How To Write Something Useful To Others

Seven simple ways to create value through your writing.

If the goal of your writing is to create value for yourself or others, there’s one surefire way to do it:

Write something useful.

While snarky, controversial, revealing, or entertaining writing may get you attention, the only way to create true value is to write something that provides it to others.

And readers value what they can use.

Here are a seven simple ways to write something useful to others…

  1. Use A “How To” Headline

Your headline is a promise that your writing needs to live up to.

This means if you frame your writing with a “How To…” headline, you almost force yourself to share useful information.

It’s a hack to ensure that you create content that will show readers how to actually do something and avoid the trap of just sharing your random perspective on the topic.

Not to get too meta, but I gave this post a “How To” headline because I want it to be useful to readers.

My goal is not simply to convince you writing something useful is important, it’s to show you how to do so. Living up to the headline helps me stay on that track.

Which leads to my next suggestion…

  1. Write Something Actionable, Not Theoretical

Pontificate about whatever you want in your writing — there are plenty of people who may be curious to read your thoughts. 

But MORE people will value your writing if you make it actionable.

Tell readers how they can do things, show them what actions to take, and give them instructions on how to actually execute as opposed to solely convincing them to go a certain direction.

A map is always more valuable than solely a destination.

Here’s an example of how to write something actionable:

How To Write An Effective Follow-Up Email After Meeting With Someone
Six tips and a template.medium.com
 

  1. Write An Answer To A Question You’re Asked

If somebody asks you a question or seeks your advice about a situation, you can be sure they’re not the only one seeking that information.

One of the simplest ways to be useful is to pay attention to the questions you’re asked and share your answers in your writing.

People primarily ask for things they believe will be useful so questions are a great way to recognize the expertise you have that will be of use to others.

And the more people who ask a question, the more useful your answer is likely to be.

Here’s an example of how to answer a common question in your writing:

How I Get Stuff Done
The 11 things I do to be productive without working 24/7.medium.com

  1. Write What Others Won’t

Reveal your secrets.

It’s useful to share information that can be found elsewhere, but the most value comes from writing about things others are unwilling to share.

The more open you are with your expertise, tactics, and discoveries, the more useful (and ultimately successful) your writing will become.

Value is generated by those willing to share their secrets, not those who keep them closely guarded. 

Here’s an example of how to reveal secrets in your writing:

5 Tactics I’ve Used To Get 18,000 Newsletter Subscribers
A behind-the-scenes look at the For The Interested newsletter.medium.com
 

  1. Don’t Write About Your Experiences — Write About What You LEARNED From Them

Personal stories are powerful and the more experiences you have, the more you’ll have to write.

But a story ‘s value isn’t in its narrative — it’s in the lessons learned from it. 

To write something useful for others, focus on what your experiences taught you as opposed to simply the experiences themselves.

Those lessons can save readers a time, effort, and agony — sharing what you’ve learned can provide them a valuable shortcut.

Here’s an example of how to share the lessons from an experience:

What I Learned From Sharing 1,000 Self-Improvement Ideas In 100 Weeks
Seven things happen when you stick with a project.medium.com

  1. Write About Something Universal

The more people participate in the topic you write about it, the more useful your writing can be.

For example, a post about how to use a widget that only a handful of people in the world will ever need may be useful, but only to that handful of people.

On the other end of the spectrum, writing about how to improve your sleep is potentially useful to the entire world.

Obviously you should only write about topics in which you have actual expertise to share, but it’s worth keeping in mind the broader the subject matter, the more potentially useful your writing can be.

Here’s an example of how to write about something universal:

How I Stopped Checking My Phone And Started Using It With Intention
10 simple things I did to break bad habits and take back control.medium.com

  1. Write About Something Specific

Even if you write about a universal concept like sleep, the key to writing something useful is to do so in as specific a way as possible.

A post that explains why sleep is important and recommends others get more of it, probably isn’t all that useful. It’s too general and obvious.

What would be more useful is to write something that shares the exact actions you’ve taken to improve your sleep, step by step instructions for others to follow, and what you’ve learned in the process of doing so.

Specific is always more useful than general.

Here’s an example of how to write something specific:

How To Free Up Two Hours In Your Day
How to spend less time on email, meetings, and more.medium.com
 

So…Did You Find This Useful?

I hope so and look forward to reading your next useful creation.

Feel free to tweet it to me when you publish it.