by Sean Kernon
Don’t be afraid to embrace your weirdness!

I never thought being weird would be helpful in my career. But after seeing avalanches of repetitive styles of writing on every platform I use, I’ve come to appreciate the strange stares and comments I got over the years.


I’m weird. I don’t say that to romanticize my individuality, nor to imply there are people tied up in my basement. It’s more a general off-ness — likely from having an eccentric, artsy mom.

Over the years, I’ve stopped fighting and hiding it and leaned into it. It’s funny how taking unapologetic ownership of who you are causes the jokes to stop. It’s analogous to that famous trespassing advice: just walk in like you own the place and you’ll be fine.

And this is a perfect segue into why you should embrace some unconventional writing tactics. I’ve been blessed with writing success. It’s not something I take for granted — but it wouldn’t have happened without these unusual strategies.

Going on a Walkabout
If you are walking in Tampa, at the right place, at the right time, you might see a goofy, tall blonde dude walking and gesticulating his hands in the air.

You’ll hear the birds chirping, the wind blowing. And as you get closer, you’ll hear me rambling like a crazy person. What you wouldn’t know is that I’m not usually talking to anyone. I’m talking into a recorder on my headset. I’m free riffing on an idea for an article. Monologing on a topic helps me improvise. It forces me to face that wall of mist where I’m out of preconceived ideas. It’s at this wall that some of your best creating happens. Don’t be afraid to live one sentence to the next, unsure of what is to come. Editing and deleting comes later.

I Let Writing Eat Other Writing
I have this long trail of empty drafts that now numbers in the hundreds. It’s like a huge colorful drawer full of mismatched socks.

Many of these “socks” weren’t quite worthy of their own piece. Many eventually become fantastic sections of an article and delivered the nice jab to a one-two content combination. Sometimes I patrol these drafts to see if combining the two, or meeting at a topic in between, would produce something interesting.

This process leads to some of my best ideas and high-performing content. Frankenstein your ideas. Rip out parts and attach them somewhere else. You’ll eventually be screaming, “It’s aliiiiiive.” Or be running for your life.

I Do Things in Reverse
First, I write my main points and intentionally write 1–2 more sections than I’ll actually need. Then I force myself to rank all of them and kill the stragglers. Then I find ways to bridge the connections and segway sections. Then I write the conclusion. Then, I write an introduction that doesn’t match the conclusion — but shakes hands with it.

Remember, simply moving your best sentences to the top of your document is one of the most underappreciated ways of editing. It reinforces a needed, cold-blooded editorial mentality.

A Creativity Exercise I Use
I sometimes pick the most boring topic I can think of and quickly write a few paragraphs to see if I can keep it interesting.

Often, it’s just a boring word I start with. For example, “dirt”. You could write about how it’s the source of all life. How it sits at the top and bottom of the food pyramid. How dirt is a slow-motion ocean for earthworms. How a warrior could throw the dirt in his opponent’s face in a fight. It’s open-ended.

The point is — if you can find a way to make a boring concept interesting, it’ll make the good concepts that much easier to write about. You’ll be more compelling. This is my favorite warm-up exercise.

Play God In Your Bedroom
I sometimes create a character or superhero that is really just an extension of who I am. Whatever your physical/mental strengths and weaknesses are — exaggerate them and build a character around them.

In general — most good characters have an element of the author within them. Any humor I’ve ever written that was funny had some element of truth.

Pick one little quirk or thought, then run with it and don’t be afraid to extrapolate it into another land. You can always trim it down later.

Use a Good Quote as a Soul
Sometimes if I can’t write, I’ll look at really famous short quotes, such as:

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
― Dr. Seuss

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
― Oscar Wilde

Then I’ll try to write something based on those quotes. Famous quotes are typically anchored in rich ideas. I sometimes tinker with them too out of boredom. It gets interesting. For example, Dr. Seuss’s quote gets kinda funny if you switch just two words.
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”


“Don’t smile because it’s over, cry because it happened.”

