6 great things you’ll learn when you write everyday
In the last 11 months of writing on Medium, here’s what I’ve learned —
You’ll find your niche
There are too many writers out there. And guess what? Too many of them want to write about the same things that you do. Finding your niche, therefore, seems very difficult because too many people are trying to say the same thing. Too many go to the same suburban restaurant, grow up in a joint family, have parents that don’t give them enough space, eat the same kind of food, have the same religious/cultural experiences, etc. You only have your experience guiding you. Your own unique experience. Finding your niche is also about identifying the themes that come most easily to you and writing them in your voice i.e. the style of writing that fits with the way you tell your stories. You can only identify your voice after writing consistently and also after a lot of experimentation. Once you find your niche, you know what you’re better at writing about. It gets easier from there on.
Floodgates of feedback
Being on writing forums and publications (like 100 Naked Words) helps you connect with fellow writers and get valuable insight into the kind of techniques they employ while writing. A decent following, and by that, I don’t mean the numbers, that of course happens with time; consistent followers of your writing usually stick because they’ve liked what you write, but then they also want more. You’ll always be able to use the feedback you get to churn out more writing, better it, tweak it, learn to trim the excess fat. This is the feedback you’ll get outside of your circle of friends and family. These people that don’t know you and will have no problems critiquing your work with honesty are folks you can always count on for genuine feedback. Also remember that feedback is also where a lot of your ideas come from.
You’ll have geographic and cultural limitations
Again, this depends on how discover-able your content is and what kind of platform it’s based on. I’ve been writing on Medium for over a year (and everyday for over 11 months). Having a largely US based audience means that they sometimes can’t culturally relate to some of the stuff that I write, something I work on by being as explicit as possible, linking the parts that can best be explained by linking them to other articles.
Headlines, headlines, headlines!
I’m guilty of having neglected headlines but on days I’m really paying attention, I’ve found that a lot of people have read my posts thanks to a good headline. When you write everyday and take a look at your stats, you’ll find that posts with better headlines will get a higher readership.
A headline is an indication of the kind of intrigue you create for a user to want to click on your post and read it. It’s your opening! A great headline is always great click-bait but great content can ensure more time spend on your page too. One tool that I’ve just discovered (thanks to Shaunta Grimes) that analyses good headlines is coschedule.com. It’s free, great and let’s you play around until you get a great score on your headline. I’ve used it a fair few times and I really think one can get the hang of good headline writing with time. So thanks again, Shaunta! :)
You’ll start focusing on structuring your writing better. Your thoughts don’t usually come to you in a singular, structured flow, it’s a constant stream of consciousness. But consciously structuring your writing, especially, planning it in your head beforehand can have its benefits. Getting an idea of the structure of your stories doesn’t mean you need to create a template for all of your content.
Having a structure in mind beforehand ensures that you know what points you’ll be covering. For example, when you’re writing about how to solve a particular problem —
a. You’ll start with what the usual tried and tested stuff and why it doesn’t help you with said problem
b. Then you get to what you can do instead (the easier, smarter and most importantly, NEVER SAID BEFORE way to do it) along with actionable examples.
c. You’ll want to end with how it saves you valuable time that helps you focus your energies on X, Y and Z instead. The fact that it has never explicitly been spelled out before (or at least if it has, it hasn’t been presented with the perspective you’re bringing to the table).
This is just one example, I’m pretty sure there are more out there. Having a structure in mind, especially on posts that are non-fiction/advisory in nature/are how-to’s help make the story sound interesting because they define the context, how to go about doing the things that’ll help you get from X to Y and what you’ll get out of it.
You’ll never run out of inspiration
One might say that a great writer never runs out of inspiration but the truth is that a writer’s block is a bomb waiting to go off. With most online writers, it’s not the main thing they do for a living, it’s usually something they’re managing along with a full time job. It’s therefore easier to prioritize other stuff and come up with excuses for being out of inspiration.
For inspiration, you can always create a stored repository of interesting articles that you may have read that might inspire you to write about your own perspective of things. Apps like Flipboard, Zite keep delivering content that interests you and the more you consume, the richer the content it delivers. Another great thing that works for me is visual inspiration — stock image websites, google image searches on a theme that interests me or that I’m proficient at writing about. The Stocks is a great stock image aggregator site that helps you get images across different sites rather than visiting those sites individually. Some of the sites are defunct but most sites mentioned on The Stocks still work.
These sources can serve as good cues when you’re out of inspiration. And they almost always work!
This is everything that I’ve learnt over the last 11 months. I’d love to hear your POV on this, or if there’s anything I could add here.
Thanks for reading!