How To Become A Better Writer With Craig Ballantyne

Have you ever seen guys and gals that write every single day, without fail?

They not only become better writers.

They create more content, get more exposure and eventually earn more than us who write less.

I always admired people who can write that much, so today I hop on the call with a guy I consider a writing machine, Craig Ballantyne.

He’s the editor of the Early to Rise Newsletter, a best-selling author of books on productivity and fitness and even writes for Men’s health.

Yes – he writes a lot.

And today, you’ll learn all of his tricks.

Tricks like how not to be boring when writing, what’s a time journal and why you should use it, and even the weird connection between your own personal hobbies and your writing that will give your writing this boost it’s missing.

For the above and much more, check today’s List Building show.


This program is brought to you by the

"When people are just getting introduced to online marketing, you know guys like
you and I who have been telling stories for a long time and writing emails, we see
how kind of simple and formulaic and easy it is but for somebody who is just
walking into it, it's like being handed a Kalashnikov rifle and being told to take
it apart and put it back together again the first time you're ever handed it."

Hi, my name is Igor Kheifets and this is the List Building Lifestyle, the only podcast
which delivers cutting edge conversion strategies from the online trenches straight to
your earbuds. Download the transcript of today’s episode and all future episodes at I also invite you to grab a free copy of “The Wealthy
List Builder’s Survival Guide” at and now
once again it’s time to claim your List Building Lifestyle.

Igor: Welcome back to another edition of the List Building Lifestyle with your
host Igor Kheifets. Craig Ballantyne is the editor of The Early to Rise
Newsletter. He is a best selling author of The Perfect Day Formula. He is a
strength and conditioning coach. He is the author of Turbulence Training. He
contributes regularly to the Men's Health magazine. In short, Craig is an
incredibly productive individual who runs one of the largest newsletters in the
world and helps you get healthy, wealthy, and wise. Craig, how are you doing

Craig: Really, really great. Thank you so much.

Igor: My pleasure. Craig, let's go ahead and let's just dive right in. I know that
you're a busy guy. So you create a lot of content like a ton and primarily through
writing although you do some video marketing as well. Now it seems like you can
easily produce a thousand words on virtually any subject that's close to your
heart, now I'm curious where you always a natural writer? And if not, how did you
develop such tremendous capacity for producing high quality content?

Craig: Yeah, I was kind of a writer but to get really good content, it's practice,
it's studying the masters, it's really being able to find your voice which is
something that shouldn't take people long but I've studied everybody from Matt
Furey to Mark Ford, Dan Kennedy, just reading a lot and seeing how they do it,
seeing how they build in personality with also teaching and leaving people with a
big idea to takeaway. That's really it at the end of the day, people want to be a
little bit entertained, a little bit informed, and that way they go away saying,
"Hey that was good. That was good. I learned something, I enjoyed that, and now I
can go and apply that to my life and go and have a success."

Igor: That's interesting, we call this concept on this show, infotainment. It's a term
I first heard from Ben Settle, a friend of mine and someone I really admire when it comes
to email marketing. He says the exact same thing. You kind of have to give him
broccoli dipped in chocolate so it has to be nutritious like broccoli but it has
to taste like chocolate in other words entertainment which carries this
informative and educational value in it. Now that is definitely something that we
spoke a lot about on the show however you mentioned something else which we almost
never touched on which I want to kind of dive deeper into and that is personality
in your writing. Now do you mind sharing exactly what it means because I don't
think too many people understand that?

Craig: Right. So I talk about my dog a lot. And you know a lot of people like dogs
and it's a little bit of insight into my life. You know some other people talk
about their hobbies. Dan Kennedy talks about his horse racing. Mark Ford talks
about his jujitsu down in Florida, he talks a little bit about his spouse, and
it's all that sort of stuff. One of my favorite writers is Bill Bonner who writes
these investment newsletters but he talks about history, he talks about Greek
mythology, he talks about all the places he has travelling and people again just
want to have that little bit of entertainment because they're generally reading
these things stuck in line at the grocery store on their smart phone, they are
reading it at work in the cubicle, they are reading when they are bored. They are
not reading it when they are at the bar on Friday night. So because they are
reading it when they are bored you have to show up and inject some personality
into it. I really love that analogy of broccoli dipped in chocolate that was the
first time I had heard that and I think that is a wonderful way saying it because
if you just sent them an email and it was just facts and figures, people would be
a little bit bored by it and they would not hang around. I mean I know that I've
stayed on people's email lists for months just because I wanted to see where they
were travelling to even though I didn't really read most of their content. Another
guy who does an amazing job with this is my good friend, Simon Black at He's like a real life James Bond without the shooting up the
guns and stuff but he travels the world as a young man and there is really a lot
of people who probably read him just live vicariously through him. So at the end
of the day whatever you're writing, you need to be writing it so that your readers
are living a little bit vicariously through your life whether you're writing
fitness stuff, you need to be fitter than them and building more muscle than them
and talking about it and living large because of it. And if you are somebody
selling real estate, you need to be out there making deals and talking about it
and talking about the characters that you deal with and so people can really enjoy
it. It's like a reality show.

