How I Learned to Curate My Own Writing

Five questions to ask yourself when considering what to publish

Jonathan Greene
Nov 29, 2019 · 3 min read
A pile of index cards on a marble countertop.
A pile of index cards on a marble countertop.
Photo by Kate Trysh on Unsplash

I wouldn’t call it self-censorship because that gives off the wrong vibe. But that’s really what I’ve learned to do. It’s not that I am censoring my writing because I’m worried about what people will think. No, it’s not that at all. It’s more about what I think. Or what I will think in two hours, after I publish something I know I shouldn’t. So, let’s call it curation. Because not all of my words need to be published.

The truth is, I needed some censorship to save me from myself. It’s part of what led me to leave Medium. But my realizations about how to curate my own writing, as well as many other things, are what led me back. But don’t get me wrong — I don’t think we need to be so tight on ourselves on an online platform like this. We should be able to let it fly. Test stuff. See what sticks and what we later determine to be just a heaping pile of crap. But to curate your own writing is to give yourself hindsight before you need it.

In my first run on Medium, every time I got mad about something, I wrote about it. This was not being a curator. This was not in my best interest. When I got trolled, I re-trolled the troll in a story. I still find this entertaining and often deserved, but how was it serving me as a writer? When Medium made changes, I blasted them in a story. And the echo chamber responded, but again, how was this serving me as a writer? Every time you publish something, you should be asking yourself that question.

It’s hard to accept all of our blunders, but until we do we are destined to repeat them. Since I’ve been back, I’ve found myself opening stories to write and stopping myself. Because I know better. I know that what I am about to write doesn’t serve me as a writer. This is how to curate your own writing. All of your words don’t need to be published. Plenty of mine didn’t even need to be written.


Five Questions to Ask Yourself Before Pressing Publish

  1. How does this story serve me as a writer?
  2. Why am I about to publish this story? (Be honest)
  3. What feelings caused me to write this story?
  4. How will I feel about this story tomorrow?
  5. Is this a story that I need to publish?

Yes, you can go back and delete as many stories as you want later. I do that all the time. But the damage is done if the story was a toxic one. You know the kind. The stories where you @ someone, and not in a good way. The stories where it’s all personal and hyperbolic and your voice kind of sounds like a lunatic. Been there, done that. And I knew it at the time. But I didn’t curate myself.

Stories can be just like those emails you know you shouldn’t send. The ones you type in anger and then hit send and instantly regret. Too. Late. And once you press Publish on a story on the internet, it’s too late. All those tweets that people deleted right away, but were still memorialized by the internet. Yeah, that’s your maniacal rant on Medium. Someone will catch it. And keep it. And hold it. Unless you catch it yourself before you let it out.

If you’re grumbling about this right now and thinking about the concept of free speech, you are really missing the point and likely are publishing a lot of nonsense. How does it serve you as a writer? Do you care? And if you don’t care about that more than anything else before you hit Publish, why are you here? Why are you writing? Writing is your reputation. Writing is a profile of you as a person.

You don’t have to be perfect like that Instagram profile. You don’t have to be error-free forever. It’s not about that. It’s about protecting yourself from yourself. Trust me, it’s not as easy as it sounds. We like to puff out our chests. And demand literary justice. But that’s all about ego. And the ego does not like curation. But it needs it. Really, really badly.

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Jonathan Greene

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Father, writer, poet, real estate investor, certified life coach, podcaster, sociable introvert. Curating a meaningful life. IG: trustgreene | trustgreene.com

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