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Introducing The Education of a Writer–Well, Maybe


I’ve been toying with the idea of writing about how I became a web writer. How I went from punk poet to punk direct response copywriter to punk web writer.

How I devoured textbooks on psychology, web usability, and writing, fought my way through constant rejection, and harvested acres of unusable pages.

How I managed a $250,000 a year Google AdWords budget, mentored a brilliant team of writers, lived through a very lonely time called freelancing, and landed possibly the sweetest position for any writer this side of Saturn.

But there’s a problem.

I’m not too keen on being personal. Especially if it smacks of exhibitionism or careerism.

But it was Eric Walker who planted the seed of writing the story of how I became a writer–actually watered the seed that was already there. I have to confess: I’ve been thinking of telling this story for some time.

Why This Is Not a Good Idea

Yeah, sure I have a story to tell. But that doesn’t mean I should tell it.

I’m not a Steven Pressfield or Stephen King. So writing about my life as a writer would be breaking the Keith Richard’s Memoir rule: you need to be insanely interesting to write a memoir.

I’ve got no epic battles with the law, months of my life blacked out due to legendary drug use, jet-set tours that touched down in every continent–including Antarctica.

I’ve never even been out of the country. Never EVEN been to New York City for that matter.

Hunter S. Thompson wouldn’t know what to make of me.

I’ve been plugging away in podunk Midwest. Playing washers. Raising a family. Stuff I find insanely interesting. And writing all the while. But that doesn’t warrant a re-telling. Unless, of course, there are lessons I can share that would benefit you.

Sort of like Christopher Hitchen’s Letters to a Young Contrarian.

Chapters in This Story

So, should I do this? If so, how to do this? It would be a Monday feature, and I could tell the story this way:

What do you think? Are you interested? Let me know what you think in the comments.

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  1. DO IT! DO IT! DO IT!

  2. Oh yeah! Whatcha askin for? Start those digits to dancing!

  3. Personal stories help us connect to each other. They help us to relate and realise that we are not so different from one another after all. Looking forward to reading your story.

    warm regards


  4. Demian,

    Sweet post. Thanks for the mention. I’m curious… How did I plant that seed, or I mean how did whatever I said nurture the seed along a bit more?

    I think you’re interesting, Demian. Write your story. Deliver in weekly installments.

    I think you’re interesting so let’s diffuse that one. I can certainly relate to raising family and living in the midwest. I’m not as far along the writing journey as you are, but that’s even better for me. Makes me more interested in you. You know that it’s all about target marketing, anyway — honing in on your demographic.

    Also, you’re interesting because you haven’t told your story — yet. Instead, you’ve been doing the work and making things happen. You’ve earned respect. It’s a perfect set up to now begin letting us in a bit more. I think it’s part of the maturation process of influence.



    • Hey Eric, it was an exchange in the comments of a Google+ post. Couple of weeks ago. You just mentioned you’d love to hear my story. How I got to where I was. YOU are my target audience. And I love your support and feedback. Thank you.

  5. How cool!

  6. Demian, there’s nothing uncool about the midwest. In fact, it’s a great place to be a writer because there isn’t much else to do! (joke – I grew up in Iowa…) Your story will be a gift for those of us who comment, and others who don’t. No doubt about that. Publishing your posts will build your book on a schedule, and that will inspire us, too. I vote yes!

  7. Demian,

    You must do this. I’m just gonna say it. There’s a lot of boring-as-all-getout copywriters out there whose websites and blogs are nothing but pitch after pitch after boring bulleted list of generic “tips” on “copywriting” that are so darn vanilla you want to go watch grass grow or something more interesting than to go back to their site.

    You, my friend, have substance. Although your story doesn’t spell out like a Neil Strauss book, it’s interesting. Not mounds of cocaine and Ferrari interesting, but real-life interesting. I think you’re on the right track and I look forward to it.

  8. Jesse Wisnewski says:

    I believe your story would be worth sharing and one I would enjoy and even benefit from.

