I was nervous. My heart was beating like a drum. My mouth was dry like the desert sand. In just a few seconds I would get the results of my last test. I always sucked at this. I was 17 years old and I was about to get the results for the last essay I wrote. I was freaking out.
And then within a few seconds it was all over. My entire world collapsed. I got an F. I didn't even know that this was possible. But here I was, sitting there and getting the worst grade my school probably ever gave to anyone.
Doubt. Disappointment. Failure.
What's going to happen next? Will I be able to pass this class? Will I have to repeat the entire year? What about my life? Will I ever find a job?
I felt like my entire life just got flushed down the toilet. What about my plans? My dreams? My ambitions? That's exactly how I felt during that moment. I felt like a worthless student that's never ever going to achieve anything in life.
Ever since that happened I was afraid to write. I was peeing my pants every time I had to write an essay. I didn't want to fail again (unfortunately it happened a few more ties).
Then, two years later I decided totally out of the blue to apply to write for a blog that I've been reading for quite a while. Looking back I actually have no clue why I did this. It was a German online news portal that was publishing content about all sorts of digital stuff.
Maybe I had a sadistic tendency back then. Maybe I wanted to punish myself for doing something bad. I really don't know. I also don't really remember what exactly I was writing about.
Everything I remember is that one month I got something like €85, which made me so happy. I was getting paid to write. It was an awesome feeling. I went from an F student to someone that's getting paid to write. How cool is that?
Looking back, I guess I was paid €1 for each 1000 people that clicked on one of my posts. That means that this one month alone I had something like 80000 people reading some of my content. Thinking about it I have to admit that this was probably the largest audience I've ever written for.
That was back in 2003 or something like that. I'm really bad at remembering details. I'm actually pretty bad at remembering all sorts of stuff. I don't even remember what I did yesterday. But that's another story.
So how did I transform from an F student into someone that had a monthly audience of 80k+ readers?
Well there are a few things I did (well some of them didn't have anything to do with me).
I started writing for someone that already had a large audience. And then I copied the shit out of the already available content, authors and websites.
I didn't write any original content at all. All I did was screening other sites, copying their content, rearranging sentences, replacing some words and that was about it. That's all I did in the beginning. Nothing else. I did this for six months or so until the site was bought by some other site and I got kicked out.
For the next ten years or so I didn't write anything. The only stuff I wrote were either answers to tests or project papers. Until 2013 when I decided to write a book.
Actually when I decided to write my first book, I didn't even think about the writing I did for this one website. I somehow completely forgot about this. Now that I think about it, I never put this on my resume either.
I only had to think about it while I was trying to structure my answer and trying to come up with an interesting story how I learned (or taught myself) to write. I don't know if this was consciously or unconsciously. Anyways.
The interesting thing is that I really sucked at writing a book. I was really bad at it. And instead of three months it took my ten months to finish it. I have the feeling that this didn't really improve my writing that much.
What helped me to really get better at writing was to read a lot. Until I was 28 years old I barely ever read anything. Up to this point I maybe read a total of ten books. But then I started to write some of my thoughts down on Facebook. No one was really reading it.
Then I started a newsletter. I continued writing. Some stuff I published and put on my blog. Some I didn't. And then I read even more. Books about all sorts of topics. From all sorts of different genres.
And then I found a few writers I liked. I copied their way of writing. I wrote more.
I combined stuff, experimented with different ways of writing and then I experimented even more.
And I'm still experimenting today and trying to write every single day (and fail very often at doing so). I also try to read every single day. I take notes on phrases I like. Ideas I come up with. Ideas I love. And then I combine them. Expand them into a post. A book. Or nothing.
I never took any writing classes. I'm just not the type of guy to follow advice and do stuff someone tells me to do (that's what I feel writing classes might be about but I really don't know). So what I did and what worked for me can be summarized with these few bullet points:
But most importantly, you shouldn't feel like you're writing is not good enough to get published. It's just a matter of fact that we all suck when we start something new. And that's totally ok.
You just have to be willing to push your boundaries every single day, get out of your comfort zone, push even more and try to get better one step at a time. And then keep pushing.
That really is the only way to go.
And that's the true story about how to turn an F student (me!) into someone that others admire for his writing skills...
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