Become a Writer Today

What Happens When Your Write 300 Words a Day for 30 Days with Nicolas Cole

June 07, 2021 Bryan Collins Season 2
What Happens When Your Write 300 Words a Day for 30 Days with Nicolas Cole
Become a Writer Today
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Become a Writer Today
What Happens When Your Write 300 Words a Day for 30 Days with Nicolas Cole
Jun 07, 2021 Season 2
Bryan Collins

What could you accomplish if you wrote 300 words a day every day for 30 days?

Nicolas Cole and his business partner, Dickie Bush, put together the "Ship 30 for 30" challenge where they encourage writers to do just that.  It's an excellent challenge if you want to tap into the power of small daily wins for your writing.

Nicolas is the author of several books, including The Art and Business of Online Writing. I started our conversation by asking Nicolas to explain his rather interesting backstory, because, like me, he was a gamer back in the day.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • How Nicolas transitioned from gamer to writer
  • His advice for new writers wanting to be read
  • Making money from your writing by selling it as a service
  • Balancing running a business with writing
  • Success stories from writers using the "30 for 30" challenge


Support the Show.

If you enjoyed the show please leave a review on Apple. And if you have any questions you can find me on Twitter @BryanJCollins

Thanks for listening!

Show Notes Transcript

What could you accomplish if you wrote 300 words a day every day for 30 days?

Nicolas Cole and his business partner, Dickie Bush, put together the "Ship 30 for 30" challenge where they encourage writers to do just that.  It's an excellent challenge if you want to tap into the power of small daily wins for your writing.

Nicolas is the author of several books, including The Art and Business of Online Writing. I started our conversation by asking Nicolas to explain his rather interesting backstory, because, like me, he was a gamer back in the day.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • How Nicolas transitioned from gamer to writer
  • His advice for new writers wanting to be read
  • Making money from your writing by selling it as a service
  • Balancing running a business with writing
  • Success stories from writers using the "30 for 30" challenge


Support the Show.

If you enjoyed the show please leave a review on Apple. And if you have any questions you can find me on Twitter @BryanJCollins

Thanks for listening!

Nicolas: You shouldn’t sit down and say, “I wanna write a book,” if you haven’t written anything on the internet. You need some data around what do your readers want? What are you naturally good at explaining? What stories resonate? You know, you should be validating that idea before you go spend two plus years writing a book.

Introduction: Welcome to the Become a Writer Today Podcast with Bryan Collins. Here, you’ll find practical advice and interviews for all kinds of writers.

Bryan: What could you accomplish if you wrote 300 words a day every day for 30 days? Hi, there. My name is Bryan Collins and welcome to the Become a Writer Today Podcast, and one man who’s recommending that writers take this challenge is Nicolas Cole.

He’s written the Art and Business of Online Writing and along with his business partner, Dickie Bush, he’s put together the “Ship 30 for 30” challenge and that’s the topic for this week’s podcast episode. Nicolas actually got me thinking about some of the mistakes that I made back when I started writing. Basically, I spent a lot of time figuring out how to write every day but, unlike the approach that Nicolas recommends, I spent a lot of time working on my stories and articles and ideas alone in my bedroom and I never published them anywhere. I tried to perfect the sentences, I tried to rewrite the same pieces over and over, and I never really got feedback about my work.

And this is the thing. When you’re starting off as a writer, it’s really important to publish your work and get feedback from readers and from other writers even if you feel it’s not very good because, to be honest, your biggest challenge as a writer is not getting something out there that’s perfect, it’s actually capturing people’s attention in the first place. So, if you’re new to the world of online writing or you want to break into the world of online writing, then consider checking out popular social media networks like Quora, which is basically a Q&A site and it gives you lots of great questions about topics you might be interested in and you can have a go at answering those questions and by answering those questions, you can figure out your writing voice and you can also figure out the types of content that people like to read from you and figure out what your area of expertise is.

