Sam Holstein

If You Want to Be a Top Medium Writer, Forget Everything You Think You Know About Writing

To Become a Top Medium Writer, Forget What You Think You Know About Writing

Many aspiring writers begin their writing career with a lot of preconceived notions about what it means to be a writer. That makes sense; writing is one of the oldest professions in the world, and people have been commenting on what it is like to be a writer for as long as there have been written words. We’ve all seen quotes by nineteenth- and twentieth-century writers on the joys and pains of being a writer.

But like most ancient professions, writing has changed a lot over the millennia. In the days of Athenian philosophers, writing was a way of recording speeches, and all written words were meant to be read out loud, rendered as the original orator recorded them. Then reading transitioned to being something you do in your head, requiring punctuation and line spacing. Then the printing press was invented. Then the internet! And the standards of writing have changed drastically during each transition.

Those comments those old writers made about writing are just that — old comments from an old time.

Writing on Medium is writing in the 21st century. It’s not like writing in any other century. What it is like to be a writer now is wildly different than what it was like to be a writer hundreds of years ago. If you want to master writing in the 21st century, you need to throw out your preconceived notions about what it means to be a writer.

People also have lots of modern preconceived notions about what it means to be a good writer. Frequently, when I work with new writers, they get hung up on all kinds of details that simply don’t matter.

Writers Who Make Money on Medium Know What Matters

When I first became a writer, my head was jam-packed with all kinds of ideas like these about writing. People who come to me looking for help ask me these kinds of questions all the time.

I’ll tell you what I tell them: These aren’t the things that matter.

So what does matter?

Good-Enough Writing

If you want to make four figures writing for Medium, you need to, obviously, write stories that people enjoy reading. You need to put out good content. You need to be a good writer.

That doesn’t mean you have to be a great writer. You don’t need to be Hemingway. You don’t need to be one of the rare souls for whom genius flows from your fingertips. You just need to be a good enough writer — good enough that your stories attract readers instead of being rejected.

Some writers aren’t good enough writers and they wonder why they fail over and over to attract an audience. Other writers are perfectionists, and although they are good enough writers, they fail to publish anything because they worry their writing isn’t good enough yet. They never realize their writing is good enough already because they don’t ever publish anything and find out.

Good Enough Marketing

I wish we lived in an idyllic world where great content always stood on its own two feet, but some of the most beautiful and moving writers I’ve ever read languished in forgotten corners of the internet because they weren’t well marketed. And we can all think of examples of writing that isn’t very good but is hugely popular because of good marketing.

When people ask me what’s holding them back from success on Medium, 9 times out of 10, the problem is they lack good enough marketing. Their writing is good enough, but their featured photo is ugly, their headers are formatted strangely, they didn’t pick good tags, and their headline absolutely sucks. Any one of these things can hold a good enough story back from doing well.

What holds most people back from becoming a top writer on Medium is not a lack of knowledge or ability, but preconceived ideas like these that hold them back from realizing their true potential.

The first step to becoming a top writer on Medium is letting go of everything you think you know about writing and starting with an open mind.

Don’t get your Medium writing advice from people with 500 followers or nineteenth-century writers or even your own “writing instincts.” Read about how to become a top Medium writer from top Medium writers. And instead of judging their advice or coming up with excuses about why you can’t do those things, just take them at their word and do what they say. You may find you will become a top Medium writer too.