Do you want to know how I became one of the most viral writers on the Internet?
When I graduated Columbia College Chicago with a degree in creative writing, one of my teachers said, “Writing isn’t dying—it’s just going digital. And the writers that can learn how to use digital mediums to get their voice out there will be the ones to succeed.”
As I grabbed hold of my diploma and set out into the real world, those words really stuck with me. Many people in my life wondered what on earth I was going to do with a degree in creative writing—myself included. The only thing I knew was that I loved writing and I wanted to share my art with the world.
So I took what my teacher said and set out to find the answer.
I wanted to know how someone in today’s world gets their voice out there.
In 4 years, I have gone from being a broke college graduate and entry-level copywriting intern at a digital marketing agency downtown Chicago with no portfolio to call my own, to being a full-time digital nomad writer with work published in TIME, Forbes, Fortune, The Huffington Post, Business Insider, Entrepreneur, Inc Magazine, and more. I have been a Top Writer on Quora for 3 years running, accumulating over 16,000,000 views on all my answers. I have a daily column with Inc Magazine, where I write about everything from creativity and entrepreneurship to self-development. I am the author of a memoir, Confessions of a Teenage Gamer. And I have interviewed some of the biggest names in business: Kevin O’Leary, Andy Frisella, Mark Cuban, and many more.
…I am 26 years old.
This eBook is a compilation of not only some of my favorite pieces of writing over the past few years, but specifically pieces of writing that, for whatever reason, caught fire and accumulated hundreds of thousands, even millions of views.
As you read through this eBook, I encourage you to pay attention to a few things:
First of all, you’ll notice certain trends: topics, formats, etc. These are things I inherently learned after writing hundreds upon hundreds of articles. There is an art to writing engaging content online, and when you do it enough, you start to get a sense of what makes an article perform well.
Second, you will see a broad range of vocal expression—some pieces reading like a motivational script, others more vulnerable and reflective. But what I would like you to really examine is the fact that you always know it’s me. That is the true meaning of “knowing your voice.” It’s your ability to turn it up, turn it down, even change up the style, all without ever losing touch of what makes it you.
And finally, I would like you to think hard about why these pieces performed the way they did.
These were not accidents. In fact, as I started to compile pieces for this eBook I realized just how many articles I have had cross the threshold of 100,000 views, 500,000 views, and how many I don’t even have data on. I have dozens upon dozens of articles that only accumulated 20,000 - 50,000 views on Inc Magazine, but were then republished by Forbes, Fox News, TIME, The Huffington Post, and more.
Having content perform well online is science. However, many people are eluded by the tool kits. There are eight billion blog posts out there encouraging you to format your articles into a list, or to include an image, or to post on Thursdays instead of Sundays. What people don’t talk about as much is the emotional element of writing.
In order to write really great content, in order to have your voice heard in a digital ecosystem where over 3,000,000 new blogs are posted every single day, you cannot look to simple toolkits to carry your voice up over the noise. Yes, establish those best practices, but spend far more time asking yourself how much more vulnerable you can be.
How much more can you share with your audience?
How much can you bring them into your world?
I could point to all the different platforms and publications and savvy digital marketing tools I have honed and leveraged to share my writing with the world as the foundational pieces to my success—but that’s not the truth.
The truth is that every time I sat down to write a Quora answer, an Inc Magazine column, I treated that one post like it was going to be the best post I had ever written in my entire life. And I don’t mean “best” as in I sat there and wrote it and re-wrote it for days upon days, scrutinizing the grammar, perfecting the language. Every single piece in this eBook (and 99% of what I share for free online) is written in 20 minutes, straight through, no edits.
What I mean by “best” is that I gave it my all, emotionally. I gave away everything I know, everything I feel, everything I am. I opened up about my personal story. I shared my fears, my perspectives, my beliefs, and I grounded them in real life examples so that you could see into my world.
Every sat down to write, I didn’t approach it from my head and try to “think” about what people would want to read.
I wrote from my heart.
And the result?
I went viral.