You know those writers you admire who are crazy, creative and ready to change the world?
Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a writer like that?
Well the truth is they all belong to a secretive, invitation-only club that’s as uncompromising as anything Tyler Durden could dream up.
It’s called Write Club.
While insomnia and a brash, slightly crazy alter-ego aren’t requirements for joining, you still must adhere to some rules.
(Don’t worry; not talking about the club isn’t one of them!)
Noticeably lacking in mischief, mayhem, and soap, the eight rules of Write Club offer a no-BS look at common pitfalls that ail many writers, and their blunt styling is something even Chuck Palahniuk can appreciate.
If you’re looking to make this whole content thing work for you and wish to avoid being the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world, make sure you follow them closely.
Rule #1 — You Do Not Publish Crappy Content
This has been and will forever remain the first and most important rule of Write Club.
If it isn’t magic, it doesn’t ship.
You need to write every day, but you do not need to publish every day. Hell, even Ernest Hemingway knew when to put his crap in the wastebasket.
You’re better off creating a great piece of content once a week rather than publishing something of questionable quality every day.
Great writing happens as a result of research, editing, and sleeping on it, so don’t succumb to the pressure of hitting publish when you just aren’t ready; your writing (and your reputation) will suffer for it.
Rule #2 — You Do NOT Publish Crappy Content
Yes, it’s important enough to list it twice.
When Wharton published a paper on What Makes Online Content Viral, do you know what the big takeaways were?
- Practically useful content gets shared.
- Content that evoked high arousal emotions was more likely to go viral.
Taking a closer look at #2, we discover that the high arousal emotions were Awe, Anger, Anxiety/Fear, Joy, Lust, and Surprise.
With just these two takeaways, can you honestly say that a majority of your content is both practically useful and interesting enough to evoke an emotional reaction?
You should know by now that you can’t stand out online unless you chase after your inner remarkability and view vanilla content as a sin punishable by death.
Just because a piece is technically sound doesn’t mean it isn’t a bore to read, so I say to you again, “Do not publish crappy content.”
Rule #3 — If You Say, “Stop,” Tap Out, or Go Limp, Your Writing Career is Over
You better be ready to fight, because Write Club is not for the meek.
As the Pixies would tell you, you can easily lose your mind, especially when you’re writing for a thriving ghost town of a blog during your first few months.
Just don’t lose your nerve or your resolve – the world is waiting to read what you have to write, and when the time comes, they’ll buy what you have to sell.
But it won’t come easy.
Don’t become complacent, and don’t let Kevin Costner Syndrome (“If I build it, they will come.”) stop you from putting in the necessary legwork to lift a fledgling blog off the ground. Just like members of Fight Club, you’ve got homework to do, and promoting yourself is just something you’ll have to get comfortable with.
Last but not least, fight the fear that tries to knock the wind out of you before you even begin. Years later, you’ll be glad you started now.
And remember, this is your life, and it’s ending one word at a time, so make ‘em count.
Rule #4 — Only Two People at a Time
“But I want to write for thousands of people!”
I want that for you as well, but if you ignore this rule, you’ll end up writing for no one.
Before you try to create an audience with your writing, you must first decide who you want in the seats.
If you don’t decide what audience you want, you’ll get one you don’t want.
So what should you do?
Write as if it’s just you and someone else.
You’ll never choose your words more carefully than when you create a sense that your words were meant for a specific person.
I personally use a technique called Customer Profiling to create an extensive dossier on my ideal readers, customers, and brand advocates. When you know a prospect as well as they know themselves, you can speak to them as if you’ve been friends your whole life.
Rule #5 — One Fight at a Time
The web is a double-edged sword. It’s given us a potent tool to get our writing seen without being chosen by some pretentious publisher, but it also serves as the biggest distraction that takes us away from our work.
Combined with other good problems such as having an abundance of supportive emails from subscribers in your inbox, you can easily see why a typical writer’s day involves about as much procrastinating as it does writing.
Even genuinely productive people can get caught up in having too many unfinished projects at once. Despite your workload, when the time comes to put the words on the page, you need to stick to one fight at a time.
