A Writer’s Sketchbook: How I Use Medium

It’s my practice space

In the last year I have published around 200 articles on Medium on a wide variety of subjects. I have written about digital marketing, writing as a craft, novel writing, Buddhism and meditation, personal development and change management- a wide variety of subjects, and I’ve left a few out. I haven’t looked for patterns, nor have I tried to play the revenue game.

It’s a lot of writing and if I measure my financial returns, it’s absurd. So why do I persist?

I’m a busy writer. When I say that, I’m referring to paid work, well paid work. Right now I’m writing a series of blog posts for one software client, copy for a complex new website for another, and organizing a new product site for an eLearning launch. It’s a juggling act, but it is how I make a living, and I realize for many writers, this kind of work is a goal they aspire to. I’ve also just sent a novel manuscript off to an agent and am writing a second one.

I only mention this to show that my Medium writing is not an aspiration or a ladder to eventual writing success. I do ok. But writing, like any skill, requires constant practice and refinement. On Medium, I get to riff on things, organize thoughts that are not related to my paying work, and reflect on changing things as I get older. I can be a curmudgeon or a mentor. No one assigns me these things, I do them because I want to.

After years as a writer, this ability to simply practice and publish, and catch a few eyes or hearts, is huge. When I started writing novels a few years ago I thought long form fiction would be an outlet for that kind of freedom. But longform fiction is a very different animal with a hugely different set of muscles to flex. Character and story development. Pacing. Learning to strip out description so the reader can build their own image of my worlds. Drama and understated emotional devastation. It’s a big canvas that takes a lot of time to refine.

Writing 700–2000 word pieces here is liberating. When I was a musician, we would write a lot of songs, try them out live, and work on those that resonated with the audience. It wasn’t hard to tell which worked because there’d be crowds of drunken kids screaming when they did! These days putting my work out in that environment for instant inebriated feedback isn’t an option, nor do I wish it were.

But Medium does offer feedback in the forms of follows, stats, claps (Still? Never did get this), comments, etc. Almost no other kind of short form writing offers this instantaneous response. But I see a dark side to it.

Because I write about writing, occasionally I get newsletters with lots of Medium articles about writing, and honestly, they seem extremely desperate in their need to show expertise or share secrets for getting more attention. Those that promise secrets to cracking the money code really break my heart. We read the stories of those who make $XX and how they did it by writing three articles a day here, etc. Honestly, that’s insane and sad. That, for me, is the dark side. I wish they would out their energy and talent to work writing something more meaningful. So it goes…

The light here for me is that I have a found a practice space, a studio to test my ideas, and sketch out directions. Writers, by nature, work in solitude, mentally. I can write almost anywhere because I go into writing mode and disappear from the world. So, it is solitude in the midst of the busy world. Publishing here lets me share my solitude and its products with others and I like that.

This is how I view Medium. Others use it effectively as a form of shared therapy, sharing stories of sobriety, survival, and personal development. I’ve done some of these kinds of articles and I read them. Those that have resonance are those that were not written to conform to SEO or perceived popular subjects or to brag about dubious accomplishments. I am sometimes struck by writers who constantly go back to their misfortunes without finding redemption. I wish them better things.

So, thanks for the last year. I will probably write less here only because I have seen a pattern. Not a pattern for popularity, a pattern in the kind of pieces I’ve written that I remember and feel good about. That’s my focus going forward. M

Former software marketer. Former musician. Writer, nine non-fiction books, two novels, Buddhist, train lover. Amateur cook, lover of life most of the time!

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