  9. Ha, ha! I’ve lived it right along side of you, but I STILL want to read about it. Go for it, babe!!

  10. Share your story. It will matter to someone. And give someone else (maybe me) permission to share my story.

  11. Demian,

    Is the story itself or the way that the story is told that makes it interesting?

    I have a feeling the answer to my question is the answer to yours…

    Good luck my new friend.


    • So true. I do think that its harder to botch a great story than to write in such a way to make much of a little story. The latter can be done by just about any writer. The latter takes a little more skill. We will see if I have it. :) Thank you for your encouragement.

  12. You should definitely share your story.

    Inspiration is found in many places and for me, I love reading about someones life journey.

    Keep Enduring!


  13. People have been asking me to write my personal story (my memoir, even!) for years. And I’ve always thought to myself… well, why bother? I’m not that interesting! My life isn’t that interesting!! So I know exactly where you’re coming from.

    And yet. You write this, and I’m incredibly CURIOUS. About your life.

    So tell your story. And maybe one day, I’ll agree to tell mine. Deal? ;)

  14. I could take it or leave it until, “How I Was Cured of Ever Wanting to Write Poetry Again” so as a fan of yours and a lover of poetry, the suspense is killing me. Please write this chapter first.

  15. Now tell you story man and plenty many too much people are waiting to read it. Let’s get to know the main man who’s been the ‘badass’ since and now the ‘write-ass’

    Can’t wait to start devouring em.

  16. First of all I think everyone has an insanely interesting story. The only problem is that they either don’t recognize that their story is interesting or they don’t know how to tell it. I know you don’t have the latter problem. Allow me to assist you with the former. :-)

    Have you read C.C. Chapman’s Amazing Thing Will Happen. I loved it. There were a lot of good lessons in it. But equally valuable was that fact that he talked about a lot of things he struggled with that I am struggling with right now.

    Even if you don’t teach anything just showing someone that they are not alone, that they can succeed in spite of challenges, is an incredibly worthwhile reason to write your story.

    Write your story. If it turns into a book you can count this comment as my pre-order.

    Also by your definition my life would be pretty lackluster. I’ve only been to Canada. I’ve been to NYC a number of times but that’s because I lived most of my life in Western New York. :-)

    • Sublime advice, Rob. I want you to know you’ve really encouraged me, and I’m going to treasure this comment. You taught me something today. That’s one of the things I love about blogging. I’m off to writing. (By the way, never read C.C. Chapman’s book. Will hunt it down.) :)

  17. For us, your readers, Demian, you need to tell it.

    Purely for our own selfish needs, of course.

    First, everyone has a story and everyone is somehow interesting. Maybe by telling yours you can help us to learn how we can tell ours – something I know I, and a lot of others, struggle with. More so in the day and age of ‘self-marketing’ which is, in essence, trying to tell our own story authentically. Trying to connect.

    I’d certainly like to get to know one of my favo(u)rite bloggers a little better.

    These two topics that particularly resonated for me:

    – The Only Person Who Told Me Writing Was a Gift
    – Finally, I Beat the College Demon

    As a (now and paid) composer and producer I was heavily encouraged at school by teachers, peers and their parents not to enter the creative media industry. It’s risky you see. I so desperately wanted to. Now, in my late thirties I am studying an a degree in audio production. A course that did not exist when I left school. The candle never went out. Not only will I have a qualification (nice but not always necessary) I beat the college demon in my own way and would love to know your story.

    I’ve also just realised that for a decade or so in my twenties I was a careerist.

    Having made a lot of money (working with computers – the safe option supported by those same people that told me not to follow a creative career) I wasn’t really happy. The apartment on the Indian Ocean never made up for the family and friends I missed and doing what I love. Writing.

    You sound like a man doing what you love despite the daily grind, the challenges and the tricks and tips you need to find the motivation required. We need a hero’s story.

    Demian, I look forward to hearing yours!

  18. Looks like the convincing you needed has already happened. I just want to encourage you. Every word drafted counts so let them flow, but don’t do it for poetic justice or prosaic whim. Do it for healing, joy, growth and passion. Let us read the words written on your heart, the ones you might normally shy away from. Be real. Be courageous. Be human. Inside, that’s all we really want. Best of luck, D. I look forward to it.

