I published my first article on February 28th, 2018.
In February 2019, I made almost $2000 in the Partner Program. That’s why this year on Medium was life-changing: what started as a hobby changed into a source of income, which has huge implications for the role it can play in my life.
Here are four lessons that are undervalued in the writing-advice sphere and I wish someone told me before I started.
1. Instead of hiding your idiosyncrasies, marshal them
“Vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but … it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.” — Brene Brown
Optimal self-expression is the key to high-quality writing.
Readers return for you. Don’t neutralize your weirdness. Be who you are and nothing else.
If you’re going to hide, then why are you writing in the first place?
This is also what strikes me in literally all the writers I admire: they have their own voice. Reading them feels like having a conversation with them.
If you need everyone to like your work to feel validated, it means you’ll sacrifice the best of what you could create to please whoever. This will make your writing more average — mediocre — and thus eliminate every spark you had hoped to ignite.
A natural segue to the second insight.
2. Instead of finding your niche, make them find you
Honing your voice helps your audience choose you. And that’s what you want.Too many writers waste time trying to choose their fans. It’s much more practical to let your fans find you by offering consistent quality and an engaging voice. — Shannon Ashley
I’m writing the exact post that I would be thrilled to get. It all starts with me asking: What am I curious about? That has to be at the beginning of everything. Not the other way around.
Writing shouldn’t be a struggle. If a piece was boring or tough to write, it will be unentertaining or laborious to digest for the reader. For me, if the writing is hard, that usually means I haven’t solved the problem I’m writing on.
If you don’t have something to say, don’t write. Communicate what you believe in, voice your concerns, express your feelings.
In writing, the only strategy for long-term fun and success is unconstrained self-expression. That’s my focus group or niche or audience right there, right in my head. And it’s easy because we’re all kind of special, unique people, except not really. There’s like 100,000 copies of each of you out there somewhere. And the truth is, if I just write for me, there are a lot of people that have my exact weird taste. I just know that.
Be so good they can’t ignore you, and the internet will find you.
Which brings me to the next point.
3. Instead of performing, improve
Nothing makes a difference if your articles aren’t good enough. Marketing and newsletters and whatever are in vain if you don’t deliver.
The crucial thing I learned is that just writing more articles doesn’t make you a better writer. Hard work doesn’t prevent stagnation, and that can be a bitter pill to swallow.
The reason many of us don’t improve much despite our struggles is that we tend to spend almost all of our time trying to do something as best as we can, to execute, concentrating on what we have already mastered and aiming to minimize mistakes. We focus all our time on just doing our job, performing, which turns out not to be a great way to level up.
To grow, regularly do exercises with the goal of improving rather thanperforming.
After more than a year of writing, I still do an in-depth analysis of an essay almost biweekly and try new setups of articles, paragraphs and sentences constantly.
Never stop breaking down articles that impress you and figure out what the writer has done. I don’t care how many views you have — if you spend all your time doing and doing and not enough exploring, asking, listening, experimenting, reflecting, you’re making a mistake.
If you do this, your writing can’t help but grow.
And when your stuff is good, things happen.
4. Instead of evaluating numbers, evaluate self-expression
Money is one of these things. If you have an impact on people, and write in the Partner Program, then you can’t help but have funding that comes from that.
When the financial and social rewards start entering the picture, the dynamics of the creative process might shift. You need to stand guard against that.
The goodies, of course, are fun, but if you’re not careful, they are what comes before the fall. External compensation can suck the joy out of any creative calling.
I noticed this myself when I started making money through the Partner Program. The relationship between me and writing changed. It requires a fat stack of self-confidence to remain convinced of the quality of your creative work if your audience doesn’t buy what you make. That activates our defense mechanisms — “just play it safe and please the audience”.
What makes good art, is the artist expressing the core of her being through the art. Popularity and monetary metrics, however, optimize for conformity, not for uniqueness.
The only way to be successful, therefore, is to not care about being successful. When you’re true to yourself, all these things will follow.
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