And, of course, it doesn’t take or cost you anything apart from your time so there’s a low barrier of entry. Another social media network for writers that’s worth checking out which I’ve talked about before on the show is Medium because you can publish articles on Medium without having to go through the technical headache of setting up a blog or a website. And if it starts getting traction, you know, you can easily earn a couple of hundred dollars — well, after a few months, you can earn a couple of hundred dollars for your articles on Medium. And you can also start publishing your work on Twitter as photo essays, which is something Nicolas talks about in this week’s interview, but wherever you publish, if you think of your writing as like an asset, something that you own and then you distribute it on the different platforms like Twitter, Quora, Medium, and so on and then you use information from all of those platforms like your analytics, your reads, your views, and your shares, to figure out, one, is this something I should write more about? Two, is this something that readers are interested in reading more about? And, three, how can I improve the articles or the pieces that are doing quite well?  And once you’ve done all that, then you can begin to monetize your writing.

You know, you could offer guest writing or ghostwriting services, which is something Nicolas did when he was starting out, or perhaps you could turn your writing into a book or perhaps you could turn your writing into another type of service, like coaching, or you could even turn it into an online course.

But it all starts with writing a little bit every day and then publishing your work online and then getting feedback from actual readers. Those are strategies we go into in this week’s interview with Nicolas Cole. He’s the author of several books, including The Art and Business of Online Writing, which I’d really recommend you check out, and he’s also one of the men behind the “30 for 30” challenge which a number of writers around the world have taken and it’s really an excellent challenge if you want to tap into the power of small daily wins for your writing. I started by asking Nicolas to explain his rather interesting backstory, because, like me, he was a gamer back in the day.


Nicolas: I spent more time playing, I think, yeah.

Bryan: You were actually one of the highest-ranked players in the United States. How did you transition from gaming to writing online? Because you’ve been writing online I think since 2013. Is that right?

Nicolas: Yeah. I took it a lot more seriously after I graduated college. You know, I graduated with a degree in fiction writing and, you know, I just wanted to become an author so I figured, hey, if I want to sell books, I need an audience and so if I’m going to build an audience, then I got to use the internet. 

So, I started writing on Quora in 2014 and then, yeah, from there, everything’s just taken off. But I’ve been writing online for a long time. I started writing gaming blogs when I was a teenager. When I got into bodybuilding in college, I was writing fitness articles and, you know, things like that so I’ve been writing on the internet for more than 10 years. It just — I really kind of found my groove with it in 2014 with Quora and now, today, it’s like all I do.

Bryan: Yeah, yeah. Quora is fantastic I think for non-fiction writers. What would you say is the biggest difference between fiction writing and writing online? Because like you, I’ve taken fiction writing classes but I probably had more luck with writing online than writing literary fiction.

Nicolas: Yeah. I mean, most people associate writing online with non-fiction but the reality is that, my personal belief is that all the rules are the same. Whether it’s fiction, non-fiction, made-up story, true story, all the fundamental principles remain true and there’s as many examples of fiction writers that exploded on the internet as there are non-fiction writers, you know? I mean, the Twilight series, you know, whatever you feel about it, I didn’t read it but however you feel about it, right? It’s one of the best-selling fiction series of our lifetime and that started on a fanfiction website, you know? I mean, what’s the Mars book? I have it right here, by Andy Weir. 

Bryan: Oh, yeah, it was turned into a film.

Nicolas: Like that started as a short story on the internet and I — actually, I might be wrong here so don’t quote me but I want to say that that actually did start on Quora and he answered a question. I might be confusing it with a different one. This story is true. I just can’t remember if it’s him. But, if it was him, he answered a question about what it would be like to live on Mars. The answer blew up, went so crazy viral, got shared with so many people, and it was fiction. He was like, “I hypothesize this is what it would be like to live on Mars,” and he kind of made a little story around it. And a film — well, a publishing company loved it and was like, “You should turn this into a book,” and, a year later, two years later, whatever, the book comes out and it explodes. 

Again, I can’t remember if it’s that one specifically, but that happened. And so you have sites now like Wattpad, you know, where even though it leans, you know, certain genres of fiction or like teen fiction or werewolf romance or whatever, it’s still the same thing. They’re using the internet to validate ideas, figure out which ideas are grabbing people, and then doubling down on the ideas that are working. And it’s the same stuff I preach all day with non-fiction, you know? Write small things, figure out what’s working, and then turn the small things into big things.

