New publishing tools and quick ways to regain inspiration

Medium Writers Newsletter: Writing tips, updates, and spotlights

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Illustration: Kawandeep Virdee

We’re in the second half of 2020. Amid the challenge of the pandemic, writing goals set at the beginning of the year may have had to adjust. It’s helpful to take a moment and reflect on where your creative practice is at. New insights can arise, sometimes spontaneously, sometimes through introspecting. What thought patterns are useful? What parts of the creative process are most energizing? What assumptions can be examined?

Finding inspiration and energy for creative projects right now can feel difficult. And at the same time, it’s these creative projects that may bring meaning and delight. “It’s hard to come up with fresh new ideas when you’ve been staring at the same four walls for five months,” writes Amy Shearn, sharing several quick ways to regain inspiration. My favorite one: “we need moments of ‘ordinary, if still transcendent, awe’ — times where we feel connected to the world and each other and remember what really matters. To get a quick hit of awe, you can try immersion in natural environments, watching a sunset or the stars, looking at art, or listening to music.” Read the full story in “10 Ways to Feel More Inspired in the Next 10 Minutes.”

A familiar challenge in the writing process is overcoming doubt about the story right before publishing. Is it ready? Are there more edits to make? More To That shares support for artists going through this process in the delightful illustrated story “Good Enough Is Just Fine.” The feeling that the story isn’t good enough yet propels the urgency for more edits. “Creativity is largely about accepting that we are always a work in progress and that no individual project has a definitive beginning or end,” writes More To That. “It’s the understanding that our creative potential is defined by the blending of our work to create a general trend, which we hope is progressing in the right direction.”

New publishing tools for a more expressive Medium

Over the last few months we’ve shared new features for creators on Medium, specifically Newsletters and the new Responses. This month there’s more.

We’ve opened up a private beta to try out Medium’s new publishing tools. The tools give authors more expressive control over their pubs, offer a frictionless reading experience, and welcome short-form creation too. “Our new beta includes tools that enable you to have more control over visual expression,” writes Alexis Lloyd, VP of product design, in the announcement. “We’re launching with a foundational set of controls around color, headers, type, and branding so that you can make a space on Medium that is uniquely yours.”

You can see some of these features live on Barack Obama’s Official Medium Publication, OneZero, Momentum, and the Medium Coronavirus Blog. Ev’s blog evhead and M.G. Siegler’s blog 500ish also showcase these new features. As you start looking at these, start imagining: How would you customize your pub? What’s the vibe you want to cultivate around your writing?

We asked a few members of the team to share what makes them most excited about these new features. “The words you write paint pictures in people’s minds, they create a mood, an experience,” shares Design Director Ritwik Dey. “The expressive tools we’re offering are a first step toward helping writers capture that mood in the space they occupy on the platform, to offer a completeness to their expression, and yet another way to connect with their readers.”

Group Product Manager Priya Ollapally Wellington highlights the creative opportunities these new tools bring to the experience: “We don’t want publishing to always feel like a Grand Gesture and this experience — which we’ll be continually improving — encourages writing of all lengths, which we hope writers find freeing.”

As Lloyd shares in the announcement, there’s more to come: “And this is just the beginning: we intend to evolve and build on these features over time, giving you even more flexibility to make Medium your own.” You can join the waitlist for the private beta in the announcement here: “A more expressive Medium.”

Getting started as a freelance writer

There are numerous strategies to getting started as a freelance writer. Slackjaw Editor sarah james offers a straightforward approach in a Q&A with The Writing Cooperative. Study the writers who are doing the writing you want to be doing. Where are they publishing? “Keep a list or a spreadsheet of the publications you have written for or would like to write for, so when you have an idea for a pitch you can quickly figure out who is the best fit.” It’s helpful to balance the writing with reading across these publications, to get a feel for the voice of the pub. This helps ensure your writing is a good fit. Read the full response in “Editors Explain: How Do You Get Started as a Freelance Writer?” and check out the full Ask the Editors series.

Story spotlights on the platform

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.

A Breakup Letter With Astronomy, From a Young Black Woman” by Lauren Chambers

“It’s not me, it’s you,” writes Lauren Chambers in her Dear John letter to the field of astronomy. The young scientist says she couldn’t see herself spending the rest of her life studying stars and galaxies while the real humans around her suffered. While Chambers has landed a well-deserved position studying data, tech, and justice at the ACLU of Massachusetts, her parting letter serves as a warning of how much talent the field of astronomy is losing as it still struggles with inequality. Megan Morrone, platform editor at OneZero

This Is the Only Satisfactory Answer to ‘Why?’” by Christopher L Brooks

On the surface, this piece seems to be about one thing — getting your toddler to stop asking questions and go to bed — but it’s really about so much more. It’s about connection and exploration and the tyranny of certainty. I won’t give any more away. Reading it from start to finish is a delight. Michelle Woo, senior platform editor at Forge