This highlights how it is only a small nudge that makes something different and more interesting. I live by the 80/20 rule of creativity. Aim to have your concept be 80% familiar, 20% unfamiliar. It is the mission to create the most original book or movie ever made that leads to massive flops. Star Wars was just an amalgamation of several movies, a blend of western, samurai, and sci-fi films.

Parting Words
Being weird is, by definition, a sign that you aren’t a cliche human being. So don’t fret if your thoughts and process are a bit out there.

I shudder when I hear people saying you should just rewrite what popular writers wrote. I’ve seen that tip on Quora, Substack, and Medium. It’s an editorial plague.

Stay unique and embrace your membership in this unholy club of misfits.


by Sean Kernan

These programs will help put your editing and content production on track.

Picture a woman writing marker notes on a glass door with post-it notes around it.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that writers have no use for tools or gear. I make my living writing and spend hours at the keyboard. I’ve found a great set of software and equipment that I still use every day.

The best writing tools are the ones you enjoy using and that are built to get things done quickly and efficiently. If you are serious about becoming a professional writer, it’s worth considering the following options.

Capturing and saving ideas for later

My best articles are usually the result of ideas that seemingly fell out of the sky. I can’t replicate how it happened. It feels random and it’s frustrating. I’ll agonize to myself, “Why can’t I think of a funny idea like that one from earlier?” I do know ideas come from a certain mode my brain gets into. I have a terrible memory and have found it’s of absolute, paramount importance to write down even mediocre ideas. They often evolve into better concepts.

I use a free sticky notes app on my phone. One sticky is just for random ideas. The other stickies are categorized for specific articles. I find that ideas surface when I’m doing something repetitive and passive, like walking, or cleaning. There’s also a voice-to-text feature that is good for jotting ideas if you are bad at writing on your phone.

Programs for writing articles

Grammarly is still a valuable resource for typos. The premium version justifies itself and sends you wordcount recaps each week to track productivity. I’ve also found one trick with their corrections. If it is trying to correct a phrase or word that isn’t actually a typo, that often means your wording is a bit foggy and inefficient. Consider rephrasing the entire sentence.

Grammarly won’t catch everything. You’ll still need to read the article out loud to maximize your editing. I’m introverted and don’t like talking a lot, even by myself. I lose my voice easily and get a sore throat. I often use text reading software, such as Natural Readers. I’ll put this in one window, paste my article in, then follow along making edits while it reads my article to me.

Help for writing and ghostwriting books

I’d heard so many polarizing opinions about Scrivener. People either despise it or can’t live without it. I’m a bit old-school and thought deviating from Word was a fool’s errand until I found myself on a project I couldn’t wrangle.

I was ghostwriting a novel for a high-paying client. I was getting input from so many different sources: friends, exes, bosses, employees. Every conversation was more chaotic than the next. I was left scratching my head thinking, “How in the heck am I going to string this together?” People assume that ghostwriting clients come in and know exactly what they want for their book. The truth is closer to, “I’ve had a cool life. I want to share it with everyone. You can write it.”

A writer told me the signature benefit of Scrivener: organization. You can separate your writing out into modules and sections and have all sorts of notes. This became unbelievably helpful while I was dealing with the chaos. Scrolling through a hundred pages of random stories was unsustainable.

Article and content imagery

Initially, I was using the popular royalty-free images on Pexels and Unsplash. The problem with these images is that they are common. When readers see the same image they’ve seen over and over again, they glaze over and move on. If you can’t afford to buy your images, I strongly recommend you scroll further down before choosing your image. The images at the top are often overused.

If you can spend a few bucks, I strongly recommend using iStock photos or Adobe Stock photos. I love having access to images that most people don’t use. The pictures are considerably better and more tasteful. It’s also a tax-deductible expense so it makes sense.

