Practice Writing

This is the last page of a guide to Writing Well. Start at page one.

A quote to kick us off

What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you.
– Carl Sagan

What we’ve learned so far

All of these takeaways, and more, are recapped in a cheat sheet at the bottom of this page.

The writing process

  1. Choose a topic
  2. Write your intro, and use it to brainstorm talking points
  3. Get feedback on your intro
  4. Create a starting outline
  5. Explore talking points within your outline
  6. Rewrite for clarity, succinctness, and intrigue
  7. Cycle between rewriting, resting, and receiving feedback
  8. Copy edit for grammar, word choice, and flow

Follow as much of that as you want. They're suggestions, not rules.

Practicing

Don't practice by aiming for a weekly output of words. Word count is a dumb goal that measures the volume of your output instead of the quality of your input.

Heck, rewriting often reduces your word count.

Instead, focus on improving (A) the quality of your thinking and (B) your eye for rewriting.

Writing persuasive essays is an efficient way to do this.

Persuasive writing requires logic and clarity. If you’re neither, readers cannot follow your arguments to become convinced of them. And if you fail to be succinct and intriguing, readers quit before digesting your full argument.

The steps

  1. Write short posts that persuade your friends to change their minds.
  2. Ask them to score from 1-10 how much your writing sustained their interest.
  3. Rinse and repeat until you're regularly churning out 7.5+ posts.

Make this is a game, not a chore

Great writers make a game out of rewriting:

The more posts you run this process on, the better the writer you become. Personally, I believe I wrote 30 posts before rewriting finally clicked for me.

Dissect good writing

To learn what a job well done looks like, dissect your favorite posts: highlight the best and worst parts of each and identify what makes them so.

Here are writers whose work I enjoy (in no particular order):

You can also read my blog posts.

And don't forget to dissect this guide itself. Leave feedback here.

Example of dissection+

First, read the post below in its entirety. Then, re-read it while referencing my commentary underneath.

Julian's dissection

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Examples of topic objectives

Below are blog posts that exemplify the topic objectives:

  1. Articulate something everyone’s thinking about but no one is saying. Cut through the noise. Example post.
  2. Identify key trends on a topic. Use them to predict the future. Example.
  3. Contribute original insights through research and experimentation. Example.
  4. Distill an overwhelming topic into something approachable. (This guide.)
  5. Share a solution to a tough problem. Example.
  6. Tell a suspenseful and emotional story that imparts a lesson. Example.

My favorite reader submissions

If you use this guide to write something wonderful, share it with me: @Julian!

Why I write

For me, the eureka moment in writing comes when I think “It’s possible no one’s said this before. I've contributed something new to the world, and I worded it brilliantly. And now people will read this and think, ‘Wow. I never thought about this. That was a big dopamine hit.’” When I get that reaction, I feel like I’ve carved out a special corner of the web — where people come without expectations and leave enlightened. I want my ideas to bring more of those experiences into the world. I want my site to be packed with them. This is the type of writing I enjoy.
– Julian

Cheat sheet

Below is the cheat sheet for this entire handbook.

If you enter your email below, the cheat sheet is emailed to you so you can easily reference it in your inbox. You'll also be notified when my next guide is out.

If you liked the quality of this handbook and want to learn how to play piano or how to write fiction, get excited because I'm releasing those handbooks next. You can get them a couple months early via email:

✋🏼 Dope — you're good to go. If you don't see cheat sheets in your inbox, check your spam folder. And come say hello on Twitter.

Writing process

  1. Choose a topic
  2. Write your intro, and use it to brainstorm talking points
  3. Get feedback on your intro
  4. Create a starting outline
  5. Explore talking points within your outline
  6. Rewrite for clarity, succinctness, and intrigue
  7. Cycle between rewriting, resting, and receiving feedback
  8. Copy edit for grammar, word choice, and flow

Objectives

Motivations

Introductions

First draft steps

  1. Choose an objective for your post.
  2. Write a messy braindump of your ideas.
  3. Transfer your best talking points to an outline. Use supporting points and resulting points: what is needed to make your argument, and what are the implications of your argument being true?
  4. Write your first draft using that outline.

First draft writing process

Clarity

Succinctness

  1. Rewrite sections from memory. Focus on the key points and let the fluff fall away.
  2. Then remove unnecessary words from each paragraph.
  3. Then rephrase paragraphs to be as succinct as possible.

Intrigue

Feedback

Style

Copyediting

Practice

Julian's blog posts

Mind
Mental models

Navigating life wisely

Career
What to work on

Choosing your big projects

Business
Stress of competition

How to handle competitors

Mind
On being annoyed

Staying rational

Story
My Hollywood story

I broke into the film industry

Personal
My favorite stuff

My shows, films, artists, podcasts

Business
Running an agency

Strategies for efficiency

Skills
How to punctuate

Writing clear sentences