Confessions of a Former Teen Debt Collector” by Meghan Gunn

“It was an accident,” Meghan Gunn writes, “becoming a teenage debt collector.” Her journey through the depths of the predatory lending industry is a cautionary tale of how simple actions, like taking a promising job opportunity, can suck you into unjust systems. Gunn is open and honest in her beautifully written story as she reflects on what she learned through the experience, and how it fits in with our broader cultural reckoning against systems of oppression. — Amanda Sakuma, platform editor at GEN

The Eroticism of Brutality” by Max S. Gordon

Come for the recap of Mary Trump’s book — Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man — and stay for the context: Max S. Gordon’s personal story, and his analysis of how the Trump family’s internal drama mirrors what’s happening in America today. This review-slash-essay is long (a 28-min read, according to Medium’s algorithm) and worth every minute. — Harris Sockel, deputy editor at Human Parts

Medium Rare: Education during the pandemic

GEN Platform Editor Amanda Sakuma features a collection of stories looking toward the upcoming school year amid the pandemic in Medium Rare.“Shayla R. Griffin, PhD, MSW , who is an author, educator, and Black mother to school-age children, does a fantastic job of clearly and thoughtfully distilling the unique problems the education system is facing because of the Covid crisis,” Sakuma writes of the story “Some Students Should Go to School, Most Should Stay Home.” The collection also features a story by David Hill, a frontline pediatrician who treats children battling Covid-19, and an anonymous satirical and chilling announcement from administrators to teachers.

Medium Rare is a weekly digest of stories from across the Medium Universe from GEN. You can browse past digests here.

Story Feature: LEVEL’s 40 over 40 in hip-hop

For this month’s story feature, Peter Rubin shares more of the backstory in LEVEL’s recent 40 over 40 in hip-hop ranking. The ranking illustrates a way to build discussion and community around a story. By tapping into the minds and tugging the hearts of hip-hop fans everywhere, LEVEL expands the conversation on Twitter, ultimately driving more awareness of the publication. See the full story in “Who’s Having the Best Rap Career After 40?

It all started back in February with a simple question: What rappers have had the best careers after the age of 40? We’re talking about hip-hop’s iron (wo)men, the folks who have maintained or even improved their creative output after reaching middle age. By July, that query evolved into a mini-package, complete with an opinionated panel discussion with notable artists (Remy Ma) and music industry heavyweights (Spotify’s Carl Chery), a secondary list that highlights the best albums released by MCs age 40 or older, and a touching personal essay about maturing alongside the artists of your generation. The hero piece, a ranked analysis of 40 hip-hop elder statespeople, is thorough in considering each artist’s post-40 merits, but it visually came to life thanks to illustrator Ulises Fariñas, who depicted all 40 MCs gathered outside of the birthplace of hip-hop, 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, in the Boogie Down Bronx. In a time when the culture’s youth obsession has sidelined an otherwise obvious truth — that careers are lasting longer, and that turning 40 is no longer a death sentence for a rap career — the result was one of music’s spiciest, most viral debates of the year. John Kennedy, senior editor at LEVEL, and Peter Rubin, executive editor at LEVEL.

July earnings payouts

By the 8th of each month (so in this case August 8), we initiate the payments for the prior month’s earnings. Please allow 3–7 business days to receive the July earnings payouts in your Stripe account. Based on member engagement from this period:

  • 64.6% of writers or publications who wrote at least one story for members earned money.
  • 5.8% of active writers earned over $100.
  • $30,164.67 was the most earned by a writer, and $5,787.10 was the most earned for a single story.

Learn more about earning money for your best writing with the Medium Partner Program.

Words to write by

This month’s writing inspiration comes from Davon Massi, in “How I Wrote a New Story Every Day for a Month (And What I Learned).” What’s valuable about this story isn’t the habit to write every day. It’s about discovering processes of writing that work effectively for you. Massi shares a bunch of tips: start a new draft with each idea, focus writing time on actually writing (and notice the distractions). Spend time reading from a writer’s point of view. Budget time to edit and edit again. Massi validated these methods in practice, from the goal of consistently writing.

Winging it at the start, a lot was learned along the way that will forever influence my method when writing. For most people, consistency in anything doesn’t come without tremendous work or self-control. I’ve found though, that you can build up the tools and knowledge to facilitate consistency and it will begin to come naturally.

Check out the stories in the Writing topic, and follow Medium Writers for more inspiration and advice on writing. Follow Medium Writers on Twitter, where we’ve been sharing tips, advice, and stories from across the platform — as we do here, just on a more regular basis. Feel free to share this newsletter with friends who might be interested in writing.

Keep at it,

Kawandeep, Creator Success

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