Five Insights from One Million Words and Three Years on Medium
I started writing right here in January 2018. This is what happened next.
1 Million Words Later
When I left Corporate America, I didn’t know what was next. I did know I wanted to write — that was the one thing most urgently missing from my corporate career.
In January of 2018, I joined Medium, downloaded Grammarly, and wrote my first post. I set a goal to write one million words.
I could have set other goals, a book deal or 10,000 followers, but when I looked at all the ways I could become a great writer, the one that stood out was to write a lot. It took over two years to write 1 million words.
We tend to overcomplicate the journey of becoming what we want to be. If you want to become a writer, write. If you want to be a better writer, be prolific.
20 Seconds of Insane Courage
Remember that movie, We Bought a Zoo, with Matt Damon? There’s a scene where he says to his son,
“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”
That’s what writing is — hours of ideation, writing, rewriting, editing, and working it out, then capturing something, a sentiment, a story, an insight, followed by 20 seconds of insane courage to post it.
We all struggle with publishing our work. Sometimes, building 20 seconds of courage takes two hours or two days.
The more you write, the more you realize that if it’s not a little bit scary, you haven’t pushed yourself far enough. And, if you haven’t gone far enough, it’s probably already been said, so what’s the point?
There’s a misconception that if it isn’t revealing or personal, you won’t feel vulnerable, but the truth is, every piece is an investment that makes you feel a little exposed. It gets easier as you begin to detach from what happens after publication — write enough to get to that point.
Be a Pro
When we start a new job, we typically like to make a good impression. We probably have a good attitude; we might go out of our way or show up early.
But most of us don’t approach writing with the same professionalism. Maybe it’s because we have other jobs or because it’s hard to call yourself a writer before you’ve had a fair bit of success.
But no matter why you write, or what goals you set, you need to develop a process, consistency, and style to be a professional.
A process is what it sounds like it is. When do you write? On what platform? On what device? With what tools? For how long? Do you outline first, brainstorm titles first, word vomit all over the page, and then shape it into something coherent?
It takes experimentation and analysis to determine when you are at your best, when it comes together without a fight, when you nail it without overthinking, or when your audience falls in love. Once you know, replicate that.
Consistency is the hallmark of every great endeavor. It’s practically the secret of life. Do you want a better marriage, to raise incredible kids, or build a business? Do you want to grow an audience, earn a promotion, succeed in your career? Would you like to make or save more money, and live longer?
The answer is always consistency. Once you’ve developed your process, block time in your calendar, and get to work.
Your style will come. It will evolve based on your readers’ feedback, your point of view, your range, what resonates, your intent, and so much more. Experiment, but be true to what you know and consider how you want your readers to experience your words.
Find Your Sweet Spot
I adore vocabulary, making a case, developing a point of view; I enjoy researching, influencing, and refining. I like sorting through ideas, linking concepts, creating something new, making something better, and reading — Of course, I love writing.
But soon enough, I realized that while I was exploring some of the same subjects that others were writing about, my take was different, and because it was different, it was valuable.
I noticed, too, that when men wrote about a topic, whether they were qualified as an expert or not, they wrote with authority while women tended to use caveats or downplay their credibility to be inclusive.
I realized that I wanted to level the playing field by offering a credible, feminine, take.
Once I discovered my why, I could focus on what. Happiness, success, and motherhood — that’s my sweet spot. It’s an intersection I find endlessly alluring and where I can help my readers the most.
At some point along the way, my followers started growing. More people were highlighting and commenting, and editors began reaching out to ask if they could include my work in their publications.
A successful writer I follow recently suggested I become a “connoisseur of the platform,” and I fell in love with that idea. You should too. The more you know about Medium, the more it will accelerate your success.
He was right; it is time for me to approach the platform more strategically. You’ll have to decide when it’s time for you, but please don’t rush it. I know it’s tempting to do all the recommended things to get there faster, but you’ll miss so much.
Like entrepreneurship, writing is an incredible journey of self-discovery. Let it unfold over time. It’s a long-game, and sustainability matters. Build other profit plans and revenue streams while you wait.
Three years ago, I scratched an itch to find my voice. Today, I’m a writer. Claiming that title is a proud profound milestone.
My next goal isn’t two or three or five million words. It’s a sundrenched window in a gorgeous old place overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. My audience, business, and family have grown and flourished. All of the seeds I’ve planted are blossoming, and I am writing to my heart’s content.
Can you feel grateful for something that hasn’t happened? Yes. You. Can.