writing course

Unlimited editing for a full year! Plus weekly videos and emails from me and many opportunities to receive feedback from the whole group. The course is $1550.

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Writers work best with an external deadline. We don’t realize it, but our definition of a successful writer means someone has attained external deadlines: Journalists have an editor, authors have a publication date, comedy writers have a showtime, publicists have a boss.

If you know you have something to say, but you have a hard time getting yourself to write on a regular schedule, this course is for you. Think of it as buying the external deadline so you can get started.

What does that include? In addition to unlimited editing for a year, check this out:

Self-discipline to write regularly and the self-confidence that follows. Knowing you are writing well is one of the best ways to get yourself to write. And we’ll reach that point by working together.

When I started writing, it was sporadic. I didn’t like that I didn’t know if what I was writing was good or bad. I thought it might be good. But I didn’t trust myself. I wanted outside affirmation.

I turned a corner when I realized that receiving consistent feedback from a seasoned writer made my own writing better and better each week. And the experience made me want to write regularly so I could get feedback: no writing meant no feedback for that week.

Insight into the format that showcases your particular talent. I ended up teaching writing at Harvard, Brown, and the University of Paris. Based on the curriculum I developed, I can help you discover the format of writing that is most true to you: fiction, nonfiction, long-form journalism, creative nonfiction, flash fiction, essay, memoir, op-ed. You might be surprised to discover that you’re naturally talented in a format you haven’t tried.

Finding your best format will lead to you finding your hidden ability to write regularly about what matters to you.

One-on-one coaching to create your own version of the writer’s life. We’ll have an ongoing relationship the whole year via email and phone. I’ll suggests topics, tactics, routines, and other solutions I’ve developed to overcome challenges in my own writing life.

A measurable, achievable goal that will make you feel accomplished. Once you’re writing on a regular basis, I’ll make sure your writing adds up to something. I’m very goal oriented, and I didn’t feel like a real writer until I had a goal for my writing. This might be true for you, too.

The people I’ve been working with for the past four years have had big success:

  • One person has seen her blog traffic increase 20% every month for two years.
  • Two people got book deals for nonfiction books.
  • One person changed from writing a blog to writing a memoir, and that switch enabled her to write almost every day for a year.
  • One person—who had never written anything before I worked with her—published a book of short essays that I keep on my nightstand. It reminds me what a joy it is to work with writers.

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I know it will change your life, because everyone I’ve worked with in this capacity has accomplished something meaningful to them and surprising to both of us.

No one succeeds alone, in anything. I’ll be your team for your writing.

This is really the course I’d like to teach every day of my life. But for now, I’m teaching it only four days: May 2 -5 each night for one hour, from 7pm to 8pm Eastern. All videos will be available on demand if you can’t come to the live session. The cost is $195.

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One of the best methods for figuring out what you should be doing with your life is to think about times you have totally loved what you were doing. One of my favorite jobs was giving lectures about writing at Brown, Harvard, Boston University, and University of Paris. Read more

One reason I have achieved so much in my own career is that I’ve taken shortcuts. For example, I played professional beach volleyball without learning how to play indoor sixes very well—I can really only play doubles, which is what people play on the sand. But it allowed me to skip a lot of years of indoor volleyball training and still play pro.

I’m always fascinated by people who find shortcuts. Tim Ferriss is a shortcut taker, but he totally annoys me because he pretends his shortcuts don’t mean he still had to do hard work. One of the reasons I was initially attracted to the Farmer is that he is good at knowing what shortcuts to take and he values hard work.

Just last week, in fact, he moved his pigs to a new barn, where they will be able to mix with the cattle herd. It’s not something anyone in our area does, but he had a hunch it would work, and now he manages one herd instead of two. I love that I’m learning the rules of farming by watching the Farmer cut corners.

In lists of the most common New Year’s resolutions, most are career-related. So I thought I’d take a look at the most common things people tell me they want to do, and I’d tell you shortcuts to getting to that goal. Because I’m pretty good at learning the rules and then figuring out how to work around them. This still means you have to do some hard work, of course, but it’s a smarter way to spend your energy and still get to what you want. Read more

Melissa is back. She stole my purse.

But first, before she stole my purse, she opened my mail.

I walked into the kitchen and I said, “Hey, you opened my mail.”

“No I didn't.

“What's this? What's this opened envelope that is addressed to me?”

“Oh. That? I didn't think you counted that as mail.”

“What does it count as?”

“I knew it was from an author. I could just tell from the expensive stationary. So I thought it was like getting a book in the mail from a publisher. And you told me I could open those if I was looking for something to read.”

“No. It's mail.”

“No. It's not. Look. It's from Jon Acuff.”

Read more

I wake up Wednesday at 4am to a phone call: The Guardian, in London, asking for an interview about my miscarriage twitter. Then a half-hour later, an Irish radio station. And then the phone kept ringing.

I tell Now Magazine (I think it's basically People magazine for the UK audience) to call back after I got the kids off to school. I ask my housemanager to come early because I can’t handle the sleep deprivation and the early-morning interviews and school lunches all in one morning.

I block out the morning to write a thousand-word essay for the Guardian to justify tweeting about my miscarriage. Which the Guardian wants done in the next 20 hours.

Now magazine wants to know if they can send a photographer to take a photo of my kids.

No.

Or the Farmer?

No.

What about if their faces are blurred?

No. (But this at least makes the Farmer laugh.) Read more

The best writers in the history of the world are graduating from college, right now. So everyone can just shut up about how no one can write anymore.