Office equipment and extras

I’m a rather tall guy and don’t like scrunching up so I bought an adjustable desk, PC, and giant monitor to write on. The idea of spending all day on a laptop makes me shudder. I also have great hardware on the computer so that I can run multiple tabs and programs while I write. Investing in a solid-state drive will make any computer instantly faster than you thought possible. There’s no reason to have a computer that sounds like a lawnmower as it groans to open a new chrome tab.

I also bought a very comfortable chair that helps my posture. Everyone’s body is different, but you should be considering your physical comfort while writing. Hunching over a laptop on your couch isn’t a way to live. If you have a backache while working, something is wrong. Much of this has to do with head positioning. I love having a massive monitor that is right at eye level so I’m not looking down or up and signing myself up for pain.

The key takeaway is that you should be mindful of the programs you are using while you write. There are very real ways to make your writing better and more efficient. Ultimately, your ability to continue writing, stay critical of your work, and get feedback from others will determine your success.

But that doesn’t mean you should ignore the value of extras.


by Jennifer Calonia


As you develop your writing skills, it’s easy to adopt a few habits along the way. Some of these habits are helpful, like having go-to jargon when composing business emails or using a stream-of-consciousness approach when writing a rough draft quickly.

But not all learned habits are helpful in all contexts. Some can derail your message or leave your reader confused and even frustrated.

Your writing, at its best
Be the best writer in the office.
To take your writing skills to the next level, read our list of seven common writing habits to stop stat—and advice on what to do instead.

1 Procrastinating (instead, use time blocks)
Procrastinating on your writing might have served you well during undergrad all-nighters, but it’s not sustainable in a professional setting.

A handout by The Writing Center at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill delves into all aspects of procrastination, namely how making it a habit can leave you feeling deflated and stressed about the writing process. “Procrastination and perfectionism often go hand in hand,” the handout explains. It also attributes the procrastination to fear.

Let’s say you’re dreading writing an analysis, for example. In worrying about how your leadership team will receive your report, you might avoid working on it until the last minute. But procrastinating means you have less time to fix mistakes—making your initial fears that your writing won’t be up to snuff all the more prophetic.

Instead: Dedicate time in your calendar to think about your writing project and nothing else. Do this long before the deadline. This doesn’t have to be a long block of time—it could be twenty to thirty minutes. Keep these time blocks short. This manageable approach moves your writing forward and allows for self-editing, without the pressure to write perfectly in one sitting.

2 Overusing vague adverbs (instead, find synonyms)
Adverbs like “really,” and “very” add emphasis. It’s understandable why using them is a common habit. Especially if you sprinkle these adverbs into your everyday conversations, it’s natural for them to pop up in your formal writing, too.

However, overusing “very” and “really” is counterproductive and risks reducing the impact of your statement. Your aim in writing is to communicate clearly; descriptions like “very nice” or “really great” don’t convey that much. It can also lead to confusion: If five points on a memo are “really important,” then they all have the same value and therefore neither is more important than the other.

Instead: Play around with word choice. When you discover too many adverbs in your writing, turn to a thesaurus. Consider the noun’s true significance and choose a word that accurately describes it to keep “very” and “really” to a minimum. Grammarly can help you by suggesting more concise, powerful language.

3 Relying on turns of phrase (instead, get descriptive)
Familiar language can feel like an easy way to explain or describe a thought. Turns of phrase like “break a leg” or “go the distance” help your reader quickly get an idea of your meaning. But they aren’t useful for keeping a reader’s attention.

Relying on idioms and cliche phrases doesn’t help you hone your unique writing voice. Hackneyed sayings can also disengage your audience, leaving them disinterested.

Instead: Avoid overused language by using rich details and words to describe the subject. Adding more information and deepening descriptions leads to more engaging writing.

4 Writing run-on sentences (instead, embrace punctuation)
Crafting too many run-on sentences is a popular habit. A stream of consciousness might feel natural as you’re writing, but readers generally appreciate the chance to catch a breath (or two).

Not only can a run-on sentence be overwhelming, but it also risks confusing your reader. Lengthy, meandering sentences invite more misunderstandings about the point you’re making.

