For starters, it helps if you have something to say.
It also helps if you have a passion for a topic.
However, you can be passionate and still just simply not know what to write about. You could be super pumped to write something and then the blank page punches you in the face.
That’s when a writing system helps.
Writing systems are what professional writers use to overcome that moment that comes to anyone who’s ever put pen to paper (or today fingers to keyboards).
What Is a Writing System, Heck What is a System?
Have you ever read the back of a shampoo bottle?
Squeeze > Lather > Rinse > Repeat.
That’s a system.
But serious question…
Seriously, am I washing my hair wrong? Am I supposed to be shampoo’ing 2-3 times per shower? And what about the word stop? What if someone’s in a shower some where repeating and repeating, permanently stuck in the shower, because no one ever thought to write > stop.
Those 4 steps on the back of the shampoo bottle, that’s a system. It’s just a sequence of action steps that when combined produce a uniform result every time.
A “writing” system is a sequence of action steps for writing that produce a uniform piece of writing every time.
There’s lots of them out there.
Read the biography or autobiography of almost any famous writer and you’ll surely hear about their writing system. The other thing about writing systems is everyone thinks theirs is the best.
The best writing system is one you’ll use.
Ideally, one you’ll continually use.
What Writing System(s) I Use To Write This Newsletter?
I snuck that little plural in there next to system, because I use multiple.
I get bored when things are too structured, but then I also get distracted if they aren’t structured enough. Pray for my mother, can you believe what she had to deal with raising me!
The first system I use helps me ensure I capture most of my thoughts, ideas, concepts, and learnings. There’s a great book that goes into detail on it called “How To Take Smart Notes.”
Which is about another writers writing system called Zettlekasten.
That dude wrote something like 70+ books and 400+ essay’s!
The Zettlekasten Method In a Nutshell
Niklas Luhmann’s “Zettelkasten” is a collection of notes on paper slips with a special twist: It is a hypertext that he could navigate the drawer cabinet containing all the paper slips with a reasonable amount of time and energy.
If you want to geek out, click the link to read about Zettlekasten, I’m going to give you the super simple version.
There are 3 types of notes…
1. Quick notes
2. Expanded notes
The idea is you write down quick thoughts in a sentence or even a phrase. These are your quick notes. An idea hits you in the car and you quickly jot it down at the stop light or in the parking lot or in the shower.
You keep all of these quick notes in an inbox, even if that just means a folder in your favorite note taking app called “inbox.” Then you schedule a time weekly or daily to sort and expand on your quick notes. This means flushing out your thoughts a little more in depth. Maybe adding some links, hashtags, or resources you need to investigate more.
Obviously, this gives you your expanded notes.
Next, you schedule time weekly or monthly to fully flush out or combine expanded notes into full articles or essays. Maybe for you that means blog posts, or book chapters, or for me newsletter issues.
Lastly, you’ll want to make sure every note has some method of indexing. Some apps let you use hashtags, others @ tags, and [[others]] make you use weird brackets. You just need some method for connecting the notes to each other or making them at least easily search/sort(able).
There you have it… you’re a Zettleexpert.
Why I Use Zettlekasten & How It Turns Into Unlimited Content
The biggest reason is capturing ideas.
How many times have you been watching a tv show, in a conversation, or showering and this thought pops into your head. It’s brilliant and you want to action it or talk about it with someone.
Then you finishing drying off and even though it’s only been 3 minutes, the idea has vanished.
I. HATE. THAT!
I never want brilliance to escape me.
I can look much smarter than I really am just because I have a method of capturing really great ideas and thoughts that flow to and through me.
Just by capturing more ideas and thoughts, I have more to talk/write about.
Then by expanding on these quick notes I’m taking through out the week, I have all these “content legos.” If I want to write about the future of marketing, I can just search “marketing” and all these notes come up.
Select > Ctrl C > Ctrl V > Repeat (and stop!)
Essentially, I am copy/pasting my way into a rough draft of an article or newsletter issue. Then all I have to do is edit a little to create a fully flushed out essay on a topic.
Many of these content legos are reusable too.
My next article might be about 10 marketing strategies that work in 2022, and bam I’m re-using those expanded notes to copy/paste my way into another fully thought out essay. This method lets me capture more ideas than the average bear, and then build content quickly with “content legos” aka expanded notes.
The Second Writing System I Use To Ensure My Articles Don’t Suck
Just because you have tons of sorted expanded notes doesn’t mean they are click-worthy or enjoyable to read. They could be dry as dust.
I always have my eyes out for more writing systems.
This one I learned from a great YouTube channel for bloggers called “Income School”. They talk about it in their video about the perfect blogging structure. I think it’s about how to write good blog posts in under an hour.
Something like that.
It’s likely saved in my playlist of awesome marketing YouTube videos called “Marketing Lunchbox”.
The quick version is…
I have a document with 6 questions and all I have to do is answer those 6 questions to spit out a piece of content that’s going to be click worthy and interesting to read.
- What is my headline?
- What is my first sentence?
- What’s the first question my reader will have?
- What’s the second question my reader will have?
- What’s the 3rd question my reader will have?
- What is a summary to everything I just said?
It’s loosely based on the idea that you tell them what you are going to tell them, then you tell them, and then you tell them what you just told them. It’s supposed to help reader retention.
For me, it’s like an idea extractor.
I can go from “Hmmm I think I’ll write about my writing system” and then 1hr later I have this fully written article about how I write thousands of words daily without running out of content ideas.
See what I did there?
So if you’re following along, I use writing systems to make sure I’m getting uniform pieces of writing every time I sit down to write. Which consists of a Zettlekasten like system of capturing lots of ideas, expanding them, and combining them for fully flushed out essays.
Then to make them interesting I use another writing system that helps me make sure I have a good headline, well structured article, and good reading retention for my reader. After all, if they leave my article and immediately forget what I just wrote about - that’s not going to lead to shares or future sales.
The last thing I do is copy/paste a call to action at the end of my articles. This way when I boost them on Facebook for $5/day it helps me turn readers into customers.
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See you next week.
Founder of AdSkills.com
P.S. Recently, I got together with two of my expert friends, Ed Dale a copywriting legend and Tom Breeze one of the worlds leading Youtube ad creators. We spent four hours breaking down the scripts, editing choices, and ad strategies behind 25 of the highest performing YouTube ads. You can watch that series here > Decoded: The Top 25 Youtube Ads Revealed