How to Build a Writing Habit
The Writers Newsletter: Writing tips, spotlights, calls, and events
Last month we focused on setting some writing goals for the year ahead. Imagining what’s possible in itself is motivating. Now we’re a few weeks in. This time of the year can be challenging. That glow of the new year has faded. We’ve got to find a consistent source of energy to achieve our goals.
In fulfilling our writing goals, it may be helpful to take on new approaches and methods of working. At first, these habits are novel, and that in itself is exciting. Then the friction arrives. These habits aren’t ingrained yet. The friction is natural. Notice it. You may need to make some adjustments, or pause briefly. Reflect on your larger purpose in writing, and let that be a motivation.
In this month’s update, you’ll find tips and advice, including how to build and support your creative consistency. Maintain your habits, develop your practice, and see your writing goals realized.
Develop consistency in your writing practice
How can you build the capacity to write more? In “The Science-Backed Way to Write a Lot,” Devon Price suggests to schedule time regularly to write, and defend that time. Avoid long “binge writing” sessions that can burn you out, and allow yourself to accept imperfection.
In “How to Write 10,000 Words a Week,” Drew Magary shares his writing practice, which is woven into his everyday experience: “Writing is a matter of sketching and building and arranging and fixing what is in your brain.” Take fragments of notes throughout the day, and use them to start a piece. Putting together a story can be an enjoyable puzzle, rather than a chore. This mindset can help alleviate fears around the writing and editing process.
The Draft on a daily writing practice
In “What’s Really Holding You Back From Finishing Your Creative Projects,” a writer asks: “What’s the best method to establish a daily writing practice?” When you sit down to write, without fail, distractions will arrive. One way to overcome them is to consider what compels you, what draws your passion, and let that be the place you start: “Instead of writing about your subject from the outside, try inhabiting your material from the inside.” As you begin to write, relax your judgment in what you write. From Pollack: “Don’t consider what you write as a first draft, or even a rough draft, but rather as a zero draft.” Start from what you want or need to write, and you will find the motivation to write.
On giving advice
Write something valuable. A common strategy for this is to share your own life lessons. There’s plenty of advice around. In books, online, and on Medium, you can find tips on everything. It’s a pretty generous collective gesture. Still, even with good intentions, not all stories will land well. What makes one article more compelling than another? How can you best connect with readers?
Be concise, give actionable and practical advice, and have a clear audience. This feedback comes from Marker Platform Editor Jean-Luc Bouchard. Read on to learn how to put these insights into practice in “For Stories That Give Advice: Be Concise, Actionable, and Targeted.”
New SEO tools to grow your readership
If your story looks great to Google, more readers will find it. The SEO team here has been hard at work making improvements to give your stories more visibility. Here are a few best practices, tools, and tips from Tatiana Colligan, Medium’s SEO product manager. Make sure to follow these guidelines — these are simple ways to further grow your readership. Read on to learn more in “SEO tips to make your stories discoverable and grow your readership.”
Medium Writers Meetup in SF
Last December, we threw an event for Medium writers. It was part social, part creative workshop. Writers came with ideas they were thinking about but hadn’t been able to actually write. In smaller working groups, we shared the story ideas, challenges to getting to that first draft, and ways to overcome these challenges. It was a space to support each other creatively.
It was a success, and we’re throwing it again. If you’re based in the Bay Area, come check out the next event on February 12. 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.
Silicon Valley Package call for stories from OneZero
We know the clichés — eclectic founders, billion-dollar IPOs, Teslas in every driveway — but what’s it really like to live and work in Silicon Valley? We want to hear your story. Have you driven a bus full of tech workers in and out of the South Bay? Were you in charge of spreading avocado on toast, teaching the kids of Silicon Valley billionaires, explaining to a room full of hiring managers that nobody needs to “lower the bar” to create a diverse workforce? Publish your story on Medium with the tag “Silicon Valley Stories” by February 17. We’ll read every submitted story and reach out to you if we want to feature yours. — Megan Morrone, platform editor at OneZero.
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 played Time Crisis. She shot the pink gun, me the blue one; I don’t remember how many quarters we dropped. She said she was looking forward to going home to read Harry Potter that night,” writes Hyun Kim, a former VIBE editor who was one of the last people to interview Aaliyah before her death. As a lifelong Aaliyah fan, discovering Hyun’s piece on Medium was like discovering a pot of gold, not only because it was such a standout find, but it added a new story, with rare photos, about a simple account with a legend we lost too soon. It’s the beauty of my role every day, coming in to discover writers, perspectives, and hidden gems so many people would love to read. — Jada Gomez, senior platform editor at LEVEL.
“There are dead people on Google Street View,” writes Colin Horgan in his latest piece for OneZero. Horgan has written stories for the Medium Partner Program for OneZero, GEN, Humungus, and others and I know that many Medium editors have been grateful that he’s shared his gift for chronicling the intersection of politics and technology with Medium readers. But this story was much more personal. After seeing a viral tweet about all the people who found photos of their dead relatives on Google’s mapping tool, Street View, Horgan describes his own journey of trying to find a trace of his dead mother online. Read this story, but make sure you read it in a place where you’re comfortable crying. — Megan Morrone, senior platform editor at OneZero.
“Spend less time asking what you can do for other people and just do,” Brandon Janous reminds us in this powerful essay about family, empathy, and the fragility of life (his wife is fighting cancer for the second time). It’s a testament to Brandon’s generosity as a writer and person that he was able to share this story in the midst of what anyone on the outside would recognize as a tragedy — but he’s able to reframe the experience in a way that gives all of us hope. — Harris Sockel, deputy editor at Human Parts.
Technical story spotlight
Frank does a great job of framing a common problem, introducing a simple solution, and, most importantly, explaining why the solution works — with both a line-by-line code walk-through, and a big picture overview. — Brandon Morelli, editor at Codeburst.
January earnings payouts
By the 8th of each month (so in this case February 8), we initiate the payments for the prior month’s earnings. Please allow 3–7 business days to receive the January earnings payouts in your Stripe account. Based on member engagement from this period:
- 67% of writers or publications who wrote at least one story for members earned money.
- 8% of active writers earned over $100.
- $23,488.16 was the most earned by a writer, and $9,237.19 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 Aisha Beau in “Why You Should Aim For Consistency Over Perfection.” Mistakes are okay, showing up for yourself is an act of thoughtfulness, and amidst comparisons, remember that “your path is your own.”
Instead of focusing on doing things perfectly, you simply focus on just the doing and getting better as you progress.
Keep at it,
Kawandeep, Writer Advocate