Bryan: So when I was reading your latest book, one of the things that struck me is that you have a slightly contrarian approach to starting a blog. You actually recommend that writers take a different tactic before they, you know, fire up a WordPress account. Could you describe what that is?

Nicolas: Yeah, it’s basically just — your goal as a writer is you want people to read your work, right? I mean, that’s the simple explanation of it. And if you think about what’s the fastest path to getting people to read your work, if we’re in the year 2004, then the fastest path to getting people to read your work on the internet is to create a blog. You create this destination where then people — you tell people, “Hey, come here and go read my stuff.” 

But, in 2020, ’21, it’s really inefficient to start from ground zero when you have these platforms that have hundreds of millions of users and you just walk into the room and start writing and, all of a sudden, your ability to get feedback, your ability to reach readers, your ability to learn is accelerated at such a dramatic pace that starting on a blog, especially when you’re first beginning, is so incredibly inefficient because all the things that you want are going to take you 10 times longer. 

It’s going to take you 10 times longer for people to figure out it exists, for people to give you the feedback that you want, you know? Algorithms naturally push the content to other people. It’s naturally introducing your material to other people. So, the reason I say that isn’t necessarily that like blogging itself is flawed, it’s just that blogging is flawed in the context of “I’m a writer and in order for me to learn what I should be writing about —” which 99 percent of writers don’t know that in the beginning, you know? They walk into the thing thinking, “My reader is going to care about this.” In reality, they start writing and they learn, “Oh, I was actually wrong. That’s not actually what my reader wants from me. My reader wants something else.” So, in order to get to that point, you need feedback and so the question is what is the fastest path to feedback? It’s social. And then, once you get there, then, okay, sure, if you want to own your own site, fine. If you want to go and write books, fine. But like if you can’t validate that, then you’re just — you’re moving in the wrong direction and you’re moving slow.

Bryan: Yeah, especially because Google tends to put newer sites in a sandbox mode so articles won’t even rank for the first 6 to 12 months even if you do everything right in terms of optimizing the site and for SEO and, you know, your topic. So, I’m curious, though, like how do you feel about building a platform on somebody else’s property, like on Quora or Twitter? Because, you know, they can change the algorithm and then you disappear.

Nicolas: Totally, but I also think that’s a short-sighted way of looking at it. It’s a valid question but, for example, a couple years ago, someone asked me the question on Quora, like, “What would you do if you had to start all over?” If I woke up tomorrow and my Quora account was gone and my 70,000 followers were gone and everything, and I thought about it for a while and my conclusion was it honestly wouldn’t really matter. 

If my account vanished tomorrow and I had to restart either on Quora or on a different platform, two things are not taken away from me and those two things are, one, my skill over the past five to eight years has increased so dramatically that when I start on a new platform, I’m inherently going to move 100 times faster than a brand new writer because I’ve built that.
So they can take away the platform, they’re not going to take away my skill. And second is I’ve built a library of content. The library is what matters. It’s not the followers. People think like, “Oh, if I build an audience on someone else’s platform and I don’t own it, then what?” But you own the thing that got you there. You own every piece, every Quora answer, every Medium article, every piece of content, which means you can take that whole thing and go bring it to a whole new platform, start all over. That never goes away. 

So, it’s kind of like which would you rather have, you want to own the platform, the blog, but move at 100th the speed or do you want to move at hyperspeed and still keep all the assets and still keep your skill and, you know, keep everything else that you get along the way but just realize that it’s not yours?

Bryan: Yeah. And the internet thrives on content as well so it’s a great opportunity for writers. So, when you when you say the library of content, do you have like a system for managing it all or keeping track of what you’ve published where or do you just log into the different platforms and see what’s getting the most traction?

Nicolas: My personal process is I usually treat one platform as my primary. Like for a very long time, I treated Quora as my primary so anytime I would write anything, it almost always started there and then I would republish it to Medium, to LinkedIn, to all these other places. So Quora has kind of become my master library. I think the best purpose of a blog is to make your blog this organizational master library. Every time you write something, put it there, and you have this forever log of everything that you’ve ever written and that’s a good way of organizing it. 

