Most of my content creation these days is writing newsletters to clients. As newsletters are becoming business models on their own, more and more brands are investing in them. The good news is that businesses are constantly looking for experienced writers to create them.
I love writing newsletters because they combine creative writing, curation, and research.
Here are some of the lessons I learned from writing newsletters to clients:
- The most important KPI is the open rate: The open rate is a measure of how many people opened your newsletter out of the total number of recipients. It’s crucial because if people don’t open your newsletter, you are wasting your time. A good KPI is anything over 40%.
- Pay attention to the Email title: The subject line is the first thing recipients see, determining whether they will open your newsletter.
It should be short, witty, and relevant to the content. Adding an emoji can also help make it stand out in a crowded inbox.
- Write a fun intro: The opening paragraph sets the tone for the entire newsletter. It should grab the reader’s attention and make them want to keep reading. A fun intro can include a personal anecdote, a joke, or a surprising fact.
- Include humor: Humor is a great way to connect with your audience and make your newsletter more enjoyable. It can also make your brand more relatable and memorable.
- Add value, then promote your products: While promoting your products is essential, you should first provide value to your readers. This can be in the form of useful information, industry insights, or helpful tips. By providing value, you build trust with your audience and increase the likelihood that they will take action on your promotional messages.
- Pay attention to visuals: Add engaging images and infographics, and experiment with different media formats like audio and video.
- Send it at the same time, same day: Consistency is vital when it comes to newsletters. By sending your newsletter at the same time and day each week or month, you train your audience to expect it, and they are more likely to engage with it.
Writing newsletters is a fun and rewarding experience I highly recommend to any writer or content creator. If you are a freelance writer, try to expand your writing formats beyond an article or a blog post and include newsletters in your portfolio.
David Perell never forgets a story. This prolific online writer captures and records, and then writes his viral essays. The first time I heard about the concept of writing from abundance was from Perell on a podcast in which he talked about how he would have all of these ideas for stories when he lived in New York City, and he would immediately capture them on his phone before he forgot them.
The idea of immediate capture resonated with me, and I decided to implement it in my writing strategy, but you know, life got in the way; I got lazy, lost motivation, and never did anything about it.
That changed when I received a scholarship to David Perell’s sought-after online writing cohort, Write of Passage.
Writing from abundance was a key concept during the cohort. It’s based on the idea that you never start writing from scratch. Instead, you start from a foundation of abundant notes that you gather over days and years, capturing everything you hear, read or consume that you feel worthy of capturing.
While contemplating the writing from abundance methodology, I couldn’t help but think of the story of the poet Ruth Stone which I first heard about in the book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.
Ruth Stone used to run back home when an idea popped up in her mind for a poem. Sometimes she caught it; sometimes she would catch only the tail; sometimes she missed it altogether. If only Ruth Stone had an info capture system, she wouldn’t have had to run at all!
My abundance writing system
I started my abundance writing system from the very first week of the Write of Passage course, and I’m still refining it as I go. It’s not an exact science, and I have customized it based on my needs.
My info capture system is a mix of systems ( Notion, Evernote, Apple Notes). The jury is still out on which one I prefer; I rely on Evernote for notes and note tagging, Notion for workflow, and Apple Notes for quick, fleeting notes.
I don’t know if someday I will find a platform that will solve all my problems, but here are the current building blocks of my game-changing writing system.
- Writing from conversations: Writing from conversations is a concept I hadn’t heard of before taking Write of Passage. It’s capturing and recording conversations that you deem worthy of archiving. How often do we sit with someone and have a mind-boggling inspiring conversation and never write it down? How many opportunities did we miss?
- Otter: This is such an important tool in writing and capturing ideas that I’m kicking myself for not using it earlier. It’s a voice note-taking system and transcription app all in one. As soon as an idea strikes, whether I’m walking the dog, washing the dishes, or folding laundry, I stop what I’m doing and speak out my idea. Otter transcribes it to text I immediately drop in my capture system.
