About Nicolas and the NLWA

The Beginning: A Passion Discovered

I considered myself an author when a poem that I wrote was published into a book when I was 16.

I can remember holding that national poetry book in my hands in August of 2008 and it clicking in my head that this was going to be the career for me. At that time, I was about to be a junior in high school and I had already written numerous short stories, poems, and one screenplay. But from that moment I held that book, I knew I was going to do something tremendous as an writer.

Before I finished high school, I wrote two screenplays “Jungle” and “Madhouse”. My grandmother found out about a critic  who lived in my hometown of Bakersfield, California. I was able to send my second screenplay to her and although she didn’t like it very much, she was very constructive with her criticism and gave me advice on how to the play better.

I eventually met with the critic one day after I graduated from high school and returned to Bakersfield to attend college. She told me about a writing group that met at on Saturdays at Barnes and Noble. Shortly after, I started to regularly attend the group’s writing meetings. I was around 19 years old at the time learning from men who were in their 50s and 60s. It was here that I gained and absorbed all of the knowledge and expertise that I know and cherish today. 

I attended the group until my senior year of college and moved to San Diego, California after graduated from California State University Bakersfield. Despite the knowledge I had, I was floundering for a while and looking for work while writing to trying to create a job for myself as a writer. Eventually, I landed a job as a substitute teacher.

Part 2: A Spark Reignited

A year into my time as a substitute teacher, I taught for a middle school class that was a hybrid of English and History. There was an assignment where students needed to write a paper about a famous person and build something based on that person. Some students felt like the assignment was difficult but I seemed to understand it quickly and I made the mistake of saying that it is easy. Some of the students in the back said “If it is so easy, why don’t you do it?” I could’ve did like any other teacher would do and say “Because it is your assignment” but for whatever reason, I took it as a challenge with some of them thinking I wouldn’t do it.

What I did was I wrote and created a 14-page picture book. I created the picture book in three hours and mostly wrote about how to get through middle school because it wasn’t that long ago that I was in their position. 

The next day, I gave it to the students of the class, including the loud ones in the bad and they were impressed and encouraged me to write a book like the one I made. As I stated, I had been floundering with work and hadn’t written much in a while. But with the encouragement of that class and others around me, two months later, I wrote a book similar to the one I wrote for the students called “The Way of Amazing.”

I didn’t just write that book but I began to write stories again and both regain the skills that I lost or developed new ones as I trained myself to become a better writer. 

And it all started from a class of rowdy students who dared me to do their assignment.


Part 3: The Dark Years

I continued to be a substitute teacher until 2018 when I eventually burned out. I loved begin a teacher and I enjoyed the job. However, I felt intense pressure to get a teaching credential from my family. When I decided that I would, I tried my best and did well in the classes. However, I was unable to pass a crucial test that I needed to do. Due to that, I felt awful that I wouldn’t be able to do it and I left teaching. Not only was it the pressure from my family and the job not feeling fun anymore but also the fact that I wasn’t in the right place in my head and constantly suffering from anxiety and depression that got worse by the day.

Despite everything I felt, I decided that I would dedicate myself to making this idea of a helpful resource or online school for writers work. It was out of this desperation that the Next Level Writing Academy was born. I would write down ideas that I have for using every skill that I had gained over the years and combine them into good ideas for the academy.

Not only that but I was inspired by people that I would meet, specifically in bars. When I would go out with friends, people would ask me what I do and I would say that I am writer instead of whatever job I had at the time. People would tell me “I wish I could do that” and I would ask them why they couldn’t.” They would give out a ton of reasons why and overtime, I would begin to understand that it was very complicated to people and that many wouldn’t know where to start. Initially, I would think of their reasons as excuses and I lived by Al Snow’s quote “If you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way and if you don’t, you will find an excuse.” But I thought that “it isn’t that they have an excuse, it is that they don’t have a way or something that could help them get through their problems and get them to where they want to be because they believe it is hard and there is no one around to show them that it isn’t as bad as they think.” 

It was there, in those bars and talking to people, that I discovered my purpose for what I want and need to do. However, the creation and development of my academy was a problematic journey. I did many odd jobs working throughout San Diego at all hours of the day before landing a job as a security guard. I bought courses from gurus and experts showing me how to do different things before I had a clear path of what to do. I bought filming and audio equipment, constructed websites and email lists that didn’t do much. There was three years of trial and error but the one constant in my head was that I believe I can make this dream work.

Part 4: Finding my path and the Present

It wasn’t until this year, 2021, where I truly discovered the right path that I needed to go. I decided that at the begin of the year, no more trial and error, I need to win.

I began speaking to the professionals who gave me the direction and instructions that I needed. I spoke with a writing company that helped me tremendously in thinking of how to get an audience and praised me for the content I produced. I reset my website to build up the academy how it should be and began making the right strides towards not only making this work but helping the people that I truly aim to help.

I have the best support in the people and professionals who have helped me, the best friends a guy could ask for, and the love of my life who has stood by me since the beginning.

Today, the Next Level Writing Academy is still a new company, however, the goal is to constantly evolve with helping people and giving them incentives to keep writing such as writing contests, creating their own articles, and the online writing course. Eventually, there will be more such as a podcast for readers and writers, a book writing competition where I and members of the academy will create a book together, a YouTube Channel for writers, a newsletter, and so much more.

If you made it this far, I thank you for reading about my life and my academy. I hope you understand more about this and about me and why I created this place. I hope you enjoy it, whether it be the articles, the contests, or courses, and achieve the success you want as a writer.


Nicolas Smith, founder of the Next Level Writing Academy