Want people to read your shit? Do this then.
Intellectual Banter: Episode #15
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Greetings, my friends!
Last week I shared my experience with going viral. I’m (kinda) out of the hangover now. And getting back to my usual weekly output-focused routine.
Today I wanna share my views on what makes your writing resonate. So people want to read it.
On my mind
Nobody wants to read your shit.
This is the basis of writing well. The basis of doing anything on the Internet. Actually, this is the basis of life itself (maybe).
The message we need to drill into our eyelids is: people don’t care about you, they only care about what you can do for them. (Obviously, this doesn’t include your family and friends. Maybe. Let’s focus on the message here, alright?!).
So it’s something I remember whenever I sit down to write. Which is every day. And while I always attribute such success to “luck”, I engineered these 5 things to maximize my chances:
1) Sharing stories
Personal transformation stories are engagement cocaine.
They’re relatable. People love reading about them (gives them hope). And it makes you come across as a “real” person rather than another online “guru”. Which I am NOT, by the way.
And superb storytelling is 100% about change. Books, articles, movies. Life altering changes or insignificant ones. It doesn’t matter.
Sharing the moment when and how your thinking changed is one of the most powerful things you can ever share. And it’s incredibly valuable.
Of course, this thread was entirely on my journey and how I got out of the worst hole of my life. So: 10/10!
2) Hooking the reader's attention
Spend 50% of your time writing the first line (or tweet).
“That’s a lot!”
It’s not. Cause it decides if someone reads your piece.
All your hard work amounts to zero if no one reads it. I could dedicate an entire series of emails on what I've learned about writing hooks. (Maybe I will, lemme know?). Here’s what I did:
Specificity: I didn’t “eat junk food”, I ate “pizza and chips”. No “video games and TV”, but “PS4 and Netflix”. Real examples, not generic terms. It evokes a visceral reaction - "that’s me!"
Open loops: The goal is to create curiosity in your reader’s mind. So that they read to resolve it. How was the worst period of my life “the best thing that ever happened to me”? Well, you’ve got to read to find out.
Pictures: A picture and a thousand words, eh? Our brains process visual information in an instant. You don’t even need to read the hook to know the thread is about transformation. The higher the contrast, the better.
The number of “this is my story!” responses I’ve received on this are astounding. 10/10.
3) Focusing on reader value
Friendly reminder: Nobody wants to read your shit!
Before learning how to write, I thought great writing was about me. My thoughts, my ideas. Me, me, me.
It’s about you.
Because while my ideas may be “great”, they're pointless until you read them. Until they change you.
Here my story was simply a wrapper to deliver some hard lessons I've learnt. The lessons are 100% reader focused. Again, 10/10 (I’m strict in self-assessment).
4) Formatting for readability
Unending walls of texts are a pain in the ass to read.
Like when someone goes on a rant and you zone out. So never do that. Doesn’t mean you only write one sentence paragraphs, but it means you mix it up and vary the pace. This is as applicable for all forms of writing.
Again, it makes it easier for your reader to consume the information. Clean bullets, white spaces, pleasing to the eye - check! 10/10.
5) Addressing a desire
I ended up writing about “humans”.
But I say this in hindsight, after reading the comments and messages I’ve received. While I was going for an emotional response, it ended up being more visceral than I imagined:
“Damn, this is me!”
“Sold your PS4?! WTF, I could never do that!”
Always aim to spark emotions. Think of the emotion you’d like to evoke before even starting your piece. Writing devoid of emotion is as engaging as your friendly next door psychopath. Maybe less, cause that guy’s smiling a bit too much.
“But Adi, I don’t want to go viral just for the sake of it!”
Keep your pants on.
The point isn’t to induce cheap dopamine. It’s to provide high value. And then do all you can to make sure that value reaches the most people it can.
I’ve had multiple people message me saying they’ve started therapy after reading my story. Holy pepperoni!
So here’s something to chew on and conclude this week's banter:
“Distribute your work as widely as you can. Do whatever it takes to call attention to it. Art needs an audience. There are no unknown geniuses.” - Derek Sivers
Until next week
This was different than usual.
Everything is an experiment after all. It’s part of exploring writing online and finding the intersection of what’s useful to you and fun for me to do. What do you think?
Your “always experimenting with my newsletter format” friend,
PS: Suggestions are always welcome. I love banter (duh), so hit that reply button, comment on the website or book a call if you want to chat! I’d love to hear from you.
Great breakdown Adi. Especially the lesson-context-lesson sandwich. Becoming a pro!
What a great episode!
One request: Can i translate this to Arabic language with credit to you?