Instead: Look at your sentences and spot areas that lend a natural pause. Don’t be afraid of punctuation: Use a comma or semicolon, or create a full stop with a period. It may feel choppy to you, but tighter constructions make it easier for readers to absorb your message.

5 Overusing exclamation points (instead, refine your tone)
It can feel natural to want to use exclamation points in your writing. They’re nearly ubiquitous in casual writing like texting and social media. And, they’re useful for conveying enthusiasm, importance, or alarm. After all, what better way to express how you feel than an exorbitant number of exclamation points!!?!!?

In more formal writing, exclamation points are rarer. Sprinkling too many exclamation points throughout a piece or typing many in a row risks coming off as comical. They also take away from your message. Sometimes, there’s an argument for them. But in these situations, one exclamation point is enough.

Instead: Think about the tone or attitude you want to convey. Tone is a combination of word choice, punctuation, and syntax, all of which can effectively do the work of ten exclamation points.

6 Employing too much jargon (instead, write simply)
Unless you’re an experienced fishmonger writing a book specifically for other experienced fishmongers, avoid jargon in your writing. This goes for all writers of any subject—fishmongers et al.

Some jargon, when clearly explained, can be informational. However, too much jargon forces your audience to reread the text multiple times to understand its meaning. Not only does this lead to readers spending more time making sense of your writing, it results in frustration and bewilderment.

Instead: Keep your writing simple by using plain language and paraphrasing ideas into descriptions that a reader at any level can grasp.

7 Hedging (instead, write with confidence)
Hedging occurs when you insert qualifiers into a statement to avoid coming off too strong. Some examples of hedging include using words and phrases, like “I think,” “it looks like,” “somewhat,” or “this seems to . . .”

In an academic paper, there are practical applications for hedging. But in the workplace and everyday writing, it resonates as too uncertain and cautious. It can even undermine your credibility from the start.

Instead: Keep your business writing strong by removing hedging phrases and words. You can write assertively while maintaining a polite and professional tone without hedging.

Outgrowing these common writing habits takes ongoing practice. That’s where Grammarly can come in. The Grammarly Editor provides suggestions to help strengthen your writing, from catching common mistakes with sentence structure to offering clarity rewrites.


A psychology-based approach to conflict
By Michael Easter

About five years ago my significant other and I were in a dumb argument. I wasn’t backing down. She wasn’t backing down.

Stalemate, I vented to a friend. I explained to him in agonizing detail why I was right, why my significant other was wrong, how the world would be better off if I could just get her to understand this — and did this guy have any advice for convincing her that I was right? His response: “Do you want to be right or happy?”

This question has since saved me a lot of headaches and led me to discover something important about the human mind.

Psychologists theorize that our capacity to reason didn’t develop so we could find better beliefs and make better decisions. Reason likely evolved so we could win arguments. Convincing others we were right helped us gain status and influence. In a debate our brain acts like our puff person, using reason as a weapon to protect us and make us look good.

Our brains always default to picking the evidence that helps us and ignoring the information that doesn’t. For example, here’s a fun game: Ask someone if they think they’re always right. Unless the person is some sort of egomaniac, they’ll usually laugh and say, “of course not.” Yet ask that same person if they think they are right during any one specific argument or debate and they will assume they are correct. And so, by default, we think we’re always right.

This mechanism probably made sense during the crucible of human evolution. It oftentimes still benefits us today. But in our safe, comfortable world the majority of our everyday disagreements — in relationships and at work — are astoundingly inconsequential in the grand scheme of our lives. When we ask ourselves, “do I want to be right or happy?” we insert perspective into the equation. Choosing the latter option can be uncomfortable in the immediate short term (we’re fighting against our pit bull brain). But over time it has a way of dissolving the bullshit that causes our everyday suffering. And when bullshit dissolves it becomes fertilizer, bringing growth.

