313 people CAN’T be wrong…
What I’ve learned about writing from my new friends at Medium
Life is difficult. It involves doing the one thing that people will try to avoid at any cost: suffering. But the crazy thing is that the most important lessons we learn almost invariably happen because we have suffered.
Now, I’m not advocating self-flagellation (my favorite example, because right afterwards, the pious gentlemen — apparently on a nightly basis — leaves his cheating wife to continue his affair with the woman just down the castle hallway), or walking through the streets of some Middle Eastern city and cutting yourself with swords (there will be no link to this insanity).
And I would never recommend sitting through even one episode of Ranch, because that would be the most needless suffering imaginable.
[UPDATE: Based on the lack of response to the joke above, I am happy to report that my attempt to prevent unnecessary suffering must be working. You’re welcome!]
(Note: the aforementioned examples are simply forms of suffering that teach us the lesson to avoid suffering at all costs.)
What I’m trying to say is that life is tough enough these days without looking for more things to be miserable about. Trust me, when you get to a point where you need to stretch to prepare for your daily workout — which consists of getting out of bed — you’ll won’t be on the lookout for new ways to suffer.
And that brings me to the lesson of today, what Medium has taught me about writing:
People want to laugh. They need to laugh.
I will go so far as to say the following (t-shirt manufacturers take note):
Laughter is the most enjoyable exercise in life that doesn’t require a partner.™
How can I back up that claim, you ask? Well, I can’t. It’s just my opinion. But if I had 37,000 followers, or sold a successful tech startup, or had a capital “E” at the front of my name, you would probably be retweeting this article for the entire world to see, because it’s true.
Think of one thing that you love to do that you used to do all the time, (not that one, you pervs), that you still have time to do (even you, “have-it-all moms”) and that you can do without even moving? The answer should be obvious. No, not masturbation, Jules. It’s laughter!
The reason I mentioned my friend Jules is not because she is a master of this activity (I have no recorded proof of this), but because she made me do something yesterday (and no, I was not looking at her picture as I did this) that led me to the whole point of this story, which, in case you have forgotten in the midst of some Jules-inspired rambling (I hope I did you proud, sweetie), is what I learned about writing from you, the good people of Medium.
Hang in there, here comes the good part…
Jules, is the brilliant but naughty social observer who discovered the one and true method with which writers build their following on Medium. No, you will not learn it from Jon W’s infamous post, or Morgan Rock Loehr’s brilliant response. And you will certainly not learn it from my well-documented failures, here, here, here, here, or here.
Her method involves responding to the posts of writers with huge followings, which in turn gives you a much larger number of recommends, highlights and followers than you could ever get by yourself.
And she coined the scientific term every social media researcher in America should be using:
Coattail Starfucking™ (CTSF)
So, because we were discussing the subject of CTSF, I decided to look at my own statistics to see if, in fact, I am a green heart junkie who will do anything to get attention. And the answer was a resounding “do you even need to ask?”
Here’s a screen shot of my Top 10 stories in terms of the current currency of the land:
You will notice that 8 out of 10 of my most recommended stories are the direct result of CTSF. Of these stories, five are my original stories, and not a response to someone else’s monster post (however, three of them started out as responses, or shamelessly linked to my stories, so I still classify them as CTSF).
The big lesson of the day…
When I added up my the number of recommends for my top six articles, the number came out to be 313. That’s 313 people who found my stuff funny.
Not one of my serious, non CTSF articles (and surprise, I’ve written quite a few of them) made my personal Top 10. And I realized that
People want to laugh, so that’s what I write.
Surprise Plot Twist!
When I looked at my statistics, I noticed that the #11 article was my list of the funniest writers on Medium and some favorite examples.
Just think about that. People are so desperate to laugh that they elevated my list of recommendations above almost every story I have written over the last four months! I didn’t do one bit of work, aside from searching out and linking to writers who have made me laugh since I’ve been on Medium.
So, with that in mind, I propose a new scientific term to a behavior I think I invented back on March 15th, but I’m not sure:
Coattail Stargazing™ (CTSG)
Instead of wasting time doing shameless self-promotion, I will shamelessly promote other writers’ work.
A McEnnis, a beautiful writer whose anonymity inspired me to write “All the self-improvement, start-up, and entrepreneurial posts by the Gods of Medium combined can’t hold a candle to the emotional power of this one story.”
The departed [UPDATE: resurrected Kel Campbell, and don’t f*ckin’ make me change this again], Jules, Heather Nann, S Lynn Knight, and others, who have opened my eyes about sexism and the open wounds of womanhood.
Lizella Prescott, whose wordsmithing is almost comparable to Michael Chabon.
Holly Wood, whose unique combination of swearing, astute political observation and fearlessness always makes for a great read.
Mike Essig, the bravest poet on Medium, writing about men’s desires and the ghosts of war.
Not only will I plug other peoples’ writing, I would like to encourage you to contribute your favorites in the comments below.
One last favor…
I know this is partially shameless self-promotion, but it is to promote a collaborative book I want to design and make happen with your help.
Here is a sample book spread, featuring the inimitable work of Hassan S. Ali. Maybe, he’ll even allow me to use it in the book!
Update 5/12: Inspired by the quest for donuts, I’ve started a new collaborative book and publication titled “The Tao of Blogging.” Please follow our efforts here:
The Tao of Blogging — a collaborative book of online wisdommedium.com
And if you’ve written, or read a really great quote that is humorous or thought provoking, please come to the publication and submit it in the comments section of one of the articles. Thanks!]
[UPDATE 5/28: Read this seven-step guide to become an even better writer!]
[UPDATE 5/29:STEP EIGHT, follow this guide and you can skip steps one through seven!]