Here are 9 Writing Mistakes I Never Made on Medium

Your life will be better if you avoid them too

I wrote my first post on Medium in 2017. Then I left.

I came back in 2018. I wrote thirty pieces and then left.

Then I came back in 2020 with a bang. I’ve written more than 120 pieces and I’m still going.

As you can see, I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with Medium.

At first, no one read my work. And it was normal. Except there was no one to tell me that. So I kept worrying about what I’m doing wrong. I tried clickbait headlines and then wondering why the money wasn’t coming in.

The rejection was so pervasive that I had to stop posting under my account. I created a publication using another email address and wrote under that name,

These initial years of struggle taught me some important lessons. And without learning those lessons, I wouldn’t be writing today. These lessons helped me avoid a lot of the mistakes in 2020, that beginners often make.

Writing Too Much About Writing

First, when you’re getting started, one thing is as clear as day — you don’t have any experience. This makes it conspicuous that you shouldn’t give writing advice.

It’s fine every now and then. I do it too. But I make sure I recite my personal experience instead of posting hollow, and absolutist advice.

The Internet is filled with would-be-author celebrities that cannot stop giving writing advice. There’s no need for another one.

I get it. In one sense, it’s good for writers to have an online community. Writing can oftentimes get lonely.

Nonetheless, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. The sheer plentitude of processes, methods to overcome writer’s block, generating ideas, etc drain me.

I’ve been in this position more than one time. I know how it feels to be bombarded with writing advice coming from questionable sources. The problem with reading bogus advice is this: even though you know it’s phony, you wonder if it’s true.

Contributing to a similar spread of misinformation was something I wasn’t willing to do.

It will serve you well to write about something else, build a following, and get some results. Somewhere down the line, perchance you can write an article or two about how you did it.

Another great litmus test for this is to give writing advice when people ask you for it.

Few of my friends and connections asked me questions about

Once I answered those questions, I went ahead and converted them into articles.

Thinking There’s a Cheat Code To Success

I used to play San Andreas without ever knowing the cheat codes. Once I knew they exist, it took all the fun away. Instead of playing the game, I searched for cheat codes all the time.

I hate to break it to you. But there are no cheat codes here.

And thinking they exist will only harm you. You’ll spend all your time looking for them. Meanwhile, someone else (like me) who’s putting in the work by:

  • Writing every day,

  • Reading quality books,

  • Consuming podcasts and other material to gather different ideas,

  • Generating ideas, and

  • Reading other authors,

…will storm past you in an instant.

One year down the line, you’ll look back at your time and realize your mistake. You were lazy to put in the work and so you spent all your time looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

In the meantime, other writers did put in the work and leapfrogged past you.

This will only cause you to regret your decision and quit anyway.

Instead, adopt the mindset of mastery and craftsmanship. For a person on the path of mastery, time is his friend. But for the person who’s not on that path, time is his worst enemy.

Why? With every passing day, the craftsman is getting better at his craft. But the person looking for shortcuts is filled with the regret of not starting earlier.

Trust me when I say this because I’m talking from experience here. When I was writing on Medium in 2017 and 2018, I saw people like Tim Denning posting a lot. When I came back in 2020, they were still going on.

The result? I had 170 followers and Tim Denning had 90K (now he has more than 125K followers).

Followers aren’t a measure of success necessarily. But the point is that by putting in the work and chasing mastery, Tim and other writers were able to amass an audience when people like me were on the edge wondering when to start.

Like most things in life, if you keep showing up, things will improve.

Letting the Money Guide My Writing

When I came back to Medium in 2020, I had a clear goal in mind — write.

I didn’t come here to make money. Whatever I’ve earned is a side-benefit for me. I started writing because I loved to write.

Yet, many people come in with the exact opposite expectation. They treat it like a 9–5 job where the money is guaranteed to come at the end of the month. And if they don’t hear “cha-ching!” they lose their minds.

This mindset is self-defeating. Why? Let’s say you’re here for the money. Here’s how your time will be spent:

  • Buying courses about making it on Medium

  • Reading “How I made $5,355 in one month on Medium”

  • Following others in hopes of following you back

  • Signing up for 17 newsletters

  • Researching the best way to write your headlines

  • Signing up for an email service and getting your funnel in order (without thinking about traffic or content)

  • Setting up social media accounts to build your ‘personal brand’ and drive traffic to Medium

But in chasing the money, you forget the most important thing — writing.

One year down the line, you’ll find yourself with hardly fifty posts written and someone else who didn’t give a s** about making money will “surprisingly” make ten times as you. Why? Because they focused on the one thing that improves the odds of success — writing.

In case I didn’t already rub it enough, write more! Don’t worry about the earnings, SEO, branding, conversion when you’re getting started.

Get to 100 posts before you even start thinking about these things.

You can never understand the algorithm and make things go in your favor. Figuring out how many claps, reads, and shares will get you to $1000 is not only inefficient but impossible.

I repeat it’s not a job. A story will not earn more only because it took you a week to write.

Accept that some things are out of your control and focus on the only thing that is in your control.