But as long as you have that somewhere, like Medium allows you to export every single thing you’ve ever written there, you just download it in a file, you know? So as long as you have that, it could be in Google Docs, it could be wherever, as long as you have your library so that way when the next platform comes out, now you can take your whole library and bring it to the next platform.

Bryan: And speaking of next platforms, although arguably it has been here quite a while, like you’re quite fond of Twitter these days over Quora. I’m curious about how come you decided to switch to something that’s aimed at more short-form content?

Nicolas: Well, one, I think is — more honest answer is just because it’s different for me. I mean, I’ve written over a thousand Quora answers and I’ve ghostwritten, you know, 4,000 plus articles at this point so that format for me is just like I’ve done it so many times, I’m a little bit bored of it. But Twitter is an interesting mental exercise because you only have so many characters so you kind of have to approach it and think about it in a different way so I’m enjoying that part of it, but more so all of these platforms go through these cycles and, in 2014 to 2017, I was telling everyone, “If you’re not writing on Quora, you’re missing the single greatest distribution opportunity on the internet,” because they were growing so much that they were trying to feed content to every new user. All they wanted was more content. So, for you to get 100,000 views on Quora was very easy in 2014 to 2017 because they were pushing it.

Whereas once they opened their ad platform in 2018, they started to throttle the reach back a little bit, you know? And now it’s a little bit harder to get 100,000 organic views on Quora. And that happens with every platform. Twitter is an interesting example where it’s not that the product is new but they do have a lot of new people working on the product and so Twitter, in the past year, looks nothing like, moves nothing like, is nothing like Twitter three years ago or five years ago.

It’s so much better at distributing interesting content, allowing people to engage in conversations with each other. It feels like a different product. So, all of a sudden now, I’m noticing my reach on Twitter is three times more than Quora or Medium is. That’s exciting. But I don’t know that it’ll stay that way. All these platforms evolve. That’s why I don’t put emphasis too much on “the platform is the secret.” The platform isn’t the secret. The secret is the writing, the formulas, the way you think about it, and your library of content.

Bryan: Yeah, I like the idea of a library of content. To be honest, I haven’t looked too much at Twitter over the past few years because I did see the reach just going down and I was a social media manager for business accounts as well and they weren’t getting much reach. Whereas with Medium, you know, you can automatically see that it’s getting lots of reads and views. So, when you were writing or publishing your books, like you’ve published books across multiple genres, do you look at your articles and say to yourself, “Can I turn this into a book?” or do you write the articles with the intention of publishing a book?

Nicolas: That’s a great question. I mean, you can go either direction. One, I’ve been experimenting with turning proven articles into longer proven assets so this is something that I preach a lot which is you shouldn’t sit down and say, “I wanna write a book,” if you haven’t written anything on the internet. You need some data around what do your readers want? What are you naturally good at explaining? What stories resonate? You know, you should be validating that idea before you go spend two plus years writing a book.

And so part of my testing that was I took one of my most viral articles ever, it got a couple million views, and it was 19 Tiny Habits That Lead to Powerful Results or something like that and I made that the title then of the book too. You can tell how much I write, the fact that I can’t even remember the title of the book. Actually, I’ve got it here. 19 Tiny Habits That Lead to Huge Results.

Bryan: Yeah.

Nicolas: So, yeah, so that article got a couple million views and I was like, “Cool. I wonder if I turn that into a book, will that also perform well?” I mean, that’s my first one. I’m going to probably do like 20 of them and see what the data says.

Bryan: So you expand on each of the habits for the book?

Nicolas: Yeah. I basically used the article as the outline for the book —

Bryan: Yeah.

Nicolas: — and just expanded each one.

Bryan: Yeah, that’s a good way to do it. So a lot of writers are probably wondering about publishing on Quora and publishing on Twitter, maybe even getting a few dollars a month, a few hundred dollars a month from Medium, but how can I actually, you know, do this full time? So how do I turn my library of content into a business, which is something you’ve done?

