I set a goal of helping myself understand things day to day, and helping others stay afloat
In the past ten days, since the day they started shutting things down here in New York State, I have written 14,000 words, not counting my paid writing, and published 16 pieces on Medium. And I’m not done yet. I can only attribute this burst to the current environment which is forcing everyone to reevaluate their lives on a daily basis. Watching this unfold has been fascinating, to say the least.
I’ve basically been focused on two types of projects. The first is a daily essay on the things I’m seeing and thinking about while in relative isolation. Writing about life, meditation, compassion, and other introspective stuff. I do not write this stuff to build an audience. Honestly, ten views daily was my goal and those would come from friends as I post them on social media. I was also curious if there would be any building up of an audience when I was not writing to achieve anything like that. There has been. It may be that this becomes a book, if this outbreak lasts as long as some say.
The second type of articles are more like the 270+ I’ve done over the past year on Medium: marketing and advice for freelancers, and personal change and growth pieces. These are typically much longer than my daily things and the audience is a partial measurement of success. And I did write a food piece that has done surprisingly well, given that it is the only one I’ve done. I’m a hardcore foodie and with no options for eating out these days more articles are likely to follow.
For those who care, I get curated about 50% of the time and about the same number end up in publications. I see a lot of desperation around these two topics on writer forums and I can only say that quality is the only criteria I see at work, along with originality. I am not a beginner (nine nonfiction books and two novels, endless business writing) so writing is second nature to me. But it is also therapy.
The therapy aspect has grown over time and the pandemic has certainly accelerated it. But I was en route to change before this situation was forced on all of us. These days I take a morning walk and think about my topic, then write when I get home, usually fairly quickly. The longer pieces get fit in between business writing for clients.
The subject of meditation comes up frequently because I have developed a morning practice of sitting for 20–30 minutes every day. If I miss a day I can tell because I’m less patient. I can honestly say that this practice makes a huge difference in the quality of day to day life, and in my writing.
The ‘experts’ on Medium sometimes say we should not focus on our personal experience if we want to be popular here. But some of the high earners here write exclusively about themselves, so I think this advice is about as valuable as all the other tips and tricks. As a reader, I’d rather read something insightful, than endless techniques for achieving writing success here. Writing success is like anything else- you have to bust your butt and write every day, do your research into markets and subjects, and learn what good writing and editing is.
I see what my focus will be, going forward, which in this uncertain time is interesting. I think all of us are going to come out of this as different people and a different society. Families are forced to spend a lot of time together which is a big change. Older single people like myself are forming ad hoc networks of support that feel like strong ties. I’ve spent more time on the phone in the last week than in the last year.
I have at least one friend who is sick and has been tested. I have not heard the result yet but she went through some pretty thorough phone screening and they only do tests if they are almost certain you have the virus (she is in California, but in New York where I live it is basically the same). So the prospect of losing people is out there, but then it always was. Though we often pretend otherwise.
Writing, like any creative process, is internal. The finished product is the external result of that internal process and as such is only a limited glimpse. But that glimpse reveals different things to different people. The novelist Wm. Gibson says that writing a novel is like telling a long elaborate lie that you have to keep track of throughout its long telling. He believes most novelists don’t actually know what their books are about when they are writing them. My own experience says the same to me. This reveal after the fact is why I do this.
I mentioned helping others, which may sound kind of grandiose, but this is really about sharing thoughts, fears, and pleasures. We like to know we are not alone, that others have these things. With isolation being enforced for safety reasons and virtually every social place being closed or off limits, having a shared experience becomes even more important. Writers, with our stories, and other artists with their contributions, create bonds between us that viruses cannot breach.