The only way to earn money with writing is to not care about it and instead focus on improving your craft.

Don’t run after success. Run after being worthy. Success will soon run after you.

Letting a Niche Guide My Writing

Medium is a place where you don’t have to go niche. You can go as wide as you want.

I’ve written about business, health, fitness, productivity, spirituality, meditation, and much more.

This isn’t your WordPress blog. It’s a completely different game altogether. Medium’s algorithm isn’t Google’s search engine.

It rewards great stories regardless of who wrote it. For instance, one of my posts on relationships did quite well during my initial days even though that’s the only post I’ve written on that topic to date.

If you’re worried about a niche, then make a separate website and put relevant articles there. On Medium, however, let your creativity flourish.

Quality > Quantity

Writers can be sentimental. We consider ourselves artists. And artists are not told to produce more, they’re told to produce better, right?

Yet, this advice fails in the case of a new writer. The truth is, only when you’ve had sufficient practice, can you think about making a piece of art that earns money for years to come.

The road to becoming a Hemmingway is not to try writing better, but first, try writing as much as you can.

In the blogging world, the only way you can make your way into the consciousness of the reader as a new writer is volume. The math is simple — the more you write, the more people find you online and once they do, they enjoy a few of your articles.

A few of these articles then go viral and are considered as good. Once that’s done, algorithms on Medium and the Internet, start showing it to more and more people. That’s how you amass an audience even though you may not be as good of a writer.

The other way just doesn’t work. Trying to perfect an article but publishing only a couple of times a month isn’t going to cut it.

You have to realize this — writing more gives you practice. This practice in turn makes you a better writer every day. Soon, more people discover your work and you gain readership.

This is not an argument against improving your writing skills. You have to find the right balance that helps you maintain both volume and quality.

Comparing Myself With Others

I not only don’t compare myself with others, I often don’t read other writers on Medium.

I know that’s controversial, but it works for me in most cases.

There are only two reasons I read other writers here:

  • To learn/steal from them

  • To see what kind of article a publication accepts.

Apart from that, I try not to think about how other writers are doing, how many followers they have, how much they earned, etc.

Let them do what they’re doing. You do you.

Worrying About the Results

Detachment is not that you own nothing. Detachment is that nothing owns you

When it comes to operating in life, I try to emulate gardeners.

A gardener plants a seed and then takes care of it. He waters the plant, fertilizers the soil, and then waits for it to grow. He doesn’t go out every day, dig the soil to see how much the plant is growing.

In the same spirit, once I’ve established a system to write every day I don’t go and check how far I’ve come. I knew that the first few months would be hard. The results won’t be there and it would seem like people aren’t reading your work.

This is why, without thinking about the results, my only goal for the first 3–6 months was to write 100 articles.

I didn’t focus on anything else — the stats, the money, the claps, the reads. I wrote some and then I wrote some more. And when I felt I should’ve started to see the results — I wrote more still.

The more I detach myself from the results of my actions, the better and more peaceful my life gets. I can open up myself to the supply of creativity by letting my worries go.

Ironically, in the long run, the art of detached focus is how you achieve extraordinary results.

Blaming the Publication

My stories in even big publications flop often. You should expect the same.

It feels wonderful to finally get accepted in big publications. But if you think that takes care of your article’s success, you’re in for an unpleasant surprise.

The editors try their best to publish stories that are valuable and the right fit for the audience. But they’re only human. They, like you, don’t have access to Medium algorithms. This means they can also be wrong about the success of a post.

This happens all the time. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t publish with them or pull your stories out. If anything, you should be grateful to them for the opportunity to step in front of a large audience.

In most cases, the reason your post didn’t perform well has to do more with your writing than the publication itself.

Another reason your post may fail in a big publication is you may not find your target audience there. For instance, publications like The Ascent are centered around personal storytelling. I’ve published articles with them about fitness, meditation, life lessons, lessons from my startups, and so on.

They cater to a wide audience that is not specific for a niche. This means that your article about how you found a business mentor may do better in say Entrepreneur’s Handbook than The Ascent.

In any case, these are just two reasons why bigger isn’t always better — at least on Medium. And the more you understand this, the better it is for your peace of mind.

Focusing on the Follower Count or the Claps

I admit. I used to think that follower count matters a lot until a few months back. The key, as I mentioned above, is to realize that Medium isn’t like Google or other social media channels.

The distribution of your content isn’t only dependent on your followers or even the publication’s followers. Apart from the algorithm, you have curators searching for great stories and organizing them under the Medium’s topics.

These stories are shared with readers on their home pages, emails, and so on.

This means only one thing — if your story is good, it will get the engagement that it deserves. You can have 5 followers and still make 500 bucks with your story.

Follower count does help, but not in a life-changing way that you think it would.

So again, back to square one, the only strategy is to focus on writing for your reader. If you get into the mind of the reader, understand how he thinks, and feels and then write valuable content, they will follow you and read your work.

Soon, you’ll have thousands of followers only to realize the same thing — it doesn’t matter. What matters is delivering consistent value.

Written on December 7, 2020