Fight Club’s 8 Rules for Writing that Creates a Ruckus

You know those writers you admire who are crazy, creative and ready to change the world while earning money?

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Rule #1 — You Do Not Publish Crappy Content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Rule #2 — You Do NOT Publish Crappy Content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?

Simply put:

  1. Practically useful content gets shared.
  2. 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?

Are you publishing content that fascinates your readers? Are you stirring up some controversy? Do you even know what keeps your readers up at night?

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 start a blog and find 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.

78 thoughts on “Fight Club’s 8 Rules for Writing that Creates a Ruckus”

  1. Nice article! It gets frustrated when you can’t grow your audiences even when you are posting lots of posts. But it ain’t matter if the content is suck and even worse it will drive your audiences away from your site. Thanks for the tips!

  2. I subscribe to MANY email newsletters. And I un-subscribe to most out of sheer boredom. Thanks for the reminder to do your readers a great service by stirring things up a little!

  3. So much great advice here!

    The advice that I find most useful is not publishing everyday or publishing just for the sake of having content but rather focus on creating high quality content even if it isn’t as frequent.

    So many people encourage posting frequently but the thing is, is that it can often zap your creative juices and I’d much rather bottle them up to write one great post per week than multiple average posts per week.

    Enjoyed the read and look forward to applying your advice.

    1. Publishing every day is such wacky advice, isn’t it?

      You should certainly write every day, but hitting “Publish” needs to be reserved for when you’ve refined your thoughts and finally have something to say.

      1. Just loved this article! Thank you Greg, Jon (for hosting), and for awesome comments.

        It is right in line with a few other kicks in the pants I have been getting lately.

  4. I subscribe to a few different writing advice blogs and they all have very helpful information. However this has to be one of my favorite blog posts for two reasons. First it is filled with completely factual and useful information. Second because it conveys that information by relating to one of the greatest stories of all time!

    Great job and I look forward to reading your future posts!

    1. A book so nice I bought it twice (no seriously, I own two copies of it, heh!).

      Appreciate the kind words Brock.

  5. Hi Gregory & Jon,

    Loved the post 🙂

    You are SO right – you need to get those creative juices flowing and be passionate about writing – before you really sit to write! But this isn’t the way most bloggers work nowadays.

    I guess they are after quick money, or they wish to rank higher in the search engines, which results in them putting up posts every day, or 3-4 times a week. Good for those who can manage it, but are they really doing justice to their posts and the readers of their blog? I wonder how they can weave words that are at par with what one really wants to read online.

    Moderation is the key I’d say. If you can, I think posting bi-weekly is a good idea, especially if you are still making your place in the Blogosphere, and once you do that, you can lessen your pace and be more creative in your writing.

    Thanks for sharing. Have a nice week ahead, both of you 🙂

    1. My philosophy is to publish is often as I can be awesome. I don’t think it really matters whether it’s once a week, once a month, or whatever. The key is not to water down your brand with mediocre content. Do that, and your audience stops listening.

  6. All of that’s true. I like especially the rule: write for one person. A corollary of it is: that person is not yourself! If you write for yourself, you’ll just write for the closet. The advice I give to students at my own writing program is: profile your ideal reader. (They may be of a different age, background or gender to yourself.) Picture them. Even put a photo of them on your wall. And write for them. When they shake their head at you, you know you’ve got it wrong!

    1. Oh lordy!

      I think some people just need a reality check that the whole world isn’t examining them with a microscope, waiting for them to make a mistake–just get started already!

  7. Some great tips here. I think the consistency is the hardest thing to do, especially when you’re busy. What’s your thoughts on hiring people to write articles. Do you think that works? Great post. Thanks

    1. Hey Stephen,

      As someone who is hired at a startup, I obviously lean towards yes, but I’m also the first to admit that finding a great content person is a lot harder than it looks.

      No only must they be able to produce great stuff (a huge barrier in itself), but the “unicorn” of content strategists is that person that also knows a bit about search, copywriting, and networking.

      Like finding a needle in a haystack! Which is why great content people should be paid well. 🙂

      1. Exactly. Most people totally underestimate how much it costs. To get good content, you’re looking at about $100-$200 per post, depending on the category. And even more than that if you really want the best of the best writers.

        It’s also harder when you have a new site, because most writers don’t just look for a paycheck. They look for exposure. So, you might have to compensate them more in the beginning until your site grows.

      2. Wow Jon, coming from you, this is really a great compliment to us writers who strive hard to create great content for our clients.

  8. Love the analogies Greg. This is a great piece that shows off your creativity nicely.

    But what I especially like is the part about just getting started. You can’t wait until things are perfect or for the right time or for when you think your thoughts are most clear. You simply have to start writing. Let the thoughts flow, keep your focus and let it happen. Things don’t have to be perfect right out of the shoot, but if you start now and keep up the momentum they’ll get better as you go along. But they can’t get better if you don’t put your fears away and simply get started.