Igor: Interesting I never heard anyone present it this way before because you know
a lot of the people in our community, they are being taught to talk about their
kids, talk about whatever they're going through life right now but it never worked
for me. Like the things that really work when I spoke about them that have any
relation to my life were big things like getting married or having a child,
bringing a child into the world or maybe a death in the family. That sort of stuff
because it's extraordinary, it's not something that happens every single day got
attention from my list but for the most part I wasn't really able to take mundane
things such as taking my dog on a walk and put it into an infotaining I guess
container or something like that so do you mind giving us an example of how
someone who lives a pretty boring life can do this?

Craig: Yeah. Because I live a very boring life, I'm the world's most boring man.
So I would write about how I went on a dog walk with my dog obviously and I was
talking about how I was listening about Neil Cobain CD and I was making fun of
myself because yes I still had CD player and this is just three or four years ago
and I'm walking.

Igor: [laughter]

Craig: You know you buy all of these CDs from Dan Kennedy and it's like I got to
get a CD player obviously so I bought one of these portable CD players and I was
walking dog through a field on my family's farm and listening to Neil Cobain and
that was the introduction into Neil Cobain had a very interesting story to tell
and I recommend that people listen to him but also then I retold a story that he
told and it's all about telling the story and putting imagery into so that and to
do that as quickly as possible so that you get their imagination involved and if
they get their imagination involved then now they've made a little bit of
commitment to it and so they are going to go through and read the rest of it and
so that's generally something that is considered in the copy world, the longer
that you can get them to commit to reading whether it's watching an infomercial or
video sales letter, the more the chance that they have of taking action because
they have already put a lot of energy into it.

Igor: Oh yeah for sure. In our business, what we do is we use the concept of
micro-commitment, it's where we ask for, rather than one long commitment, we ask
for a series of small commitments over a period of time. So that too for us works
really well and the more as you say they are invested as in the more commitments
they made up until this point. The less likely they are to back out of a sale
which is again a tremendous concept that we can transform our business because
starting out I thought people were supposed to buy from me because I put a link in
front of them which as it turned out was never the case. So circling back to just
taking any day to day situation and being able to spot that nugget around which
you can write a piece of content. What else can you suggest to someone who's just
getting into the habit of writing say their daily emails to promote just
hypothetically a business opportunity? You know they are trying to make money by
enrolling people into a business opportunity and they are using email marketing to
do it. So what can you suggest to them, the first thing that they must do in order
to be successful?

Craig: They certainly need to have some experience with this stuff. They need to
know what other success stories are so that they can share because people want to
see proof like, "Hey I don't believe that anybody can do it." Okay now you go and
say, "Well, listen I did it, here are my results" and you're like, "Okay, I
believe that you can do it. Now I still don't believe that I can do it." So then
you go and you share some other success stories. You say, "Here is John, he's 45
years old. He's an accountant. He had two kids. He just got divorced and so he has
high monthly payments to his wife and he was like how can I make some extra money
and John came to me and we sat down at the pub. I was drinking this, he was
drinking that. You would put the details of what the drinks are because people
love to hear about what you're eating and drinking and then build a nice little ñ
it's a nice old charming pub with a fireplace in the background and there was an
Irish band playing in the corner. We were yelling over our drinks at the top of
our lungs going back and forth on "Hey how can we make John some money to pay off
his wife who's sucking his cash and she is out there spending it and blah blah
blah to get the people on John's side." Assuming your audience is like John, of
course. Then I told John about this opportunity and he was skeptical at first but
I said, "Hey John, I know a few other guys that have done it. It only takes like
this many hours a week? And so John went home and I didn't hear from him for
another three weeks and then I ran into him at the butcher shop. He was in a real
good mood. He was like, "Hey I just bought these really expensive steaks, I'm
going home to celebrate. It's because of what you shared with me about this
opportunity because I went and now I'm making more than enough money that I can
pay off my ex-wife with the monthly payments but I'm also able to eat like a king
so thank you so much. It actually took less time than you said it was going to and
I'm able to spend more time with the kids." That is the type of email that
obviously you wouldn't make that up like I just made it up but you would try and
build in some type of success story so that you could teach people, "Hey this is
how it works, this is who it will work for, these are the ñ I know you're
skeptical about this and this but here is a guy who overcame worse circumstances
than you're in, if he can make it work so can you and away we go."

