework #1: Homework For Life

Most people think for a story to be worth telling, it needs to be some kind of incredible adventure, like Black Panther, The Lord Of The Rings, or The Da Vinci Code.

But the truth is, you have storyworthy moments every day, even if you can’t see them right now. The problem isn’t generating ideas. The problem is that you’ve never stopped to capture them.

Doing Homework for Life is simple (and takes no time at all).

Every day, take five minutes to reflect on what happened to you in the last 24 hours. If you had to tell a story of the day—a five-minute story about something that took place over the course of the day—what would it be? All you have to do is write one sentence about it.

Here’s an example from Storyworthy:

Finding stories is a skill—and you need to practice it every day.

And that's the beauty of Homework for Life. It's simple enough to do even on your busiest days. All you need is a page with two columns: date and story. And after spending just five minutes writing one sentence, you have a story.

As you do this more and more in your daily life, you will start to notice how time slows down:

  • You start to recognize storyworthy moments in the simplest things.
  • You become appreciative of moments that for years you've overlooked.
  • And you start to assemble a list of stories you can use repeatedly—in content, in conversation, and to reflect on in the future.

All of this from just five minutes per day.

Onto the next framework.

Framework #2: Crash and Burn

The goal of Crash and Burn is to clear the ideas clogged up in your head and get them onto the page.

Here’s how Dicks gets started (and with one of his own “Crash and Burn” examples):

He calls it "dreaming from the end of your pen."

It's a simple five-minute stream of consciousness writing exercise with three rules:

Rule #1: You must not get attached to any one idea

During your Crash and Burn session, new ideas are going to fly at you from every direction:

  • Ideas you forgot about
  • Ideas you never thought about
  • And everything idea in between

Lean into this—every time a new idea pops up, let it take over.

The truth is, this takes practice. The mind likes to create structure by forcing itself to answer a series of questions. Instead, relax and let the ideas take over.

If you’re familiar with the concept of Julia Cameron’s “Morning Pages”, this is just like that and you’re one step ahead.

Rule #2: You must not judge any thought or idea that appears in your mind

Every idea that pops into your head must make it onto the page.

Give yourself permission to spill your guts. There should be zero judgement here. Just let all your ideas out and don’t think too much about what they mean.

The key is to remove as many obstacles as possible from idea generation, so forget about your handwriting, grammar, punctuation, and capitalization when you are “Crashing and Burning”.

Rule #3: You cannot allow the pen to stop moving.

This is the most important rule.

Whether you're using pen and paper or on a keyboard, you cannot stop. If you feel yourself slowing down, list items until they trigger a memory. This is a way of giving your brain a mini-prompt to kickstart the flow if the ideas start to dry up.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Fruits
  • Colors
  • People
  • Numbers

Dicks recommends doing Crash and Burn every day for 15 minutes.

The freewriting session lasts five minutes. And afterward, spend 10 minutes reading it over, finding the storyworthy threads in what you’ve written. Don't give up if you can’t find any that stand out. Come back tomorrow and try again.

The first time we did this, it blew our minds with how many stories and ideas we found.

Framework #3: First, Last, Best, Worst

The third and final framework is our favorite.

As you go about your life, you forget many of your storyworthy moments.

They're like gaps in your memory, waiting to be filled. And the best way Dicks recommends filling those gaps is with the First, Last, Best, Worst framework.

To do this exercise, make a grid on a page with five columns along the top:

  • Prompt
  • First
  • Last
  • Best
  • Worst

Under the “Prompt” column, list any of the following categories:

  • Pet
  • Job
  • Skill
  • Gift
  • Book
  • Travel
  • Trouble
  • Advice
  • Investment

Here’s an example from Storyworthy:

Now, start to fill in the grid with your own answers.

For each prompt, find your first, last, best, and worst moment or memory for each of them. This creates an ABSURD amount of raw material for storytelling. Unlike “Crash and Burn,” where you were just freewriting, this framework gives a little more structure to the idea generation.

To reflect on what you wrote, look at each box in the grid to find anything worth keeping.

(Hint: look for repeat answers.)

If you use just one of these frameworks, we guarantee you will have TOO MANY stories to tell.

Block some time today and get started.

That's it for today!

Chat next week!

–Dickie Bush & Nicolas Cole

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