My mouth was watering.
While flushing my email inbox a few minutes before, I had spotted a particularly enticing article titled,
“80 Ideas To Improve Your Writing Skills”
…and it was just what I needed.
My blog was dying. In three months, my bounce rate had increased from a terrible 78% to a pathetic 85%, and my subscriber growth was non-f**king-existent.
“But not any more,” I thought.
“With 80 new ideas under my belt, there’s no way I won’t free myself from this rut!”
I read the whole article shortly after. It was decent.
But you know what was incredible?
Two months later, my bounce rate went from a pathetic 85% to a pitiful 87%.
Despite having received 80 brilliant ideas from my industry’s greatest minds, I had failed to implement any of them. In fact, I wasn’t even able to evoke a single one from memory.
They were gone.
And that scenario wasn’t rare, either.
By that point, I had read every popular writing book — On Writing, Bird by Bird, Everybody Writes, On Writing Well — and taken every online writing course available to me. My brain was packed full of professional expertise.
…but I still wrote like a 2nd grader.
I knew this trend couldn’t continue for much longer. I needed to figure out a way to improve — for my blog and my sanity’s sake.
So I decided to look towards my other skills for help.
I asked myself:
“What else have I become great at, and how did I do it? What can I learn from that journey?“
…and only one answer stood out in response.
“World of Warcraft.”
(feeling a bit of a Nicolas Cole vibe aren’t you?)
A few years before, I was a high-ranking WoW player. I had achieved a rating of 2200 in both 2v2 and 3v3 arena battles, and my guild was one of the most prominent in my realm.
Those credentials weren’t nearly as impressive as Nicolas’s, but they were still pretty damn good, and I was proud of them.
The idea, though — that was f**king ridiculous.
I had no idea how I was going to relate my experience as a WoW player to writing. It seemed like the two had absolutely nothing in common (save the despair you felt after spending hours on a task that resulted in zero real-life progress).
But I was desperate, so I tried anyway.
“What skills did I have to master to become a great WoW player?” I asked.
The concept of “stunning” immediately came to mind.
“Stunning” was a way to incapacitate an enemy player so they couldn’t interfere with your attempt to slaughter their team mate. It looked something like this:
Now, “stunning” was an essential skill. You’d get your ass kicked in any high-level arena games without it. And even worse, it was one of the hardest skills to learn as a beginner. You needed to play thousands of matches if you wanted to master it.
But I had mastered it.
So I kept digging:
“OK, how did I master ‘stunning?’”
“Well, I sucked at first,” I thought. “I must have lost 500 games in a row trying to learn it.
“That didn’t stop me though.
“Each time I entered the arena, I directed 99% of my attention towards stunning my enemies. Nothing else mattered — not even winning the match. If I had successfully stunned my opponent at least once, I considered it a win.
“And I did that over and over again until I started winning.”
It took a moment before it hit me.
“Oh shit. I think I just figured it out.”
…but I wasn’t totally convinced just yet.
So, one by one, I started reviewing the processes I had used to master other skills.
And lo and behold:
No matter the skill — damage rotations, dispelling, buffing, kiting — I learned them all in the exact same fashion.
I realized that my success wasn’t a result of how many hours I put into the game or how much information I crammed into my brain.
I succeeded because I learned the game one hyper-focused baby-step at a time.
And that’s what I’m starting to do with my writing, too.
I stopped downloading eBooks. I stopped buying courses. Any time I see one of those “80 Ways to Whatever-The-F**k” articles, I hold myself back.
In other words, I restrain myself from cramming information.
Instead, every Monday I choose **one writing skill** that I suck at, then direct 99% of my attention towards improving it over the week.
I don’t care if I write a few crappy articles along the way.
I just keep writing. I keep writing until writing feels normal again.
And that’s when I know I can move onto the next skill.
If you want to join me on my quest to de-shittify my writing, I’ll be sending weekly breakdowns of everything I’ve learned about writing during the previous week, every Friday. Let’s improve our content together.