Daydreaming and Rest Will Strengthen Your Writing Practice
Medium Writers Newsletter: Writing tips, spotlights, and events
It’s too easy to work through a break. To take lunch at the desk. To fill quiet moments with a follow-up text or the news or an industry podcast. When we’re productive, every moment counts. When we’re cultivating a creative habit, our focus is on the output. Last month’s Writers Newsletter shared advice on cultivating a writing habit. There is a crucial activity to include amid any creative habit.
“Oftentimes the answer to removing blockages in your writing is resting,” writes Morgan Jerkins, senior editor at ZORA. “Your mind is gonna connect the dots sooner or later, but if you keep forcing the synapses, you’re gonna burn right the hell out.” Rest will help your well-being and your creative practice.
Too much focus on the specific problem can be inhibiting. More effort doesn’t lead to a guaranteed solution. Let go; let yourself rest. Let your mind wander. Dream of what you want without thinking how to get there. Direct your energy to activities outside of work-oriented goals.
This can be tough. Rest is a luxury; rest is a priority. How might we find a balance here? In this month’s update, you’ll find tips and advice, including how to add rest and wander amid all the tasks to do. These moments of rest will bring you to places you otherwise wouldn’t have dreamed of.
The case for rest and daydreaming
Where is there time for rest? Where is there time to intentionally space out and relax? There are demands on the current project. There are future projects on the horizon to start planning. As challenging as it can be, making this kind of space is valuable.
If it feels uncomfortable taking a break, it’s because there can be so much around us compelling us not to. “We can rest only after we clock out, after we’ve made hay while the sun shines, after we’ve earned it,” writes Gray Chapman. She describes the unease before letting go into a relaxing bath during the day.
Deliberately schedule this time in, as Henriette Lazaridis writes, drawing a metaphor with training: “Take a planned rest. Build it into your training schedule. This way, you didn’t try and fail to get something done — you’re being deliberate about your time off.”
In “How to Solve an Impossible Problem,” Alison Escalante, goes into the neuroscience of daydreaming, honing in on the default mode network (DMN) of the brain. This is the part of the brain most active during rest or routine tasks, and “is fundamental to creativity; it’s thought to be the place where intuitive insights emerge,” writes Escalante. How can you activate it? One way is through daydreaming: “I like to turn on ocean sounds, stare out the window, and let my mind wander. Be sure to notice seemingly random associations that come up; often, they are your mind’s way of telling you the answer.”
How to write a headline
Your headline is the first impression of your story. Writing a great headline can be the difference between a handful of reads or orders of magnitude more. It can mean the difference between reliably growing an audience or losing integrity. Your job is to convince the reader to dive into your story, and then you must deliver. “When someone is trying to decide if they want to read a story, you don’t want them asking themselves: What does this headline mean? What is this story about? Why is this relevant? What will I learn?” shares Nadia Rawls, editorial director of growth at Medium. “You want the headline itself to be so clear that the only thing they need to ask themselves is: Am I interested in this story?” Read on to learn more in “How to Write a Headline.”
Medium writers meetup in N.Y.
Update (3/10): The writers meetup on 3/18 is postponed due to COVID-19 concerns. We will assess the situation in a few weeks to determine a rescheduled date.
Our writers event series is coming to New York. It’s part social, part creative workshop. Come with ideas you’re thinking about but haven’t been able to actually get down. We’ll form smaller groups, share the challenges to getting to that first draft, and find ways to overcome these challenges. It’s a space to support each other creatively.
We’ve thrown a few of these, and they’ve been energizing. If you’re based in New York, come check out the next event on March 18. Space is limited, so please RSVP only if you are able to attend. More information here. If you are interested in attending one in the future, or are based in another city, please let us know.
The Draft on starting a writing group
In “Forget the Idea That Writers Must Write Alone,” a writer asks about joining or starting a writing group. Writing groups can help you hone your voice as a writer, test out early drafts, and work through discouragements common in any creative practice. As Pollack writes, those in the group can “help you figure out where your writing is most moving, powerful, and original” and “will check to make sure you haven’t succumbed to rejection and discouragement.” Pollack goes into detail and shares advice on how to run an effective writing group.
An Elemental success story
On February 5, Elemental amplified this story by Bernadette Sheridan: “What Color Is Your Name? A New Synesthesia Tool Will Show You.”
The piece features an interactive tool the writer developed that enables people to see the color of their name (as interpreted by someone with synesthesia). Sheridan was brand new to Elemental. She had self-published this piece on Medium in December.
It appealed to us because it was about something fascinating (synesthesia is a perceptual phenomenon about 4% of the population has in which objects such as letters, shapes, numbers, or names are joined together with a sensory perception such as smell, color, or flavor). And this piece didn’t just explain synesthesia — it illustrated a form of it! The Elemental Team is a big believer in feeding curiosity and this story did a great job of that.
The story gained momentum on Twitter and quickly became the top story on Medium. And then the press arrived. On February 11, the synesthesia tool was featured on CBS New York. On February 12, it was featured on Good Day Philadelphia, another morning show. Apartment Therapy picked it up — as did Better Homes & Gardens. To add to the sweetness of this success story, it turns out the writer comes from a family of journalists. For 30+ years, her dad worked as a night news editor at the New York Times and was thrilled to see his daughter’s story “above the fold” on Medium.