- Tagging notes from Readwise: I have been using Readwise to capture ideas from Kindle books for a while. But I have refined this system by tagging the info and capturing them in Evernote. This way, let’s say I’m writing an essay on creativity, I can just look for the tag “creativity” and get all the info that I have gathered over time.
- Journaling: I have been journaling on and off for a while, but after implementing the writing from abundance concept, journaling is becoming almost a daily habit. I’m using the app Day One Journal to record my thoughts, summarize the day, and make sure I capture my daily doings. I also tag my thoughts to make sure I incorporate them in future essays when needed.
In his book, The War of Art, Steven Pressfield writes:
“Hitler wanted to be an artist. He applied to the Academy of Fine Arts and later to the school of Architecture. Ever seen one of his paintings? Neither have I. Resistance beat him. Call it an overstatement, but I’ll say it anyway… It was easier for Hitler to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square of canvas.”
Facing a black page is daunting, and Pressfield argues that starting a war is easier than facing the dreaded blank Google Doc. That’s where writing from abundance comes as it solves that issue.
When I open my info capture system, I get ideas for essays, feature ideas I want to pitch to editors, tweets, and nuanced arguments I want to include in my newsletter.
I copy those captured ideas that I want to expand on and paste them into a Google document. Gone are the days of the dreaded blank page.
Having abundant info reduces the friction of sitting down to write. And as Pressfield says: “It’s not the writing part that is hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.”
So fellow writers, listen up; writing from abundance is indeed a game-changer. Do it, do it now. And remember, it’s better to write than to start a war.
Would you believe me if I told you a YouTuber from London who is twenty years my junior changed my life?
His name is Ali Abdaal, and his impact on my life goes beyond the productivity tips he discusses on his YouTube channel. His golden rule, “Journey before destination,” taught me to fully embrace my content creation journey. The journey that led me to finding my tribe.
First, let me tell you about Ali. He is a YouTuber and podcaster who recently quit his job as a doctor to pursue content creation full-time. Abdaal began coding at the age of 12 by building websites then went to medicine and started a YouTube channel about how to study for exams.
Eventually, he managed to make multimillions in profit through his various content creation businesses, including YouTube, his online academy, affiliate marketing, and other ventures.
His content revolves around productivity, making money online, and living a healthier, happier, and wealthier life.
Your vibe brings your tribe
I have been experimenting with creating content in different formats for almost two decades. I have been on Twitter since it first started in 2006, and I have amassed close to 10 K followers and a verified account, but for a long time, Twitter had been a source of immense frustration for me, mainly because I couldn’t find my community.
I struggled with defining my tribe; who are my people? Are they journalists, authors, people from the Middle East who share my heritage, parents, working moms? Who dwells in my internet village?
Except for a few ones, most of my tweets hardly got any engagement, and I mainly was tweeting with little or no engagement. Crickets, crickets, all the way.
But that slowly started to change when I was introduced to Ali through a friend of mine. I started watching his YouTube videos, and I slowly got hooked. I heard him talk about productivity, books, how he remembers everything he reads, how he listens to books on audio at an accelerated speed, and how writing online has made him a millionaire.
As I watched his videos suddenly, things started clicking for me, and I reminisced on my career and my writing journey that began when I was in elementary school. Writing online is what I enjoy the most. I was meant to do that full-time. After working on and off for employers for over twenty years, I recently took the plunge and became a full-time content creator, with writing as my focus. Ali played a major part in this decision. He showed me that it’s doable. That if you focus on the journey, the benefits will come later on, and that consistency and passion are all it takes. Writing and creating content became my vibe, and that eventually brought my tribe.
The formation of my internet community
Through Ali and his content creation machine that comprises of videos, a newsletter, a podcast, and others, I was introduced to other creators, like David Perell, Thomas Frank, and Matt D’ Avella.
I started following them, enrolled in some of their courses, met other online creators, connected with them via Twitter and other social media platforms, and found myself belonging to a community of engaged, helpful, creative creators.
My connections snowballed, and I built my internet family of creators who were on a similar journey as me. We are all figuring it out as we go. We are all trying to navigate this brave new world, the creator economy with its gambles wins and quirks.