“Do I want to be right or happy?” can even give us perspective and clarity to see another important fact: We probably aren’t right in most arguments. And neither is the other side. Time changes our worldviews. Most of us can look back on past arguments and realize that there are very few where we were totally, undeniably, universally right. We overreact more than we underreact. And who we are and what we know and hold true is a moving goalpost. A hill we’ll die on today is one we’ll happily cede tomorrow. Yet we all suck at seeing this in the moment. Even facts humanity holds universally true — like gravity — will likely be overturned in the near future, according to physicists.

So “Do I want to be right or happy?” is now a question that I try to ask myself any time another person and I face a discrepancy in perspectives. I am not perfect at asking this question. Wouldn’t even say I’m good at it. But when I do find myself in moments of tension with others, remembering to ask myself if I want to be right or happy buys me some emotional space and perspective and cuts down on my daily suffering. And that feels like happiness.

P.s. If you’re interested in how evolution has shaped our brain and influences our modern behaviors (both good, bad, and ugly) and how you can outsmart your evolutionary impulses for better physical and mental health, you might enjoy my book, The Comfort Crisis. It’s out May 11th. You can pre-order it wherever books are sold — but I’d love it if you order it here from an independent bookstore that conducts non-profit writing workshops for disadvantages kids and teens.


Life Hack #1: Have incredible conversations and connections with this hack

by Anthony J. Yeung via

One of the best ways to change your life is to have deep, meaningful connections with great people — whether networking, dating, or just making awesome friends.

Well, in the past decade, I’ve had conversations with over 2,000 different strangers while out and about. (Not bad for a shy, introverted kid who couldn’t ask for the time.)

Along the way, I’ve learned how to have great conversations and overcome a lot of, uh, EMBARRASSING STUMBLING BLOCKS.

Virtually every article on the Internet tells you to ask questions. But relying on them is actually a poor tactic:

It creates “question trains,” where you ask question after question until it becomes an interrogation. “What do you do? How long have you been doing that? What do you like about it? Why did you choose it?”
Questions take value. Rather than sharing anything unique about yourself, you just ask questions to perpetuate the conversation.
It forces conversations. Often, people ask questions to try to hook someone into talking to them.
Instead, make more statements.

Statements let you share something about yourself, your personality, and your perspective and creates a natural way for the conversation to continue — and explains WHY you want it to continue — without outright asking them to do so.

Bad Example:
You: “Where did you go?”
Them: “I went to Europe.”
You: “How long were you there?”
Them: “2 weeks.”
You: “What’s your favorite thing about Europe?”
Them: “Uh, I don’t know.”

Here, you’re making them do all the work without sharing anything about yourself or even hinting at why you’re asking. (You also asked three straight questions; the last one a really big one that takes a lot of work to answer.)

Good Example:
You: “Where did you go?”
Them: “I went to Europe.”
You: “That’s awesome! I love Europe. I’ve only been to Spain, but I felt like I was home.”
Them: “Yeah, I loved Spain too.”
You: “I’d love to go again… just to eat.”
Them: “Actually, I went on a tapas tour when I was there.”
You: “Wow! What was that like??”
Them: [tells a story]

Here, you shared about yourself, your experiences, and your perspective. You only asked one question and even that question was just a natural followup. You never forced them to talk to you; instead, your statements invited them to respond.

That, ultimately, is the goal: Getting people to feel comfortable opening up about themselves. And the only way to do that is for you to open up first.

Now, I’m not saying you should never ask a question.

Here’s a tip from Wayne Elise who coaches thousands of top performers on conversation and co-authored a #1 New York Times bestseller:

Think of questions like bullets in a revolver; you only get six.

If you do feel like asking a question, make sure it’s an interesting one — that way, you get out of the typical, boring questions and actually encourage them to show a bit of their personality and uniqueness:

“What was your favorite thing about Europe?” vs “Where could you see yourself living in Europe?”

I hope this helps you have better, deeper, and richer conversations with people you just met.

And if you want a detailed guide that breaks down my priceless tips for extraordinary conversations, then click this link to learn more.

Stay tune for tomorrow’s hack! It’s a doozy.

Best – Anthony