The 5 Pillars Of Digital Writing

Dickie Bush & Nicolas Cole

Ultimate Guide Table of Contents

Have you read The 5 Pillars of Digital Writing yet?

If not, no worries.

But we still want to make sure you get the takeaways—ASAP.

Because here's the thing...

Digital Writing is the highest form of leverage available today.

If you can write online, you can scale yourself in the digital world.

And if you can scale yourself in the digital world, you can unlock opportunities you otherwise would never be able to in a traditional career.

Our mission in providing these 5 Pillars of Digital Writing is to give people like you the tools, frameworks, and mental reframes to start this journey.

So, let’s dive in.

There are 5 Pillars of Digital Writing:

  • Your Daily Writing Habit
  • Your Lean Writing Approach
  • Your Endless Idea Generation System
  • Your Irresistible Headline Formula
  • Your Proven Formatting Techniques

If you can learn, practice, and master these 5 skills, you will immediately enter the top 1% of Digital Writers & Digital Creators.

How do we know?

Because aside from the fact that writing online has changed both of our lives (Dickie Bush & Nicolas Cole), we have taught these same 5 Pillars to over 5,600 writers in our cohort-based course, Ship 30 for 30. And over and over again, we have seen writers—ranging from complete beginners to industry leaders—implement these 5 Pillars into their lives, and then (almost immediately) unlock a range of life-changing outcomes.

Here’s a quick summary of each of the 5 pillars:

Pillar #1: Your Daily Writing Habit

You don’t “find” time to write every day.

(Think about how many things are competing for your attention!)

The key to writing every day is to MAKE time—by finding your Sacred Hours.

Sacred Hours are blocked-off chunks of time that are, you guessed it, sacred. No distractions. No responsibilities. Nothing else to check up on. Just you and your work for at least 90 minutes. Ideally two hours. And once you start honoring these Sacred Hours day in and day out, the compounding results will shock you.

So how do you find your own Sacred Hours?

There are two key questions you need answer:

  • What time of day am I most productive?
  • What time of day can I be least responsive?

Your Sacred Hours lay in the intersection between these two times.

Pillar #2: Your Lean Writing approach

The hardest part about writing online is getting started.

But once you start writing, and building your library, you start to build momentum.

  • You write…
  • Which creates data points…
  • Which reveals patterns (what works/what doesn’t)…
  • Which shows you where there are opportunities to double-down…
  • Which makes it easy to write the next thing…
  • And the next thing…
  • And the next thing…
  • And so on…

This is the game of Digital Writing in a nutshell.

And what most people don’t understand is that being a prolific writer/creator really isn’t about being “brilliant” day after day after day. It’s about testing ideas in small ways, and then doubling-down and expanding those ideas when you see an opportunity to do so. It’s about writing “WITH” your readers—not trying to be brilliant in a log cabin somewhere all by yourself.

We call this Lean Writing.

Lean Writing is where you take a small piece of content (ideally something that gained a bit of traction/showed you that readers were interested in this sort of topic) and expand it into a longer-form asset.

And if that longer-form asset works, you can use the Lean Writing framework again and expand it into an even longer-form asset. This is how you go from…

  • A Tweet
  • To an Atomic Essay
  • To a Twitter Thread
  • To a LinkedIn post
  • To a long-form blog
  • To a free email course
  • To a paid digital product
  • To an online course
  • To an entire business.

Pillar #3: Your Endless Idea Generation System

If you use the Lean Writing approach, you should never run out of ideas to write about.

  • Write lots of “atomic” things
  • Double-down on the ones readers engage with most
  • Your proven topics will lead to more readers engaging & asking questions
  • Which will give you more ideas of things to write about
  • And so on, and so on.

However, if you want another way to generate ideas, then let us introduce you to one of our frameworks…

The Endless Idea Generator

The EIG is one of the first big frameworks we teach in Ship 30 for 30.

But the most important part of the EIG is what we like to call “The 2-Year Test.”

“What are all of the problems I’ve solved and topics I’ve learned about over the last 2 years?”

Why 2 years?

Good question.

One of the biggest mistakes beginner writers make is thinking they have to be an “expert” to write about something.

But this is wrong.