What I love about this newly adopted tribe of mine is how positive and supportive they are and how generous they are with their time, dolling out information and helpful advice to share and benefit others.
I’m also in awe of the fact that they stay away from controversy or discussing politics and contentious current affairs and just focus on the content creation journey. I have seen so much vitriols on Twitter and witnessed bullying and shaming within other communities that I contemplated shutting my Twitter account, but after meeting this community, I breathed a sigh of relief.
This community is different. It’s a haven for intellectually curious, goal-oriented creators who are pursuing their passion. Positivity and reaping benefits from your hard work is their mantra. They don’t get jealous of other creators; they get inspired by each other’s successes and cheer and learn from them.
When I found out that about them. I immediately declared my allegiance. They are my internet people. After more than a decade of searching, I finally found my long-lost tribe.
My content creation machine
Encouraged by Ali’s Sunday Snippets newsletter, I created a newsletter and resumed my dormant blog. I also created my own podcast on the reading and writing journey.
I even took things a step further and signed up for his part-time YouTube academy, created my YouTube channel, and started dabbling with affiliate marking and sponsorship.
I started my own media creation machine, and I’m doing it full time, and I couldn’t be happier
Also, through him, I rediscovered my love of journaling and learned about storytellers like Mathew Dicks who encourages everyone to journal every day through his homework for life manifesto.
I finally feel like I have arrived at my destination. I found my raison d’etre and got embraced by my long-lost tribe.
You never know how what you put on the internet can change someone’s life. Keep sharing your ideas with the world, and hope for the best. And as Ali says, journey before destination. Thank you, Ali, for the inspiration! Keep creating.
Today I’m going to tell you about what I see as the biggest fraud of the writing journey. It is a conniving scheme that still exists, and no one bothers to stop it.
Not even the US’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. They are all oblivious!
It’s a hoax orchestrated by writers against writers, a devious scheme of the ages, and, sadly, many fall for it.
It’s the dangerous, cliched term: the notorious writer’s block.
When I hear this term, I cringe and sometimes even get heart palpitations.
Introducing the writer’s con
This treacherous term should be changed to the writers’ con and no by con; I don’t mean a short word for a fancy conference where you feast on shrimps and sip on Californian white wine as you pontificate about not having the time to write. No! I’m talking about an actual swindle here, so pay attention.
The writer’s block is even romanticized in movies and books, where we see writers struggle for years, and then just like a bolt of lighting, the inspiration strikes, and the writer types away all night until they finish the whole manuscript. What a bunch of baloney!
By endorsing this kind of narrative, we defraud writers by telling them that a block exists and that you can’t write until Ms. Muse, with all her might, shows up, a fantasy tale akin to waiting for Godot.
Those who believe in shameful writer’s block are conning writers by telling them that it’s okay to not show up to write every day.
They are telling them writing is not as important as an office job! No wonder there is no phrase called The office block. You go to the office rain or shine, even if you don’t feel like it.
Writers are being misled by being told is it okay to use excuses not to write.
Feeling stuck? Take a walk
You might object and say that sometimes you do feel stuck and don’t know what to write about.
I will offer you a compromise; show up and write whatever you can write, take a quick break by walking around the block (the actual block, not the fraudulent one), then come back and keep writing. This is how the magic happens. It’s not going to happen if you keep complaining about your damn writer’s block while waiting for that mystical bolt of lighting.
I’m not alone here, others have alluded to this con, but they might not have been as vocal.
Stephen King said: “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work,” while author Dan Poynter said, “If you wait for inspiration to write, you’re not a writer, you’re a waiter.”
Let’s eradicate the monster
So, I’m not going to keep complaining here. I’m going to take action. I’m going to go to the source and eradicate this monstrosity. I’m going to the dictionary.
I’m appealing to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary to remove this madness from their library and replace it with the writer’s con.
Here is how Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines it:
Writer’s block: “A psychological inhibition preventing a writer from proceeding with a piece.”
My suggestion for the change is as follows:
Writer’s con (previously known as writer’s block): “A hoax orchestrated by disgruntled writers to stop people from writing.”
