There are many articles in which writers share what they’ve learned during their first successful months on Medium.
That said, I think there are some valuable insights for improving as a Medium-writer that deserve more attention than they get.
In this article, I want to go beyond the basics and share some more ‘advanced’ lessons that experience has taught me and I wish I knew before I started writing on Medium.
I hope they help you to succeed.
1. It’s all about the feels
My best articles are the ones that make a point about which I have strong feelings.
And I think this point generalizes to everyone: I don’t know what it is, but when there’s feeling involved, somehow what you write resonates more with readers, is more penetrating and more memorable.
“I need to feel fire about what I’m saying because I’m trying to light that same fire in my readers.”
To be world-class in many arts, you have to express the core of your being through the art. To stand out as a writer, you need to get down into your emotions of what you’re trying to say.
Optimal self-expression is the key to high-quality writing.
For example, in my article with the most claps, I articulate a genuine resentment and disclose honest insecurity and my article with the most views centers on an honest assertion of an unusual opinion of mine.
1.1 I write my best articles in 30 minutes!!
For some, the connection between feelings and quality extends to situations where they produce their best work in a single sitting — when the words are so heartfelt that every sentence is spot on and your emotions write you a top-notch blog in no time.
Confession: this never happens to me.
Second confession: That used to bug me.
Why can’t I do that? Does it mean I don’t care enough for what I’m writing about?
Well, I certainly hope not!
Almost always, what I write on the first go is not very good.
That’s just how my process works, I think. It doesn’t mean anything for whether I do or do not truly care. Of course, it’s entirely possible that other authors are capable of spontaneous high-quality writing.
The takeaway is: when, like me, you’re not, don’t worry.
2. For consistency, realize that you write poorer than you think
Eighteen months of continuous writing (of which five on Medium) taught me that writing good is a never-ending battle. It still takes me five or more rounds of editing before I manage to formulate my thoughts clearly.
I didn’t expect that.
So, if the words still don’t come easily at times, that’s okay. You’re not alone.
Accept that every essay is a challenge. In writing, there are no easy rides.
If repeated good writing was easy, it wouldn’t be special.
To stay good, it’s vital that you don’t become complacent in this because you overestimate the quality of your early drafts because you’re so ‘experienced’.
3. Inspiration shouldn’t be an obstacle
As an ethical point, I strongly agree with the famous author F. Scott Fitzgerald when he says that:
“You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say.”
The reason that you write should be that you have something to offer, not that you want to publish.
If that is the case, then inspiration shouldn’t be a problem. Since we’re writing nonfiction, inspiration, after all, comes down to having something to say.
If your motivation is bona fide, coming up with topics to write about should not be an issue.
4. Write for others by being yourself
Going on about motivation, if you’re in it for the long term, your core drive should be the desire to add value to the life of other people.
If your goal is to add value to the life of other people, ‘success’ will follow.Wishing to add value adds immensely to the quality of your work.
Contributing to the life of others is what makes work meaningful. You don’t want to do work that’s not meaningful.
Moreover, I think that this feeling of doing a service to others is the only sustainable source of meaningfulness for any undertaking.
There’s a very deep connection with the point about emotions and self-expression here.
The reason I love writing more than anything else is because of this opportunity to combine doing something for others by expressing myself in my unique way.
If you can combine adding value to the life of others with ultimate self-expression, you’ve stumbled upon the magic formula.
5. Your content shouldn’t be for everyone
“The stuff that’s for everyone, that’s easy to click, sniff, share, produce and learn–that stuff ends up having no character. It’s not memorable.” — Seth Godin
The trade-off between ‘sensationalism’ and depth is a tricky one.
On the one hand, if more people read your content, you can add value to the lives of more people.
On the other hand, trying to affect too many people will make you ineffective at affecting anyone.
I’m not sure what the correct solution is, but an important lesson for me has been that serving everyone is not the right aim.
I made a mistake on this front when I published an article on Medium that was very technical-philosophical and did not fall well with the people whom I normally seek to change. It has a whopping read ratio of 5%.
The goal is to serve the right people.
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