So You Want to Start Writing?
My advice for taking your first steps into creating articles
Like everyone on Medium, my account was empty when I first created it. Over the past couple of years, I’ve grown and learned how to write articles through reading and writing. I’ve taken no shortcuts. Everything I have now is the result of practice and dedication, and I want to give you some advice on how you can do the same.
You can already find plenty of articles both here on Medium and through Google about the practical sides of getting started. But this one is about my experience. These are the things I would say to myself two years ago when I started writing.
Read and write often
I’ve gotten into the habit of reading at least one article on Medium per day. To find great pieces to read, I follow publications like the UX Collective. They share articles for design professionals like me, who are also the people I’d like to write for. This lets me know what topics are important as well as the level of content I should be aiming to meet.
The same thing goes for writing. Whether it’s a Tweet or an email, you’re already typing out things throughout your day. So why not carve out some time for Medium too? Even a few minutes per day is practice and progress.
Good things take time, and consistent long-term habits are the key to growth. There are no shortcuts. Behind every great writer are thousands of hours spent practicing, and it’s what you’ll need to do to succeed.
Go at your own pace
With other social media platforms, there’s a pressure to create as often as you can. That works well when things disappear within a couple of days, but people will share and read your articles for longer than that. You want to take your time and create work that you’re proud of.
For an example, the article you’re reading now started as an idea after a conversation I had with someone about three weeks ago. I picked it up again earlier this week and started working on it. Now, after a few minutes of work each morning, it’s ready to share.
Writing should be enjoyable. Find a pace that suits you and stick with it.
Focus on quality, not claps
If you’re only thinking of writing for the attention or the money, I can tell you now that you’re going to be miserable. Your writing will also suffer for it. It’s very clear when someone’s writing genuinely versus when they have an ulterior purpose.
In the long term, the best way to get the most out of Medium is to prioritise quality. Like I said earlier, your articles are going to be around for a long time. You want to go back in a year and still be proud of what you’ve written.
Here are some easy things you can do to instantly improve the quality of the articles you write:
- Use sub-headers and headers to create structure that’s easy to scan.
- Add high quality reference images with alt text and a good caption. If you can, create the images yourself and use them sparingly.
- Watch your tone of voice. Keep it consistent and easy to read. Tools like Hemingway app are a lifesaver.
- Link people to sources where they can find further information.
Over time, things like claps and shares will come as your writing becomes better. You don’t have to pander to an algorithm. Focus on making high quality content and you’ll grow in the long run.
Don’t worry about the little things
When I first started, I wanted to make all my articles consistent. I obsessed over my personal brand, and wanted to make everything feel like I wrote it. I now realise that when you’re starting out, it doesn’t matter.
Also, when you submit articles to a publication, they’ll impose their own guidelines on your work. If you look at my article list you’ll see that none of them “match”. This is fine because each one still works on its own. Consistency is great if you’re publishing a series, but for people like me who only want to write, it’s not worth the headache.
Especially as you start, focus on finishing things. There’s an excellent story about a ceramics class that comes to my mind when I say this. You only become great by making mistakes, so get them all out of your system by practicing.
Write for yourself
Trends change. You’ll waste a lot of your energy trying to keep up with which topics are popular. If you’re writing about things that you don’t care about, you’re going to burn out.
I’m still most comfortable writing about my personal experiences. It’s also easy since I know perspective well enough to talk about it. If you’re stuck for prompts, here are a couple of things you could write about:
- The process of something you made that you’re proud of
- A tutorial on something you’ve learned recently
- An argument for why something is a good/bad idea
- A story about a weird new experience you’ve had
When you’re getting started (and even further than that!) write about things you know well. The experiences and perspectives you have are unique, so share them!
What started out as a hobby has now become a big part of my life. It’s gotten me work, improved my writing ability, and connected me with many different people who’ve read my words.
If you’re thinking about writing an article, start by typing out that first draft. Take your time. Edit it, rewrite it, delete it and start again. Push through and you’ll have your first piece ready to share.
Originally published here.