I mean, unless you like rewarding lazy writing.
It is beginning to feel Medium authors seem to think it is a requirement to write a “how to” listicle the day after they have one successful post. When I say these style of articles are lazy, I don’t mean they are bad. In fact, many of these articles are written well, nicely organized, and can even have interesting tones.
However, these “articles” (almost feels like a stretch to call them that) usually consist of the exact same material, though possibly adding some narrative to trick the curators and readers into thinking that this is novel information. Let me save you some time.
- Write well.
- Proofread. (Seems redundant, see #1.)
- Market yourself.
This third one makes me laugh. Out loud. Is this not obvious to people? Do successful Medium writers think the amateur writers don’t understand this basic concept — to have readers, you must attract them? Do they think these new writers just sit around all day wondering to themselves “I wonder when Medium will start to make me money” without doing anything themselves?
Maybe this is really is true for some lazy writers. The process “write, publish, wait” honestly sounds relaxing and I pray to the Medium gods that it is working for some people. (If this is working for you, contact me. Please. I want to talk.) But, for the majority (if not all) of us, good writing and a few revisions is not, and will never be, enough to have “success” on Medium.
(I’m not even going to comment on the “other income” type listicles that somehow only mention YouTube ad revenue, affiliate marketing, drop shipping, rental income, and dividends as if a. every reader is an influencer who b. doesn’t know about the stock market and c. has the capital to buy an investment property.)
I just realized I never defined “success” in the context of Medium. It probably means different things to different writers, but I’d argue the earnings metric is a common denominator. Don’t raise your eyebrows at me, you altruistic journalist who has to write the honest truth or will simply just implode. (If you’re really in this to be the bearer of honest news and money isn’t at least a motivator, there are countless unpaid places for you to do that. Save the cash for us grimy, money-hungry writers.) I’m giving myself the authority to speak on behalf the thousands Medium writers in the partner program — we have bills to pay, y’all.
The is no formula for success.
Every time I see one of these ‘how one of my articles got successful’ type posts, I roll my eyes, and yet, I see it has a few thousand claps and is proudly featured on the homepage. What are you readers missing? Am I really this cynical when I view these articles as the writer’s lazy attempt to sail on their momentum from whatever article gave them the “expertise” to write a ‘how-to’ article? It sometimes seems like writers have their ‘how-to’ article drafted before they ever even have a successful article.
If there was an easy formulaic way to become a consistently successful writer, everyone would be one by now. Much like every other aspect of 2020 culture, immediacy is demanded. Writers now think they will become a viral success after one article, regardless of its quality or content. Consider this a PSA:
Good writing is not enough.
Ignore the adjective, because great writing isn’t enough either. Great writing is the expectation on Medium (and in general, I think), not the goal.
You must write well and write about meaningful content. This is interesting, because it has to be meaningful content for the reader. Sure, you can write amazing narratives that mean something to you, but if the reader cannot relate, find a takeaway, or feel the time they spent reading was worth it — you failed. Not to mention that your article could be amazing and full of meaningful content, but if your title doesn’t resonate with the reader, they will never even find out.
Furthermore, being curated isn’t always enough. I’ve had articles curated that make less than a dollar and get barely any views, despite being curated to three tags.
Being yourself is a good start.
The abundance of content online is forcing writers to remain fresh and creative. This sounds scarier than it is. How am I supposed to find a fresh take on every article when there are thousands of other people writing about it as we speak? This is when confidence and skill align. You must realize one thing: if your writing is honest, you are inherently bringing a fresh take. No two writers share the same backgrounds, experiences, and opinions. Just because you might have the consensus opinion on a topic doesn’t mean you can’t write a fresh article on it because your opinions are rooted in something unique. The tricky part is figuring out how to convey these experiences to make the reader fully understand your one-of-a-kind point of view.
So, close the ten tabs you have open from various Medium writers promising you a to-list guide to become instantly successful writing and instead start self-reflecting. Stop wasting your time trying to find an easy, quick fix tip from some writer who has had one decent article. Figure out what new elements you can bring to the world as a writer and work on further developing your skills in order to construct your honest and unique tone and style.
Did I just suggest that self-reflection is the key to successful writing? Maybe. Luckily — there is no shortage of great guides on how to start this process.
The Elements of Self-Reflection
3 essential skills to improve your decision-making and self-knowledge
The Art of Self Reflection: An Ultimate Key to a Happier and Successful Life
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards” — Steve Jobs
3 Powerful Self-Reflection Rituals for the New Year! (a 360-degree reflection model)
Reflecting in Hindsight, Harvesting Insight and Developing Foresight
Personally, I’ve found working out, listening to music, and meditating (thanks, Headspace) to be great facilitators of self-reflection. But, I’m a work-in-progress on this front. Luckily, there is a global pandemic and we have no shortage of extra time.
Once you can look inwards and articulate your unique point of view to yourself, maybe then you’ll start finding success as you will be a few steps closer to being able to articulate your thoughts to your readers. Maybe is still a key word here, because — who knows? Writing is difficult. Even the most successful writers have bad articles (ignoring that their bad is probably my goal right now). But, I’ll take a bet that once you find your voice in writing, you’ll find success.