Craft essays like an architect
I'm bringing the best parts of architecture school to essay writers
I spent 10,000 hours in a design cult. The architecture students were secluded in the woods on the edge of campus, designing small buildings that would never exist (like the one in Zoolander). Refining our drawings and models pushed us to our limits: creatively, psychologically, and physically. One time after not sleeping for 72 hours, I was in a white room surrounded by white models and started hallucinating a technicolor jungle. I couldn’t drive home; my mom had to come pick me up. Obviously it was unsustainable, but it changed my life: it’s where I met my wife and forged my mind.
Architecture school was an intense, 5-year ordeal that instilled in me a reverence for craft. It's a mindset that often feels out of place in the world of online publishing. The Internet is so shaped by marketing, journalism, and entrepreneurship, that it threatens the sensitive ecology needed to make great work. Today’s creators worship speed, attention, data, and growth.
If you're an emerging online writer, maybe you feel stuck on a quality plateau.
Rushed to publish as often as possible and don’t see yourself improving.
Stretched too thin to edit or re-write your first draft.
Frustrated by the challenge of structuring complex ideas.
Overwhelmed by a heap of scattered writing advice and lack a unifying framework.
Unaware of how to practice using exercises.
Isolated from others who care deeply about the craft.
Tired of the robots, hucksters, and slang-parrots.
I’m on a quest to bring the best parts of architecture school to online essay writers who want to commit to the life-long pursuit of craftsmanship.
I've seen how "studio culture" can put anyone on a continuous arc of improvement. "Studio" refers not just to the physical place, but the curriculum that turns beginners into experts, and the cadences of feedback and publishing. "Culture" refers to everything that emerges from this structure: the shared norms, language, skills, frameworks, rituals, passion, and friendships.
My lens to essay writing—a paradoxical medium that both died in 9th grade English class, while also being the most important skill in the 21st century—is shaped by architecture. I’m an interdisciplinary thinker, a visual diagrammer, and a fuser of analysis and creativity. In the last 3 years, I’ve designed the curriculum for Write of Passage, founded the editor program, and have given feedback on over a thousand essays.
If you join me you'll:
See the invisible patterns behind great essays.
Find others with a shared reverence for craft.
Write the best essays you've ever written.
There are 3 different ways you can start crafting essays like an architect:
1_ Do you want visualized writing theory in your inbox?
For $10/month (or $100/year), you'll have access to Essay Architecture. Over the year I'll be deconstructing classic essays and synthesizing my insights into a curriculum. My goal is to absorb all the writing advice scattered across websites and libraries, unifying everything that matters into a single mega-structure. This stream of posts will put you on an arc of continuous improvement. You’ll upgrade your ability to scope ideas, structure essays, and write with voice.
2_ Are you a practicing writer looking to join a studio and get quality feedback?
The Writer's Studio is a network of craft-focused writers. It's the most immediate and tangible way to upgrade what you publish. You'll have access to a Calendly to book live 1:1 feedback, whenever you need it, either with me or someone in the Studio. This structure encourages you to iterate, to test your revisions across different readers, and to confirm that your ideas resonate. Never ship a blind paragraph.
This is the “Founding Member” tier on Substack (offered at $300/year). You’ll have access to the posts from Essay Architecture (above), but this is where you put theory into practice. You’ll meet other writers and work together on your creative problems, just like we did in architecture school.
3_ Do you need a coach to visually guide you through your biggest creative project?
The key thing that separates architecture school from a traditional college major (I started in finance) is the apprentice-like structure. I met with a professor, 1:1, twice a week, for years. After showing them my progress, they would react, give feedback, and guide me on my next steps. They would scope out what to study, what to keep in mind, and what to deliver by our next meeting.
In Dean's Office, I'll use Miro to help you through an essay, project, course, launch, book, or memoir. Over weeks or months, we'll meet regularly on Zoom to brainstorm, scope ideas, diagram concepts, study precedents, reverse outline, restructure, and channel your voice. I’m looking to work closely with ~10 writers in 2024 to shape ideas at the edge of our shared ability. In order to give everything I can to these 1:1 projects, space is limited. The most important thing for me is to work with others who are dedicated to making something timeless.
“This is one of the best places to learn how to write on the Internet.” – Doz
“Michael’s approach of using visual feedback is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. He was like an architect taking the bricks of ideas I had and gluing them together in a way that makes sense.” – Jen Vermet
“Michael is not ‘the best’ at what he does, he is ‘the only.’ His visuospatial style of outlining what needs to change in an essay and what I might work on in subsequent drafts was a total game changer. He was thorough, generative, and patient. And as a result of our collaboration I now have a pillar piece on my Substack (A Pilgrimage for Book People) that got featured by Substack in Substack Reads and is something I can be proud of for the rest of my writing career.” – Charlie Becker
What does the word “craft” mean to you?
Any questions on what I’m offering? Reply to this email or leave a comment. There’s no detail too small or philosophical wrench too big.
I’ll be pinning this page to the nav-bar of my Substack to orient new readers. If I’ve helped you with your writing in any capacity, it would make my day if you write a testimonial that I can share.