Hell, even the research says that multitasking is bad for you: “People who multitask are not being more productive – they just feel more emotionally satisfied from their work.”
Multitasking is just a more palatable way of saying, “I’m not giving this my all.”
As mayhem incarnate, even Durden knew that when you’re doing something important, you need to focus your energy and go all in:
“No fear. No distractions. The ability to let that which does not matter truly slide.”
Rule #6 — No Shirts, No Shoes
Do you know what I love about Write Club?
Besides having our own little place to write (that you have complete control over), the members of Write Club don’t need shirts, shoes, or any stinkin’ badges; we just need our ideas and the discipline to find the right words.
Unfortunately, non-members seem to think that the tools matter far more than they actually do. My toolbox is filled with words; the rest of it is just for distribution.
Don’t let the things that you own end up owning you.
“You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your f*cking khakis.”
Stop tinkering around with your site and grab a design that works. Make sure your readers have an easy, accessible way to stay updated with your content (hint: an email list). Write from the heart, but take some extra time to spoon-feed those crazy Google bots by optimizing your content.
Then you should stop worrying, and get back to writing.
Rule #7 — Fights Will Go on as Long as They Have To
We all know that eventually, you have to ship.
But as a member of Write Club, you should know that an individual fight is allowed to go on as long as it has to.
Opinions shift and change. Topics, interests, and perspectives all evolve. Why then, should an important topic be relegated to a single, static blog post?
A community is built on feedback, discussion, and the exploration of a topic, and the conversation is allowed to go on for as long as need be. Without interaction, your blog morphs into a one-way journal instead of a living, breathing community of like-minded people who trust and advocate your advice.
So when the time comes to throw a new angle on an old topic into the arena, don’t be afraid to ring the bell again.
And remember that evergreen content often needs a second wind in order to stay relevant in these fast-moving times of ours.
Hell, even Tyler Durden agrees:
“I say never be complete. I say stop being perfect.”
So ship sooner rather than later, but remember that the fight doesn’t end until you say it does.
Rule #8 – If This is Your First Night at Write Club, You HAVE to Write
Sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken, and starting a blog with grand intentions does not make you a writer.
If you’re a newbie to Write Club, you better start writing.
And then you better write some more (but remember, you don’t have to publish every day).
As a writer, the world won’t care what you think, say, or feel – at least until you write it down. A harsh truth that you have to accept is that the world will only care about you when they care about your writing, and keeping it in your head is a surefire way to keep you stuck where you’re at.
So put your dukes up, put your thoughts on the page, and welcome to Write Club.
This Is Your Life.
And it’s ending one minute at a time.
I am Jack’s closing paragraph.
Listen; at the end of the day, all I want is for your writing to draw crowds of people chanting your name as if you were Robert Paulson – but long before you are dead.
By finishing this article, you’ve officially been inaugurated into Write Club, but you’ve got to earn your keep.
Unfortunately, many people will close out of this article and go back to lives that resemble our poor narrator, caught in a placid dream state, never being truly awake, lamenting on what-ifs and plans that will never begin.
And that’s a shame, because on a long enough timeline, the survival rate for every great idea drops to zero.
That’s why I’ve got some homework for you today (and no, you won’t have to start a fight and lose, I promise).
All I want is for you to take the first few steps on a crazy writing project that you’ve been putting off. I don’t care if it’s a controversial article that you’ve mulled over in your head a thousand times, a knockout guest post for a site you’ve dreamed about writing for, or that book you’ve always wanted to write but haven’t.
Whatever it is, stop waiting until things are perfect, because they never will be. We have a tendency to make so many plans for our new lives, but life is what happens while you’re waiting for moments that may never come.
That is, in essence, one of the best lessons from Fight Club that every writer needs to understand—the bold don’t wait to be chosen; they simply run with it:
“People do it every day, they talk to themselves… they see themselves as they’d like to be, they don’t have the courage you have, to just run with it.”
Are you coming along for the ride?
About the Author: Gregory Ciotti is the marketing guy at Help Scout, the invisible email management software for small business owners. Check out Greg’s personal Project Mayhem by visiting his blog Sparring Mind.