A look back at my output in the past year
In Match of 2019 I started writing here on a more serious level. I had written a couple of pieces in years past but had basically forgotten them. However, in March I revisited Medium, learned about the Partner Program and started looking at what other writers were doing here. I discovered a community bound together by writing, though the individual perspectives varied wildly. When I first started doing essentially random pieces, I had no plan, nor did I have any expectations.
I knew from reading the various teaser articles about financial success that a minority of writers were making money but that there were a zillion others who hoped to emulate them. I know from my long experience as a professional writer that making even a semblance of a living from writing is a huge challenge. Riches very seldom rain down unexpectedly. Yet many seemed to think there was a code to be cracked.
My approach, and reasons for participating here are different. I would write about things that interested me, largely initiating personal change and creativity. Medium gave me an outlet for these topics without a lot of editorial guidance. I could do what I wanted. And I could see, via stats, what resonated and what did not.
This resonance with readers is why I joined the Partner Program and became a paying member. For a pittance I could read freely and reward the things I liked with a currency of attention (and claps). I had a little skin in the game. So I began posting pieces and learning about Medium’s culture, curation, and, most important, its readers and writers. I kept track of all the pieces I posted for the first six months or so and then relied on the stats to keep track for me.
It has been a gratifying experience for me. Not a monetary one (it buys me a few nice dinners), a feedback experience. I learned that curation is almost entirely based on quality: quality writing, good editing skills, and engaging content. I learned this from being curated, not from advice articles or forums where people beg for tips or a secret sauce for getting noticed. I’m sorry, but that is sad to me. Good writing takes practice.
To date I have published around 200 stories here, though that number is artificially high because Medium includes comments you publish in their story count. I really wish they would break this out. I’d also like to see the default view of the My Stories page to be Published stories not Drafts. Two minor complaints that could be fixed with a few database tweaks.
Of my 200 articles I‘ve had several clear winners and many that did not resonate. My topics vary widely, from content marketing business pieces to philosophical ramblings about things like meditation and engineering change. The marketing pieces are generally popular, but it is less predictable with the other stuff. This unpredictability interests me as a writer.
In looking back, I decided to pick a few pieces that I like for this round-up article. Some were quite popular and others less so. Here are five from the last year and one from the past that I hope gets read.
This was easily my most popular story, which interests me because it deals with hyper popular subject, mind altering drugs, and a less popular subject, aging. Like several of my favorite pieces this started as a rambling dissection of the thought process that led me to acquire some mushrooms in anticipation of revisiting experiences I had left behind forty years earlier, from an older perspective. It kind of kicked off a series of pieces about initiating change in your sixties.
This one is very stream of conscious and it got a lot of attention but few people read it through. I learned from it that actions speak louder than philosophy here. Readers like actionable advice or action-based stories.
This is my favorite piece from 2019. Last month (November 2019) I fulfilled a bucket list item, crossing the country on Amtrak. I had expectations, many of which proved wildly wrong. I found myself in a very sketchy situation that I still think about, which led to some fairly dark observations about our society. The trip was a real journey in the sense that I returned a changed person, which was really my goal- to shake things up. But the shaking was not anything I saw coming. Beauty and despair.
This one fits into the practical category, advice on building a body of work. You might see it as a pushback against those who think fame or money should come their way faster. No artist who holds up over time does so without an intense amount of work. A painter like Basquiat, who died at 27, left thousands of paintings. A writer who has a hit on their first book often fails to follow with a second. I really wrote this from my perspective of having created bodies of work in several mediums including music, writing, and business.
This one has not been particularly popular, but it spells out a process I’ve been exploring for keeping life interesting as a creative. Game-changing actions, like tripping or getting way out of your comfort zone, can push big life changes, but incremental changes like breaking old habits and installing new ones are just as important. Both require a conscious decision to explore how we live and actively work to improve it. These kinds of things become less intuitive as we settle into life. That settling is no longer enough for me.
Finally, I’m including the first piece I wrote here. This piece was published in 2013! Prehistoric times for Medium. I guess I tried it and then forgot about it. We didn’t have the same feedback mechanisms, number of potential readers, or any kind of payment program. It has a certain innocence to it.
As a Buddhist in the West, I realized that finding time for meditation and contemplation in our society can be challenging. So I wrote about a practice I started doing as a kid, using silence and walking as a way to focus. Like forest bathing, this technique is ancient and speaks to a part of ourselves we can all relate to. I hope you enjoy it.