Tag Archive | Medium

On Writing For Medium

How To Find Your Voice and Become a Superb Writer

Save your work, then step back and preview it. Periodically, as I am going along, I “listen” to what I have written. This ensures it still sounds like “me”, that it flows and represents the way I want my story to come across. –Enrique Fiallo

This is a crucial step, and given today’s fast-paced cyberspace, perhaps the hardest. I spend far too much time on social media, with the result that I feel pressured to respond to the latest Facebook post or Twitter tweet and so most of my responses are flippant, with no real thought behind them.

But Medium is different. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that I’m different when I’m in Medium. I like to think it’s because my visits here have taken on a somewhat ritualistic flavor: I spend time brewing a fresh cup of tea (using whole leaf tea, naturally) and engaging in deep-breathing exercises while it brews.

I then sit down with my mug of tea and open the Medium app, usually on my iPhone. I peruse (yes I do know what the word means) article titles, and click on ones that seem interesting. Sometimes – as in this case – I’m prompted? inspired? to write a response.

But this isn’t Facebook and it’s not Twitter. This is Medium, and I don’t want to come across as some young smart-ass punk (can I even be that at 67 years of age?), and so I do my best to respond in a deliberate and thoughtful voice. (I save my smart-assery for my blogs.)

Once I’ve finished my response I then go over it, making sure it is coherent and consistent. I delete a comma here and add one there, change a word to one that makes more sense or gives more clarity.

Above all, I want to communicate clearly, and if doing so requires me to break some arbitrary rule of grammar, so be it.

After, it’s my voice.

Blogging For Success

Recently on Pinterest there’s been a flurry of pins aimed at first-time or beginning bloggers. They all follow a theme: “You don’t know what you’re doing, so you’d better listen to me unless you want to be a failure.”

I get it. There are a lot of things I wish I knew when I first sat down to set pen to paper. (Well, actually, pixels to screen, but whatever.) But those things all had to do with the mechanics of creating a blog: finding the right host, picking a theme, figuring out the editor, and so on.

But far too many of the pins I mentioned have nothing to do with the logistics of running your blog and everything to do with your content.

And, of course, they all offer to sell you their book that promises instant fame, a successful blog, and to cure cancer all in one nifty little package. Just give us your money.

When I first looked into e-book publishing, I found a number of people selling books that promised to make you a successful self-published writer. But upon deeper examination, they all turned out to be a kit containing one e-book covering how to become a self-published writer. All you had to do was insert your own name as the author, and turn around and resell the kit to other people.

It said nothing about the process of writing, editing, re-writing, re-editing, and finally submitting your work to either an agent or a publisher.

And that’s exactly what the Pinterest pins seem to be doing: telling you how to spend your money on a kit, then reselling it under your own name.

Advice vs. Advertising

Please don’t misunderstand me: advice is often warranted. I look for it myself when I’m stumped by a particular problem. But useful advice is different than advertising. You have to have an actual product before you start selling it.

In a way, it reminds me of the early days of micro-computing and the concept of vaporware; software that was advertised heavily in computer magazines and advance orders taken. If the ads generated enough interest to make the product viable, then—and only then—was work begun on actually creating the software. If not, any advance orders were refunded with a technobabble line of bull-crap meant to explain the failure of the program.

A Guaranteed Formula For Success

The best formula for guaranteeing your success as a blogger is realizing that there isn’t any guaranteed formula for success as a blogger.

As was once famously said of Shoeless Joe Jackson,

If you build it, he will come.

So start your blog. Check out the tools available to help you. Find the best platform for your specific needs. For example, I chose WordPress. And then write. Write every day. Write even when you have nothing to say. Even if you don’t publish it, you should still write every day until it becomes a habit. Write for a specific audience, if that’s what you want to do.

Or be like me: I just write about whatever comes to mind when I sit down at my laptop. (Well, okay—it’s usually my mobile phone.) Once I’m done, that’s when I decide my target audience and publish it to the appropriate blog. Yes, I have several blogs, depending on my mood and my intended audience.

Writing For Medium

Medium is different. There, I have only one audience I aim for: other writers. People who are serious about their own writing. Or at least serious enough to share it with a critical audience. (In this context, I define “critical” as:

Expressing or involving an analysis of the merits and faults of a work of literature, music, or art.

“she never won the critical acclaim she sought”

synonyms: evaluative, analytical, interpretative, expository, explanatory

“a critical essay”

(of a published literary or musical text) incorporating a detailed and scholarly analysis and commentary.

“a critical edition of a Bach sonata”

involving the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgement.

“professors often find it difficult to encourage critical thinking in their students”

When I publish on Medium, I know I’m opening myself up to criticism. But that’s what I’m looking for, what I’m hoping for. What do other writers—many of them professionals, and many of them far better writers than I am—think of what I have to say” of how I say it? How can I improve?

Because ultimately, that’s what it comes to in the end for me: I want to improve. I want to get better. Not for any possible fame or fortune, but simply to become the very best me I can become.

Following on Medium vs. Following on Facebook

My biggest problem with Medium is simple: almost every article I read gives me a new author to follow. And the more writers I follow, the further my horizons expand. It’s almost an information overload by design. But that’s okay; I’m retired and I have the time to read and reply.

Facebook is quite different. I constantly have to fend off “friend” requests from total strangers – mostly men – who, had they taken the trouble to read my profile, would know that I don’t accept friend request from men I don’t know.