  9. Nice one! Fight Club was a good movie.

    The idea of writing for one and/or two people is a good one. Instead of overwhelming yourself with writing for tens of thousands, if not millions of people, write for one or two people. Put your best writing foot forward and publish amazing content.

    I think it helps to have a writing schedule. Again, don’t overwhelm yourself. Take it one post at a time. Remember, it’s not a race.

  10. Just the kick up the butt I needed. At first I thought oh lordy there’s a lot of testosterone coming off the page here and got all feminine and soft but then I started to feel galvanised to write something and wrote 500 words off the bat, not done that in a long time. xxx

  11. I was extremely skeptical going into this article, but it was very well executed with some great points and just the right amount of Fight Club fandom pandering without crossing the line into overly corny. Well done.

  12. Nice post Greg!
    I feel like I’ve just been sucker punched because rules 5,6,7,8 ALL apply to me. *sigh*
    I’ll hold off on sending in my application until I get my a$$ in gear. Deal?

  13. Great tips, Greg! Jon, thanks for sharing!
    Well put in Fight Club style.
    I’m totally agree with Rule#1 and Rule#2 in writing.
    Keep it up!

  14. Thanks for getting me fighting mad. Getting ready to launch my newly redesigned new blog centric site and branding. This is just the kick in the seat I need to not stop punching!

  15. Thanks for these valuable tips! I agree that writing every day is a big commitment but the rewards from the experiences are priceless. I have now participated in two 30-Day Blogging Challenges where I wrote and published a blog a day. My writing improved tremendously I was inspired by hundreds of other bloggers and learned a lot about loads of topics that I probably would never have read. Also, because I tried out different topics, I could clearly see from the comments which ones were hits and which ones didn’t get much of a reaction. Nearly every other blog I read also gave me new ideas that I could tweak and use for my target audience. Just like this one, Greg. There are a lot of themes here that can b applied to other areas of life.

  16. Excellent post! Just what I needed to read today. I’m taking the challenge of starting my book project and was inspired to listen to pixies radio station. Many thanks!

  17. Greg and Jon,
    Brock asked me for the link to the 30-Day blog challenge. Please don’t think my intent in mentioning in my comment as my experience was to promote anything in the comments from your excellent blogs, a practice I disagree with. I just wanted to make sure there’s no misunderstanding about that.
    Once again, thanks for your great blogs!

      1. Thanks Jon and while I’m at it, I thoroughly enjoyed your tips on your webinar the other day! It makes me want to keep giving even more great stuff to my readers!

  18. Seems like we all agree publishing everyday is probably a bad idea when the content isn’t polished or inspired. I’m just wondering how long is too long in between posts? Is there a standard? Is there a guideline? One week? Three?

    Because I have it in me to go three weeks or more without writing and than write like made for a couple of months. I’ve always wished I could be more consistent.

    1. I always hate answering solid questions like this with a “it depends”, but there are a number of variables to consider here.

      In my opinion, what’s far more important than daily consistency is *general* consistency—publishing 3 posts in a week and then going dark for 3 months confuses a lot of people (as it should, I’d certainly be confused as a reader!)

      My general answer is that one fleshed-out post per week is a great way to start. That way, even if you go through a writing slump, those really productive months can be used to schedule out posts for a while.

      For blogs that are giving advice, it’s also a solid time-span to let things “sink in”. Nobody will have time to act on your advice if you’re bombarding their inbox too often! Only the pageview giants like Gawker need to worry about publishing *that* often.

  19. So grateful to Deb D. for sharing this on Facebook. Do not publish crappy content (check!); I will not tap out (except in Jiu-Jitsu); I know my audience and she’s that woman at her wits end and feeling overwhelmed and undervalued; I don’t multitask well (confession), and from here on out, I’m giving it my all – one task at a time; I finally stopped fiddling with my website – did my homework, made a decision, and it works; I’ve learned a valuable lesson in evergreen; now I’m off to just run with it.


    Peggy Nolan
    coming soon

  20. Awesome post! It lit a fire in my belly!

    I agree that, to be great at writing, you need to give it your all–every time.

    I think what trips a lot of people up is the expectation that writing should be fun. I think writing is fun sometimes. But quite often it is, like fighting, a painful struggle.

    For example, the challenge I often fight is finding the inner fire to write after my daily responsibilities seem to have sucked out all I had to give. But I write anyway. Usually, I have to drag the first few ideas out by the hair (it ain’t pretty!), but eventually the ideas become more agreeable and cooperative. 🙂

    Thanks again for the inspiring post!

  21. Well done. Great points, well written, within a compelling and evocative framework.

    I am Jack’s pulsating awe.

  22. I followed this article’s title wondering what the fighting was related to and soon found out it related to some of my internal fights about writing and publishing.

    I like the suggestion to go ahead and write anytime … because for me inspiration will follow as I write, but to hit the publish button only after due consideration!


  23. How about if you added another rule?

    Fight as if you are fighting in front of your spouse (or mother, father, child, whosoever opinion is important to you.) Fight for your honor and the respect of those important to you. If you take this approach to your writing, you will put out great contact, not engage in smarmy, spammy behavior and probably not run afoul of any laws. Just fight the good fight and give it your all.