  19. It would be great to hear your rise and shine stories, Demian. I can imagine It will bring back some happy memories and hair-pulling nightmares that I have blocked out. I can handle it if you can, man.

    • Tom, looking to sharing those happy memories and hair-pulling nightmares with you. This should be fun. :D Well, sort of. You know it ain’t ever easy. Thanks for popping, sir. I appreciate your support.

  20. I’m a little behind on your blog and late to the conversation, but YES, I think this would be great. I often wonder about how web writers get into the field, and how they succeed. I’ll be waiting for the first installment…

  21. Demian,

    I’ve been following and admiring your work on Copyblogger for some time and always wondered how you manage to pack so much useful information into every post.

    That said, anyone who writes that consistently well has obvious writing chops. But there has to be a deeper, more interesting story about how you arrived at the passion to do so.

    I would certainly love to read your story.

    Rock your story!


  22. Hi Demian. Writers like to read about writers so I’m looking forward to reading about you. I’m here from your post on copy blogger so if the rest of your writing is that good to read I’m looking forward to it.

  23. I just set up my blog and did not know how to make it impacting. Thank you. Please don’t do anything worthwhile with your life, it is your uselessness why this article will inspire people like me long after I have clicked off this page and move on.

  24. Apparently I need to move to the Midwest to up my writing game. Crap. Images of Sandy Duncan in a wheat field selling crackers I loathe come to mind. Sigh. But if you can make me laugh out loud and want to learn from you then there MUST be something good in that there soil. Write your life story. Please.

  25. Hey Dancing Demian! Glad to land on your page Brotha. Love the way you write. I’m also exploring the idea of sharing my real-life-story… I guess that’s why I’ve been guided here. Universal Timing. Priceless. It’s been a super fun ride filled with bliss and chaos. I think writing your story is the most inspiring legacy you can pass on to future generations. It’s a unique gift from your soul on how you lived your days on the planet. Share your wholeness. Trust the seed in your heart. JUST DO IT!!!

  26. You’ll be able to make music with your fingers in no time.
    It may sound strange but online guitar lessons professionals usually
    claim such statement. You can always upgrade as your skills improve
    – and they will.

  27. Let me tell you something about myself and why you should definitely do this. I’m bipolar. Now, this isn’t as tragic as some might think, until you ask me what I do for a living. The answer is: I don’t. My condition keeps me from being able to continually deal with the public. The problem? I need to make money. This is where I went on a search to find a “career” that would allow me to (essentially) avoid face-to-face dealings, sales, and all those other forms of employment that could potentially make me homicidal. Working at home, working anywhere that wouldn’t require me to deal with people… without being scammed. That’s how I ended up here. My passion has always been writing. I was twelve when a teacher told me I’d never accomplish this as my mother tongue isn’t English. I’ve never stopped writing in the dark, either way. If I could make a living from it, at least… well, I would be in a far better shape than I am now.

    I hope you do this. For me, for a lot of people like me.

  28. Yes please do it and let us have an enormous opportunity to learn so many things. Being an entrepreneur, I would love to know your journey. Will be awaiting it.

  29. Demian, for what (little) it’s worth: I’m originally from Wisconsin. (Yeah, let that sink in.) But then I busted out to attend NYU acting school, and subsequently stayed in Manhattan for over 2 decades while also jet-setting around the world. Before recently ditching the high life and the publishing rat race for a much-needed break, I was a columnist for a national mag and a book and journal of ideas editor. I’ve partied with and dated the rich & famous (of course I’m using a pseudonym now), pulled my fair share of stunts, and walks of shame–including with the Stones. I also love the gents you mention (Pressfield, Thompson, Richards, etc.), and I’ve been drinking buddies with the Hitch. The point: I’ve led an interesting and entertaining enough life for me, and I’ve edited those with Far More fascinating stories. I’ve also read a fair amount of your prose. In sum: I think you pack the right gear. And I pray you’ll tell this tale–for you, for young up ‘n comers, for old hands, for me, for the world. xo, Play


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