Nicolas: This is a tricky question because the writer in me hates the brutally honest answer that I’m going to give. Because the writer in me still — it’s like that kid in me that just believes like I just want to write and I just want to get paid for my writing and like that’s the Holy Grail and that’s what it is, right? But the reality is the fastest path to, “I wanna make a living off my craft,” is turning your writing into a service. Period. It is the fastest path. I’m not saying it has the highest ceiling but it is the fastest way to go from, “I’m working my nine to five job or whatever, I really like to write, how do I create a side income and then how do I get that side income to pay me more than my full-time income?” 

The fastest path to doing that is saying, “I know how to write a very specific type of thing. I go find people that need that thing written and I sell you my service.” And all of a sudden, you’re making, you know, a couple hundred, a couple thousand, ten thousand plus a month doing that. The second step after that then is, “Well, I wanna make money off my writing,” which is basically a product. That’s what writers forget is that your writing is a product, right? So the same way that someone decides, “I’m going to go buy this type of conditioner or this type of car,” or whatever, the reader is making that same decision when they say, “I’m gonna spend time reading your Medium article,” or, “I’m going to spend $20 buying your book.” It’s a product. And the only way to do that is to write so much on the internet that you gather enough data to learn what someone is willing to pay for. 

Otherwise, you are just shooting in the dark and you don’t know. So I actually don’t think that it’s a very effective path for writers to be like, “I want to make money as a writer, I’m going to write on Medium.” It’s going to take you a long time and that’s fine if you’re okay with that but, again, like what is your goal? Like what are you really trying to get out of this? And if you’re just like, “I just want to make $3,000 a month as soon as possible,” turn your writing into a service. Period.

Bryan: So you're ghostwriting then for clients or for companies who might need a copywriter or a content marketer?

Nicolas: Yeah, exactly. I mean, that’s how I quit my job. That’s how I, you know, I built my first company as a ghostwriting agency. Ghostwriting afforded me the ability to write my own stuff and not feel like I needed to make money on it right away, you know? So I personally think it’s better to look at the writing trajectory in stages. And the stages are: How do I unlock more freedom for myself? How do I unlock more financial or monetary gain for myself? And then how can I continue learning over time what it is about my writing that really is compelling, that really resonates, so that by the time I put out a book or some sort of product, I know people are going to buy it because I’ve done the hard work? 

That’s why my writing book is selling 10 to 25x more copies than anything I’ve written before because data told me the most, you know, that people wanted my writing advice. By the time I created the book, it was like, you know, I’m not betting. I know. I know through data that that is what people want.

Bryan: Do you spend much time writing these days? Because, I mean, you’re also running your own business and you’ve got some other projects on the go as well, which we’ll talk about in a moment. So do you actually get much creative time in the day?

Nicolas: I write more today than I’ve ever written in my entire life. I am writing easily, easily more than 10,000 words a day.

Bryan: Wow, that’s quite a lot.

Nicolas: Yeah, it’s all I do. I mean, I still ghostwrite for a handful of people through my company. I have my own newsletter. I have a collaboration newsletter called Category Pirates with two other guys. You know, I am constantly writing new educational materials for “Ship 30 for 30” which is the writing challenge. I’m working on my own books. Yeah, I seriously — like people really don’t know that but I, from 7 AM to 6 PM, like aside from answering e-mails or taking calls, like I am writing.

Bryan: Okay, so you’ve doubled down on it, because I was gonna ask how you balance working on your business with writing, but it sounds like maybe you’ve figured that out.

Nicolas: Writing is — at this point, writing is my business, you know? So a lot of the other things, like getting clients and stuff, that has become pretty autopilot and the productizing of my writing, you know, that’s an investment that I make in time but, yeah, I spend the majority of my time playing with words and writing things.

Bryan: What about your actual writing process, is it you in front of a keyboard or do you have some other way of producing 10,000 words? Because like that’s quite a lot. 

Nicolas: Yeah. I’ll be honest, I don’t really know how I do it or how it works. I just sit and go and go and I think the biggest things in my process are I try and keep a very similar schedule, I try and wake up around the same time, be done with work around the same time, I take breaks, you know, I’ll do like a midday workout just to kind of clear my head but, yeah, I mean, it’s very common. I will sit and work, I will write for three or four hours straight through, take a 20-minute break, do it again for two hours, take another little break, make some food, do another for two hours. Like I just go.