Introducing Medium Rare
Amanda Sakuma, platform editor at GEN, has launched a new weekly digest of the weird and wonderful stories across Medium. “Here at GEN, it’s my job to scour Medium each day for fresh voices with compelling stories and unmatched expertise,” shares Sakuma. “Still, it’s a constant struggle to not get distracted, and sometimes you just have to go down that rabbit hole. Each week on Medium Rare, I’ll be sharing stories you might have missed that are definitely worth a second look.”
Check out the first digest in “Our Favorite Medium Stories You May Have Missed.”
Medium editors are on the lookout for great stories published on the platform and work with the authors to edit and produce the stories. Just like last month, we’ll spotlight a few stories that Medium editors found and brought into their publications. What makes a story resonate? There’s a variety of reasons — read more to learn what the platform editors found compelling about these stories in particular.
“We Asked Tinder, Grindr, and OkCupid How They Support Trans Users. Here’s What They Said.” by Kristen Pizzo
At OneZero, we love to publish personal stories about people’s relationships with technology, but we also love original reporting. When I saw that journalist Kristen Pizzo had spoken to the makers of the most popular dating apps to find out how they’re dealing with transphobia, I knew I wanted to share her story with the OneZero audience. Pizzo explores the current problems with dating apps and offers potential tech solutions. Plus, she has a good list of tips and advice for trans, nonbinary, and cisgender allies. — Megan Morrone, senior platform editor at OneZero.
Man’s best friend is more of an enemy to some people of color who have frequently found that normally friendly pups turn pretty fierce around them. Medium writer Kismet was tired of being barked at, growled at, snapped at, and even chased by her white friends’ dogs, and she found herself asking: Can dogs actually be racist? Or, worse yet, are they picking up on racist cues from their owners? This funny yet fact-filled article explores the many ways dogs have historically and presently perpetuated racism against people of color and how we can teach beloved pets to be good pups to everyone. — Jolie A. Doggett, platform editor at ZORA.
Machado pitched LEVEL this story about the time he was held at gunpoint by police simply because he was locked out of his mother’s home. With so much talk about stop and frisk with Mike Bloomberg having run for president, we’re proud to share a story that truly shows the dangerous effects of that policy on a human level. As a native New Yorker with many friends who have similar experiences with stop and frisk in the city, it was an honor that Machado trusted me to edit his experience. — Jada Gomez, senior platform editor at LEVEL.
I am here for generational power ballads, and this one by Fraley delivers on every note. She’s giving an unapologetic voice to a cohort that’s used to feeling undervalued or invisible. And I appreciate how much solidarity she’s bringing together with her voice and prose. This is an example of a story where it’s just as fun to wade through the responses and see the dozens and dozens of people who are saying “hell yeah!!!” — Amanda Sakuma, platform editor at GEN.
“Denny has been there from the very beginning, and he’ll be there at the very end,” writes Leitch in this touching tribute to his cousin and childhood number two (who happens to be a professional motocross racer in Mattoon, Illinois). It’s an understated but surprisingly moving story: When Will was laid off from his media job, he left New York City for Illinois to spend a few months getting his sh*t together. His family let him waste time, let him screw up, let him be a 25-year-old burnout until he figured out how to reassemble his life. This essay made me appreciate the friends I grew up with, people I rarely see in-person though they make me who I am. — Harris Sockel, deputy editor at Human Parts.
Working better together: Spotlight on Serious Scrum
This month we’re spotlighting the publication Serious Scrum. There are numerous publications on Medium focused on professional development within a specific industry or discipline. Here’s a great example of a publication that not only provides learning resources but also cultivates a community of professionals learning and sharing together.
Scrum is a framework that is often misunderstood and misapplied. Serious Scrum is a community that aims to bring clarity and help practitioners improve their Scrum adoption. We welcome new writers by providing editorial support, finding that what’s most important is providing a space for sharing experiences and learning from each other. We also manage a thriving Slack community where people help each other with issues and questions. — Willem-Jan Ageling and Sjoerd Nijland, editors at Serious Scrum.
February earnings payouts
By the eighth of each month (so in this case March 8), we initiate the payments for the prior month’s earnings. Please allow 3–7 business days to receive the February earnings payouts in your Stripe account. Based on member engagement from this period:
- 66% of writers or publications who wrote at least one story for members earned money.
- 8.3% of active writers earned over $100.
- $17,914.66 was the most earned by a writer, and $7,732.85 was the most earned for a single story.
Learn more about earning for your best writing with the Medium Partner Program.
Words to write by
This month’s writing inspo comes from Sam H Arnold in “The Writers Who Effortlessly Support Other Writers.” This story highlights writers on Medium across a range of subjects. These writers not only contribute their stories, they generously help cultivate the creativity of other writers.
They offer their time to support and encourage other writers, to be the best version of themselves. Whether it is through your writing or your interactions with the writing community, every one of us could learn something from these writers.
Keep at it,
Kawandeep, Writer Advocate