I’m planning to start a change.org campaign where I collect the signatures of all the writers who have been defrauded and lost motivation and their writing careers over this scheme.
The change.org petition will appeal to this American dictionary to stop this madness.
The campaign will document all these stories and present them to the world to see.
Who wants to join me? Get in touch with me, and let’s do this! Let’s stop the fraud from ruining more writing careers!
Photo by Ryan Snaadt on Unsplash
It’s no secret that you unleash your creative juices when you walk. Famous creatives like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg have been known for being big walkers.
German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who walked with his notebook every day between 11 am and 1 pm, once said:
“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” – Nietzsche.
Henry David Thoreau, a philosopher and an author who himself was a walker, wrote a famous lecture called Walking in which he said:
“You must walk like a camel, which is said to be the only beast which ruminates when walking.” – Henry David Thoreau.
In an interview with writer David Perell, Morgan Housel, author of the Psychology of Money, said “If I ever get some sort of writer’s block, or I’m just trying to think an article through, I go for walks. I go for two or three walks per day, and that’s where all of the writing happens, and I usually take notes when I walk.”
I’m a walker. I take a couple of strolls a day, mostly to exercise my dog and get some fresh air. When I walk, not only do I get energized, but I also unleash the big magic, as Elizabeth Gilbert calls it. My strolls prompt my creative mind to do its thing.
I’m not unique in this regard. According to a study by Standford University, a person’s creative output increases by an average of 60 percent when walking.
Most of my ideas, a plot for a novel, an idea for an essay, a YouTube video, or an Instagram reel, get conceived during my walks.
A big takeaway from my walks is to capture those ideas quickly, or they will simply vanish, disappear into the ether.
Creativity unleashing tools
So while I walk, I always have my iPhone and Airpods to make the most of my time. Here is what I use while I walk:
- Spotify: To listen to podcasts. I love interviews with creatives and content creators.
- Audible: To listen to audiobooks. I love consuming self-help books when I walk.
- YouTube: Every once in a while, I listen to guided walking meditation on YouTube, which clears my mind and reboots my system.
- Fitness +: To listen to guided walks.
The tools mentioned above help unleash my creativity. I listen to a story of a prolific creator or a self-help book, and the ideas keep flowing.
Here is how I quickly capture the idea before they get sucked into a black hole:
Apple Notes: I organize my notes into folders. So if I have an idea for a blog post, I stop my walk, and I immediately jot it down in the blog posts folder.
Notion: Sometimes, I add ideas directly to the social media calendar I created on Notion.
Otter: I use it if I don’t feel like typing, so I keep walking and record my voice notes.
Do you use creativity unleashing tools when you walk? How do you capture your big magic?
In a recent episode of our podcast ExpaTalk, we interviewed Syrian-Canadian poet and author Jackleen Salman who told us an anecdote about her late father.
He used to ask her, “When will you stop writing?.” Her response would be, “I will when you stop gardening.”
I have been thinking about this question for a while now.
When will I stop writing?
I know for sure that I won’t stop writing. I don’t know how many years I will be granted in this life, but what I know for certain is that I will keep writing until I’m physically and mentally able. The career that I chose is not one you retire from, and I’m okay with that.
While reading the book Ikigai by Hector Garcia and Frances Miralles, I learned that Japanese people never really retire. Many of them keep doing what they love for as long as their health allows.
There is no word in Japanese that means retire as in English. According to National Geographic reporter Dan Buettner, having a purpose in life is so important in Japanese that the idea of retirement simply doesn’t exist there.
This story also brought to my mind a line from the highly-acclaimed musical Hamilton. In the musical, Alexander Hamilton is being asked:
“Why do you write like you are running out of time?”
“Write day and night like you’re running out of time?”
I do write like I’m running out of time. Every day that passes, I run out of time, and I want to keep doing it as long as I have time left.
Will you ever stop writing?
To listen to our podcast (in Arabic) with Syrian-Canadian poet and author Jackleen Salman click here.
Photo by Lisa Fotios from Pexels