Bryan: Do you have a system for research for your articles or for your pieces?

Nicolas: At this point, I’m pretty familiar with like what structure I want to use for what so I can almost always hear the type of research that I need in my head as I’m writing it. You know, I’m like, “Oh, I need a stat here,” or, “Oh, I need an interesting little story here,” so I might start writing and just kind of gloss over it, leave a section for it, and then go do some reading and then come back and fill it in. Or if I’m unfamiliar with the topic, which happens with ghostwriting all the time, I’ll take some time to just read for an hour, get myself familiar, and then kind of dive in and go, “Okay, I have this working context now.”

Bryan: Yeah, good approach. So, Nicolas, you and your business partner, Dickie Bush, you’ve come up with something called the Idea Generator, which I thought was fantastic was the real takeaway for me from your book. Could you explain how the Idea Generator works and how people can put it to use?

Nicolas: Yeah, it’s basically just this idea that once you understand all the different mechanisms that build a compelling piece of writing, you can swap them out, trade them. They’re like pieces. I like to think of it like a pile of Jenga blocks. And so how it works is basically there’s just a handful of proven approaches to writing, you know? Like the most common ones are it’s either an opinion type of article or story; it’s a how-to, you know, I’m gonna explain something or how to do something; it’ll be a curated list, you know, I just — I’m gonna go out, do the hard work of curating all the best things around one central topic or I’m going to go to one really credible person and curate all of the things that they’ve said around one specific topic. You know, these approaches are very — once you see them, you realize they’re everywhere and everyone kind of uses the same handful of approaches. 

And then you combine that with what are all of the different ways I can communicate that approach, you know? And so you have other sort of templates, like I can list off the mistakes that I made or the lessons that I learned or the habits I need to implement or the little tips that you should remember next time, you know, or the strategies you should think about, you know? These are all, again, proven approaches, proven formats for writing. And then when you combine that with whatever it is that you want to talk about within your domain, you know, so say you’re writing about personal finance, you know, okay, personal finance mixed with — let’s go with the approach of how-to, so how-to personal finance mixed with mistakes and then, all of a sudden, the article reveals itself. It’s like “How do you save your first $100,000 out of college? Avoid these seven mistakes.” Now you have a piece, you know? And that obviously sounds very simple, you know? 

And a lot of times when I explain it to people, their first response is, “Well, I don’t want to write clickbait.” Like, first of all, that’s not clickbait. Britney Spears headlines about bikini she wore is clickbait, you know? Clickbait, the only thing that that means is the headline promises something to the reader that it doesn’t fully deliver on. That’s what makes it clickbait. But using numbers in your headline or, you know, I like to call it the curiosity gap where you’re piquing the reader’s curiosity, as long as you deliver on that promise, the reader is going to find it valuable so you should use mechanisms that are good at capturing people’s attention. 

And then the second part of that is you should also consider that that’s like the simplified version. So, you need to learn how to execute the simplified version before you spend time thinking, “Oh, how do I make this super advanced and all these other things?” Most people can’t write a simple seven bulleted list article on the internet. So, you know, how are you going to then use the harder versions of those mechanisms to write something much longer and more complicated? Start with the simple stuff.

Bryan: Do you have any thoughts on how many genres or niches, or niches, as you say in the U.S., people should write in? I was looking at the “30 for 30” tweets that you guys are sending out, it’s like a lot of your students had picked one particular niche or topic.

Nicolas: Yeah. So, yeah, there’s two answers to this. One is no, I don’t believe that you should only or you can only have one thing. Especially in the beginning, I encourage people to write about a lot of different things so that they can put out a lot of different data points and figure out what’s working. It’s a good way to learn. But the reality, and you will get there eventually, is you realize that the fastest path to growth ends up being hyperfocusing on one thing, and it’s not even just because you can only write about one thing and that’s the only way to be successful. 

The real reason, which I’ve only learned very recently, the real reason that’s true is because once you find something that works, you are revealed to an almost infinite number of things that you can write and create in that direction. So now you’re burdened by time. You only have so many hours in the day. 