The truth is, people don’t want to learn from experts. They prefer to learn from those just a few steps ahead of them on the same path. And once you realize this, it’s a huge creative unlock. For example: remember back when you were in 3rd grade? You didn’t want to learn from high schoolers or college students. To you, those kids seemed like full-grown adults! No, you wanted to learn from the 4th and 5th graders—the kids who were just a little bit ahead of you, so you could figure out what to expect next year.

This is the beauty of the 2-Year Test: it makes you realize that, to someone in your shoes two years ago, you are “an expert,” simply because you’re a few steps ahead of them.

Pillar #4: Your Irresistible Headline Formula

To get someone’s attention, you have to understand their thinking.

The clearer you are about why people…

  • …do the things they do…
  • …are they way they are…
  • …have the fears they have…
  • …desire the things they desire…
  • …the more likely you are to speak directly to them.

AND when people feel like you are speaking directly to them, you hook their attention.

That is the power of a well written headline.

In order to write compelling headlines, use this simple checklist:

  • Be CLEAR, not Clever: Don’t try to “trick” the reader. Just tell them what they’re about to read.
  • Specify the WHAT: Are you writing about “saving” money or “investing” money or “making” money or “stealing” money? Be as clear as you can about WHAT exactly your writing is about.
  • Specify the WHO: Who is the target reader here? Is it “accountants?” Or is it “beginner accountants?” Or is it “beginner accountants at software companies?” Or is it “beginner accountants at healthcare software companies?” The more specific you are about the audience in the headline, the more likely you are to resonate with them.
  • Specify the WHY: What does the reader get in exchange for reading? What are the outcomes you are going to help them unlock? Why should they give you 2 minutes of their life reading your work?
  • Twist The Knife: How can you sweeten the deal? What else can you promise them?

If you follow this checklist, you will write headlines your readers can’t help but want to click on (seriously).

Pillar #5: Your Proven Formatting Techniques

Formatting is the easiest 10x you can make in your writing.

In the writing world, almost all of the focus gets placed on the words themselves. “What are you saying? What’s the idea? How beautiful is the language? Are the commas in the right places? Does the sentence flow? Should you use this adjective or that adjective?”

And yes, while all of these things matter (quite a bit), writers often forget that the way their words LOOK on the page drastically changes the way readers read and consume their work. In fact, the way your words LOOK on the page is usually what determines whether or not readers will take the time to read what you’ve written at all.

Start every section with a single-sentence opener.

If you want to instantly 10x the likelihood of readers being interested and curious to “keep reading,” open your piece (and every subsequent section) with a single sentence.

In Ship 30 for 30, we talk about 6 specific types of single-sentence openers—all of which particularly well for “hooking” the reader’s interest.

  • Open with 1 strong, declarative sentence.
  • Open with a thought-provoking question.
  • Open with a controversial opinion.
  • Open with a moment in time.
  • Open with a vulnerable statement.
  • Open with a weird, unique insight.

Always look for opportunities to turn long paragraphs into bulleted lists.

  • If you are listing anything, ever, it should become a bulleted list.
  • If you are rambling off a dozen quick examples, it should become a bulleted list.
  • If you are making a series of distinct points to drive home a point, it should become a list.

Here’s why:

Your #1 job as a writer is to always be asking, “How do I make this easier for the reader to fly through?” Which means (contrary to popular belief) abandoning the belief that your reader is supposed to sit there and drool over, appreciate, and gasp at each and every word—as if your adjective choice is as beautiful as Mona Lisa herself. Give it up. Let go of that dream. It doesn’t matter. Whether the reader thinks you are “brilliant” or not is the wrong goal.

Your goal is for them to consume your work, and to not waste any of their time.


Use the 1/3/1 writing rhythm.

Finally, go through each section and look for opportunities to use the classic 1/3/1 writing rhythm (or some variation of it): 1 sentence, 3 sentences, 1 sentence.

Here are some other proven writing rhythms:

  • 1/4/1
  • 1/5/1
  • 1/2/5/2/1
  • Etc.

The key to immediately injecting rhythm and skimmability into your writing is to alternate length of sentences and sections—ideally opening and closing each section with a single sentence. These are your “doors,” the things that get the reader INTO a given section (so make sure your doors slide open).

That’s it!

We hope this compressed version of the entire 5 Pillars of Digital Writing eBook helps you start internalizing these core principles.

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