Igor: Alright. So there is a few big lessons in this. First off, you're a great
storyteller. So right off the bat, you're able to tell a really vivid story and I
would see myself kind of eavesdropping on your conversation with John which is
like you said engaging the imagination. Now obviously you did it through the use
of detail which is really important, a lot of people don't get it. What we do for
some of our clients, we build them sales funnels and part of that sales funnel is
the sales letter telling their story and a lot of times I know I will be having
them fill out this survey that has specific questions like what did your life look
like before you started online. Very specifically I ask like give us some specific
situations we can work with like maybe you went to the grocery store and your card
got declined or maybe you wanted to enroll your kid into this expensive private
school and you didn't have enough money to do it and yada yada yada. It's funny
almost every single time I have to go back and ask these people to fill out the
application again only this time with details because almost everybody kind of
sums things up. I notice that is one of those really common mistakes when it comes
to writing and producing content people sum things up. Did you ever spot anything
like that and if you have why do you think that happens?

Craig: You know I think it's just a matter of them needing more time in the
business. It's like anytime you're introduced to anything there is so much going
on that you can't even appreciate the details. I mean you don't know so much and
so when people are just getting introduced to online marketing and guys like you
and I who have been telling stories for a long time and writing emails, we see how
kind of simple and formulaic and easy it is but for somebody who is just walking
into it, it's like being handed a Kalashnikov rifle and being told to take it
apart and put it back together again the first time you're ever handed it,
obviously that's going to be so intimidating and overwhelming. So people can't
even think of all the details that would come to a customer in their business and
also if they have been in the business for a long time like you and I don't think
email writing is hard, they don't think that there are a lot of details in their
business. They think it's a lot simpler than it is and a lot more boring than it
is. So it just needs good questions and so maybe it's just a matter of you asking
better questions in the application to stimulate their imagination, you know
getting into a customer avatar is a really great exercise for people to do to help
them understand who they are writing to that's really important. That's a good
place to start then thinking in the customer's shoes which at the end of the day
is what the marketer has to do. They have to think from the customers' shoes so
that they know who to speak to when they are writing to the customer but also what
to say to them and make sure that they are catching their attention.

Igor: Well, you're absolutely right. You know just like in any communication I
guess I am responsible 50% of it so I will definitely rework the questions to try
to elicit better details, thank you so much for that. As far as like us not
noticing the details that's absolutely true as well because when I first hiring
people in my business I thought it was going to be an easy process, I just brought
in a girl, she was 19 at the time and I was like, "Man this is so easy. I built
out all the systems and so you just got to run the show." I kind of put her in the
driver's seat and I immediately realized that this is way more complicated than I
thought. Things that I do take for granted and I do almost on autopilot without
even thinking about them for her it takes like 2 hours sometimes. So I had to
learn this the hard way and you're absolutely correct we do tend kind of assume
thing and take things for granted for sure. Now another question I've had was you
seem to be able to produce all this content in a very short time span, I mean just
like anybody else you have only 24 hours a day so how many hours a day do you
actually write?

Craig: Three or four I would say. The most important thing to me is early in the
morning which is my time of the day when I'm the most productive and everybody is
going to have their own time of day when they are most productive and that's just
a matter of making sure that you recognize it. So use a time journal and go
through your day and identify where you are most productive and then once you've
identified your most productive time, make sure that you're doing your most
important activity at that time so if you're a writer and you're most productive
between 9 am and 11 am then you can't be doing anything else between 9 am and 11
am. You need to be focused on that and you need to be writing and spending time on
your most important activity. If you find that it's 10 o'clock at night then you
do 10 o'clock at night, I mean you just do whatever is best and so for me it was
blocking out the time early in the morning. I would go down and I have a little
bit of an outline that I work from so I try not to work from a blank sheet and I
just go and I write. I write like talk and would just explain things so that the
person that I'm expecting to read it and at the end of the day that's the bottom
line is just simplify, simplify, simplify. One of the best things I was ever told
from my editor at Men's Health magazine was to write at a grade 7 level, you might
even write at a lower level these days maybe grade 5 or grade 6 so no big words,
very short sentences. You can use Hemingway app which is a way to make your
writing a little bit simpler and clearer because Hemingway wrote in very short
words and very short sentences that's one of the things he is famous for. So you
just simplify your writing and you can crank it out and then you can go and edit
it later on. I mean I have got a lot of editing to do to my writing but that's how
you get a lot done.