So, for example, I’ve really found this niche of writing about online writing, you know? That’s clearly like what’s really working for people and what’s really helpful, and the more I write about it, the more ideas I get, the more I’m revealed of what I can speak to, the more resources I feel like I can create. I have a burden of opportunity. So it’s almost like I can write about other things but I already am overwhelmed with so much I have to write about just in this direction and that’s what people don’t really understand is that’s actually the goal. The goal is to find something that has so much momentum that you feel like you could spend five years doing nothing but writing about it and you still probably wouldn’t cover everything that you could cover.

Bryan: Yeah. I mean, the big topics are so enormous, you can really dive deep into one area, especially for something like writing. And one way you’re helping people do that is with the “30 for 30” challenge. Could you maybe elaborate on how that works and how people can find out more about it?

Nicolas: Yeah. Dickie Bush was the one who created it and we ended up partnering up on it because I just was enthralled with the product and I thought it was incredible. But, basically, the goal is helping people build their daily writing habit and you do that by writing what we call these atomic essays, you know, they’re about 300 words, they’re longer than a tweet but shorter than a conventional essay or Medium article or something and you write one every day for 30 days, and the community is all built around sharing, online writing education, you know, it’s like, basically, getting access to an online writing course mixed with a community and everyone’s encouraged to read each other’s essays, you don’t have to but it’s just part of the territory, and really all with the goal of building your writing habit. And it’s been incredible. 

We have over 300 writers in this cohort that just started today and I’m sure by the time this episode comes out or a couple months from now, you know, it will be doing 2 or 3 or 4x that. It’s just — it’s been growing so quickly. So, it’s been really, really cool to see so many different types of writers come together and all say, “This is what I want to write about.”

Bryan: Yeah, what struck me is you’re tapping into the power of small daily wins. Have any of your students been surprised by what success they’ve had with the challenge or what it’s done for them?

Nicolas: Oh, massively. At the end of the past two cohorts, Dickie opened a thread on Twitter saying, “Everyone take a screenshot of your Twitter analytics and put it in the thread and let’s see how the month went,” and every single person’s chart was like up 500 percent, up 2,000 percent, up 16,000 percent, like everyone all of a sudden is realizing that this — it’s like you preach it all the time but you have to experience it. 

People realized that, “Oh, if I create something new every day, everything starts working,” you know? “People start paying attention, my content starts getting served,” and that’s the thing, is like it’s not going to be you sitting in a room daydreaming about an idea for two years that makes you successful. What makes you successful is showing up and going, “I’m gonna write something, I’m gonna publish it, and I’m gonna look at the feedback and let the feedback inform what I write tomorrow, and I’m gonna do that for 30 days, 60 days, 90 days.” For me, I’ve been doing it for eight years, or however long it’s been. That’s the secret.

Bryan: And are you recommending that students start with Quora and then move on to Twitter or both?

Nicolas: Ship 30 happens on Twitter so all the essays get published there but some of the materials that we share are all about how to republish your content as well. So, we walk through and I’ve shown people how to take their atomic essays and also publish them as answers to questions on Quora, how to publish them as Medium articles, things like that.

Bryan: And is this a strategy that works for fiction writers as well?

Nicolas: We have a handful of fiction writers in there and, actually, I think the next cohort, I’m going to experiment with atomic fiction. It’ll be 30 short stories. But, yeah, again, the principles all hold true and it really — it blows my mind how much the fiction community is separated from the non-fiction community.

Bryan: There is a gap, yeah. I’ve noticed that, yeah.

Nicolas: But the reality is it’s the same thing.

Bryan: Yeah. I suppose maybe non-fiction naturally lends itself to a lot of online articles maybe whereas fiction writers sometimes wonder how they can turn their stories into something that they can publish online, apart from Wattpad which is probably a good place to try it. So, if people are interested in learning more about the “30 for 30” challenge or reading some of your work, Nicolas, where should they go? 

Nicolas: Yeah. Ship 30 for 30 is the landing page for the community and then, I mean, I’d say my own personal website, but, honestly, I’m most active on Twitter these days. If you @ me, if you DM me, I’ll respond. I’m very, very active there.

Bryan: Thanks, Nicolas. That was great.

Nicolas: Awesome. Thanks, man.


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