Or the constant invitations I get to play this or that mindless game designed to get me to spend money and/or invite other people to play what has long since morphed into yet another digital pyramid scheme.

Comparing Medium and Facebook isn’t a simple matter of apples vs. oranges. It’s more like fruits and vegetables. Or, to further mix metaphors, Facebook is fruit where Medium is meat & potatoes.

Fruit is sweet and tasty, but the fructose buzz dies off quickly. Meat & potatoes, along with a side salad or a couple of vegetables, can nourish one and sustain life. It comes down to sugary cereal and whole milk vs. a regular sausage-and-mash fry-up.

And yet…

There are times when I want the candy. There are times – few and far between though they are – when I want that Coke from the McDonald’s drive-thru.

Facebook is fun. Medium takes an effort. But Facebook has trolls where Medium at least has moderators.

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

Once or twice a week I shop for them at Wegmans. They’re in the 2-for-1 bin, right next to the skyhooks, blinker fluid, and waterline.

Seriously, I really have no real idea where they come from. For example, as I was composing the previous sentence it occurred to me that I was ending it with a preposition, an error which would have my high school English teachers spinning in their graves.

But then I remembered how no less a writer than Winston Churchill once described that “rule” as “[A]rrant nonsense, up with which I will not put.” So I left it as it is.

And THERE, mon lecteur, is one source of ideas: other people.

Mornings

I hate mornings, and yet that’s when I am most productive. Sometimes I’ll just lay in bed, watching a cloud of ideas swarming like gnats around my room. Suddenly one comes into focus and I grab it and write it down.

That’s why I keep a notepad on my nightstand…well, a virtual notepad, anyway: both my iPhone and iPad are always to hand for just such moments.

The gray, hazy few seconds between wake and sleep are fraught with clarity for me. Again, to the notebooks.

I subscribe to Medium, and read it every day. Sometimes something there will give me an idea, and so I’ll steal borrow it for inspiration.

Finally, there are times when I just sit down and force myself to write simply to be writing. Take this entry, for example: I had no idea what I was going to write until I wrote it.

Ultimately, THAT turns out to be where I get most of my ideas: by the very act of writing itself.

And, of course, there is always the ultimate inspiration: sitting down with a cup of strong tea and letting my mind wander.

Why Do I Blog?

Or, to ask a more accurate question, why do I (or anyone, for that matter) write at all? What is it that drives me to spend a large part of my day sitting in front of a computer screen, typing words and sentences at random until as if by magic something results that seems to make sense?

My Ego

I’ll admit that part of it is ego: I think I have things worth saying, and I’m also conceited enough to think other people might be interested in what I have to say.

Sharing Knowledge

I’m also a small ship on a large ocean, adrift aimlessly, following the winds and the currents just to see where they take me. My writing is a ship’s log, recording where I’ve been, what I found there, and why I didn’t stay. It is my rutter:

“A rutter was a small book containing the detailed observation of a pilot who had been there before. It recorded magnetic compass courses between ports and capes, headlands and channels. It noted the sounding and depths and color of the water and the nature of the seabed. It set down the how we got there and how we got back: how many days on a special tack, the pattern of the wind, when it blew and from where, what currents to expect and from where; the time of storms and the time of fair winds; where to careen the ship and where to water; where there were friends and where foes; shoals, reefs, tides, havens; at best, everything necessary for a safe voyage.” [Clavell, James. Shogun (Asian Saga Book 1) (p. 4). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.]

Community

Writing is a solitary craft. While there are a few successful partnerships in writing—Ellery Queen comes to mind, as do David and Leigh Eddings—most of us tend to treat it as a form of masturbation: something best done alone and behind locked doors.

But we humans are a funny species: we’re gregarious, and often spend time with others of our tribe. And so, in the latter part of the 20th and the early part of the 21st centuries we invented Internet-based social media groups. Facebook is, of course, the most famous of these platforms, as well as perhaps the most divisive and alienating.

And so I choose to share my ideas on my blogs. It’s a non-invasive way to offer them to you. I say “non-invasive,” because I’m not bombarding you with urgent messages telling you to read me, or to buy my product (not that I have one to sell).

Perhaps “passive” is a better word: I have no idea how you found my blog, but I’[m assuming you stumbled across it whilst looking for something else. Regardless, I’m glad you’re here.

But there are times when I’ve wished there were an on-line community similar to Facebook, but without the trolls and bullies (and kitten pictures).

Enter Medium

I can’t remember how I was introduced to Medium, but it was the exact community I was looking for.

Medium 2

Medium bills itself as Ideas and perspectives you won’t find anywhere else.”


Medium taps into the brains of the world’s most insightful writers, thinkers, and storytellers to bring you the smartest takes on topics that matter. So whatever your interest, you can always find fresh thinking and unique perspectives.

For me, Medium is my portal to the world. Where my grandfather once read the newspaper every day, so I log into Medium for my daily fix of news and information. It isn’t the news so much that interests me, but rather how other people understand and react to the news. It puts the news—as well as other subjects—into a better perspective for me.

It also gives me a chance to share my views and understandings with a large community of like-minded people. By “like-minded,” I don’t mean we all share the same views. Rather we all share the same desire to learn and understand what’s going on in the world today—and to share that understanding with others.

Medium is what Facebook strives—and fails—to be.

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