Igor: Interesting. So there are so many things you're saying that I really want to
like jot down on a piece of paper, I got to go back but I realize we only have a
little bit of time. So you mentioned something that I believe will be extremely
beneficial to our listeners. You said you write like you talk. I've had a bunch of
instances where they were uncomfortable with writing but while they were talking
to me, they were able to present their ideas in a very interesting and
entertaining way so I told them why don't you just talk it out? They literally
just recorded themselves and then transcribed their recording, bam they had
writing going on. Did you ever do anything like that?

Craig: I've never done that but I know some people that use like Dragon Dictate or
dictation apps and they just do it, they just talk because they are much better
speakers than they are writers and it's much more natural to them and for those
people you might even go directly into video blogging or videos instead of email
writing at all. We are seeing a lot more video these days and it gets you very
far, very quickly because everybody can watch videos anywhere, so easy to
download, the speeds are fast enough that you might be able to skip the entire
email thing and just go straight to video and audio. So yeah, I mean people who
are frustrated at first should definitely go down that route and explore it
because you can really crank out a lot of content very quickly like on this call
in an hour we would put together 25 pages worth of content going back and forth.
I mean I don't know anyone who could write 25 pages worth of content. That's
probably like 5000 words in an hour.

Igor: Oh yeah and for sure and I know there are a lot of services out there that
help you write a book that actually ñ because so many people are afraid of writing
they will allow you to talk the book out.

Craig: I've done that actually. I've talked a book before.

Igor: Oh no way, tell us a little bit more about the experience.

Craig: It was very simple. It's really just pick 10 chapters and three
sub-chapters and five questions for each one and once you've got that down, you
basically you've got your book because then the person ask you the question and
you talk for a little bit and then they ask you the next question and the next
thing you know in eight hours you have the transcript then it goes off to an
editor. The editor cleans it up and brings it back. So you can have a 120 page
little book done in a day just by doing it that method.

Igor: This is incredible. I mean communicating with you and just looking at what
you do. I get the impression that you can create what most people do in a year
sometimes within a week or even a month. It's so weird to people like me who are
used to think about writing as this complicated, time consuming task or kind of
thing that really makes you want to just stay in bed not really go out and create
anything. I really thank you for sharing all of these tips and nuggets with us on
this call. Now something that I really what to recommend to our listeners is to
pick up a copy of The Perfect Day Formula which is a book you've written on
productivity and just owning the day and controlling your life rather than having
your life and day control you. So do you mind sharing a little bit with us what
inspired you to write this book?

Craig: I mean really the thing that I had done for the last 10 years and how to
make my days better, more productive, had that work-life balance and have amazing
life where I'm able to travel the world and go vacations and stuff like that and
still the business runs but also just be healthy as well and so it's just to make
sure that you have that amazing work day, the structure in your work day so you
can be free. So it's about building true freedom by having more structure in your
life. It sounds like a paradox and of course it is but it's one that really works
so the more structure you have in your work day, the more freedom you will have in
your free time and in your personal life and that's what life is all about. People
can get a free copy of the book at just pay shipping and
handling and I'll send that book to you wherever you live. Again that's

Igor: Awesome. Guys you should totally get the book. You should read it and
implement it because some of the highest achievers in our industry have Ryan
Holiday, I think I've seen a testimonial from Russ Brunson, there's one from Mark
Ford. Craig: Yeah.

Igor: So yeah, absolutely get the book to get more done in less time and have much
better, much higher quality work-life balance. So Craig, thank you so much for
doing this episode with us. I really appreciate it and until next time we talk.
Have a good one.

Craig: Thank you.

Thanks for listening to The List Building Lifestyle Show, make sure to subscribe on iTunes
or Google. Play to never miss an episode because who knows just one conversion tactic
we share on the show might double your list and double your business. Download the
transcript of today’s episode and all future episodes at and
don’t forget to claim your complimentary copy of “The Wealthy List Builder’s Survival
Guide” at . This is Igor Kheifets until next time we talk, have a good one.

This is the

Who Is Igor Kheifets

Igor Kheifets is the founder and CEO of Igor Solo Ads, world’s largest Solo Ads agency. He’s the guy the gurus call when they need high quality business opportunity leads that convert.

Igor’s passionate about sharing up-to-date traffic & conversion strategies that work with beginners who want to make six figures while traveling the world full time.


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