Newsflash: No one could write in the Middle Ages, when the good writers wrote in Latin and everyone else spoke colloquial languages like French and English, which priests told them were too lame for real writing.

It's the same situation today in that the best way to have a population of good writers is for people to write constantly, in the language that is theirs, so that they are great at expressing themselves.

People do good writing every day, in social media—when they write a note on someone's Facebook wall, when they post a caption to a photo on flickr, or when they post a comment in a group on Brazen Careerist.

The people who are complaining that no one can write anymore are the same ones who are stressed about information overload. This is not a coincidence. Information is changing, the flow of ideas is changing, and written communication is changing with it. Information overload is the feeling of not being able to deal with this change. Young people do not feel information overload, which is another sign that they are excellent writers for the new millennium: They can process and communicate new ideas at the new pace. Read more

People always ask me to answer questions on my blog. So I am sort of going to answer questions. Questions I hate (that I have edited to save people from the trauma I probably caused David Dellifield):

Email number one: The obnoxious reference check

[Name redacted] is applying for a position at our company and listed you as a reference. I was hoping that you could complete the brief questionnaire attached to this email to provide your feedback. Thank you in advance for your help, and please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

This email is from InvestorGuide.com. Let me tell you something: That questionnaire was not brief. It was about ten essay questions and then insanely inapplicable multiple choice questions.

This company is ridiculous for sending an onerous questionnaire to references. For one thing, it puts me in a bad spot because I loved working with the guy who gave my name as a reference, so I want to give him a good report, so I have no choice but to fill out the BS questions and try to have a good attitude.

The other reason the company should not send a form like this is they look incompetent. Not just for destroying the relationships potential new hires have with their references, but also for not being able to make hiring decisions without asking a third-party if the candidate is professional. Seriously. Open your eyes in the interview, guys. Read more

Why is anyone concerned that I tell you who is paying me when I write about something?

Every time I write about a person or a company it's a conflict of interest. Because I want to be on their radar. It's good for me. And the same is true for every other intelligent blogger because that inherent conflict of interest underlies why blogging is so valuable for someone's career.

The reality is that readers are not hurt by the conflict of interest. Readers are hurt by bad content. But only once. Because if readers hate the content, they leave. (I know this to be true because of all the people who leave comments on my blog that say “This post sucks. I'm unsubscribing.”)

Mainstream media is mostly about money, so they reveal every time they have a financial conflict of interest. But bloggers are more about influence than money. So they have conflict of interest all over their blog, with every post. For example, every time you link to someone, you are hoping for some sort of acknowledgment, or some sort of good karma. Do you need to acknowledge that so as to protect your readers? Of course not.

Here's how it really works: Guy Kawasaki keeps such close track of favors exchanged that I think he must have it on a spreadsheet. When I link to him, he definitely notices, and he definitely helps me in exchange. So, should I list the conflict of interest every time I link to him? And every time I say I love Alltop? Read more

I love grammar. I can remember in sixth grade when we spent weeks parsing sentences. There was a moment of self-awareness when I thought to myself, “If I let anyone see how much I like this, I’ll never get invited to good parties.”

So I know I love grammar and I know it's not normal.

My first real corporate job came right after I went to graduate school for English. The job I landed was managing content for Ingram Micro‘s web site. The experience I had was HTML—I turned my master's thesis into HTML before anyone knew what HTML was.

So the head of copy writing had to teach me the AP Stylebook. I was the only person in the department who had gone to graduate school for English. I was the only person who had been published in literary journals. But when it came to grammar, there is a whole book of rules I had to learn so I could write in the Fortune 500.

An example (which, by the way, is e.g., not i.e.): Follow up is two words if it's a noun: “I'm doing a follow up.” But it's hyphenated if it's an adjective: “Follow-up meeting.” But when I say I love grammar, that is not what interests me. I’m interested in how we naturally know grammar because we naturally speak in sentences with good rhythm. I will spend an extra hour editing a blog post by reading it out loud and hearing in my cadence where a preposition is wrong.

This is all to tell you that I think we need to stop judging people by their grammar. Read more

Almost everyone should forget about making money directly from blogging. It’s so unlikely that it’s a total waste of your time trying. I am actually shocked at how ubiquitous the idea is that blogging is a get-rich-quick scheme. Or even a get-rich-slowly scheme. It’s not. Blogging is a great career tool for creating opportunities for yourself. But here are eight reasons you should stop thinking about money from blogging:

1. Big bloggers come from big media.
Usually I’m the first person to rip on print media as outdated and a dead-end career. But here’s something that maybe you don’t realize: Most big bloggers today have a strong background writing for print. For example: Erik Schoenfeld (TechCrunch), Owen Thomas (Valleywag), and I all wrote for Business 2.0 magazine at the same time. Ten years ago. Which means we had a ton of national media experience before we started blogging. Anya Kamenetz (Yahoo Finance) wrote for the Village Voice and had a very serious book published—before she started blogging.

2. Sure, there are exceptions. But you’re probably not one of them.
Let’s look at some people who have big blogs who didn’t come from big media. Heather Armstrong at Dooce. She’s a good one. Here’s what she has that you don’t: She’s a talented writer and a talented designer. She’s married to a developer who does all her tech stuff for free. And she has an amazing story to tell. She has the ability to translate her genius across many media—photography, memoir, twitter, and so on. She is a marvel. And you are not. None of us is. That’s why she is making so much money from her blog. Read more