  24. This post is absolutely top shelf, Gregory.

    Your comment about life happening while we’re waiting for something else to happen is dead on. When I was in
    nursing school, my mentor always told me that “Nursing
    is what happens when you’re interrupted.” Whether it’s
    writing or nursing, life’s most important lessons show
    up when we least expect them. It’s our job to be smart
    enough to recognize them and to maximize the moment,
    which is a far cry from waiting for the perfect moment.

    I hope Jon invites you back, Gregory. Very well done!

  25. Brilliant stuff – and so perfectly timed! I was battling with the blank screen yesterday and wound up reading “The War of Art” as a means of procrastination/perspective!

    Great post, thanks Jon. x

    1. Amy, THE WAR OF ART is one of my go to books, too! for stirring the mental waters & cheering writer self on!


  26. My favorite quote out of your post is: “we just need our ideas and our discipline to find the right words…”

    Thank you for bankrolling aspiring writers with excellent advise!


  27. Cecil McIntosh

    Love rule #2 “If you don’t decide what audience you want, you’ll get one you don’t want.”
    It is so easy to get carried away but if want to become a successful writer and or blogger you need to stay focused on your ideal audience.
    Thanks for the reminder.

  28. Nicely done! The commentary about the ghost town blog was fun for me because I have often felt that way. Then suddenly a real person appears and you feel like a super star. Then you realize…you can’t stop now!

  29. Brilliant post, Greg – you had me hooked right from #1 and #2, which are music to my ears. Sadly, a lot of the bloggers who publish half-baked content won’t get as far as #8 or, indeed, Jack’s stunning closing paragraph – they’ll be too busy churning out their next 500 word post.

    Many thanks for a butt-kicking, inspirational piece of content – it made me smile, and made me think.


  30. Elaine Menardi

    Jon… I think your words are worthy of a sticker on my desk:

    Publish as often as I can feel awesome.


  31. Great film, although totally not my scene. All the more credit to you, given that I was so drawn in. I feel like you’re in my corner, ready with a towel and drink, but also with stern words about a harsh reality.

    I think I’ll return to this post whenever I falter. Thanks.

  32. Great writing Greg!

    Members of the writing club share few core principles of great writing and the rest are the skills are what we need to develop.

    Your advice can be summed up as “write good and ethical content, and practice, practice, practice”.

  33. Raquel LeBaudour

    Best advice. Beautifully written. I like your style. For me, it’s simply time … to write.

  34. Greg, Great article. I love Rule #3 — If You Say, “Stop,” Tap Out, or Go Limp, Your Writing Career is Over!

    So true. Anything worth having takes razor edged commitment. We got to show up for the fight if we expect to win anything.

    I wanted to let you folks know that I mentioned Jon in my blogpost. Here is the link:

  35. Great article and right to the point! I like your first two items about not publishing crappy content. Very true! Internet is flooded with that! That is why those really interesting and helpful and unique articles go viral very quickly, because readers will always appreciate great content.

  36. Rule number 8! Rule number 8! RULE NUMBER EIGHTTT!!!

    I apply the ‘writing every day’ rule but it is not linked to hitting ‘publish’ on posts, or writing posts at all.

    The art of writing can be applied to anything – writing a well-crafted email, gratitude list, or post comment.

    And that’s the key – to make a conscious effort to write well.

    Love this post, Greg 🙂

  37. Hey Gregory, I stumbled on your article here cuz I was checking out Jon’s site following a Webinar from him this past week. You are an amazing talent my friend! I was honored to have you on my podcast , and your “approach” is making headway for me and others. Had a client the other day say he wanted to do it like that Help Scout marketing guy was talking about on my show. Heck yeah!

  38. This post just kicked me up the arse so while I get off to write what Ive started, I thought id pass it on for any more procrastinating multitaskers out there……….Enjoy xxx Trust in YOU

  39. First rule of Write Club is: DO Talk about Write Club – Not seen Fight Club but everyone else seems to have seen it, and quote it regularly (hence I can misquote it here 🙂 ).

    I love your message here Gregory: Don’t get bogged down by hype, trends or copying fashionable messages. It echoes Arin Crumley’s message to not be afraid to stake out our claim online: “say … I’m not a guest here. This is my home. And I’m just going to give myself permission to turn it into what I want it to be.”

    Matches your rallying call here: Stop waiting for things to be perfect before you stake your claim.

  40. Rule No7 “Fights will go on as long as they have” is the gist of this post; even one become an expert fighter (wirter) it doesn’t mean he succeeded in his struggle; the real game begins when you get equipped with all weapons (ideas, research and thoughts) to fight and nock down your competitors

  41. Great write up. I write a lot of blog posts but I save them as drafts and publish them one after the other when I feel my readers have digested the ones before

  42. Great post, Greg! Tons of actionable advice and practical solutions to real problems. I can definitely tell from your perspective that “you’ve been there” and it increases the intensity of your message 100 fold! Thank you!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *