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How to Use Medium to Kickstart Your Writing Right Now
If you've thought about starting a blog — or publishing your thoughts and ideas — you can 1) just write and 2) publish on Medium (or Substack). Here's how.
Lots of people want to start blogging or sharing their writing online but never start because they get stuck on a bunch of questions that seem really important but ultimately don't matter when you're just starting out.
"Should I get a website, and, if so, how much should I spend on design?" "What should my domain name be?" "Should I start on Wordpress, Squarespace, Tumblr, etc ...?" "How often should I publish?"
And so on. Up until a few years ago, tech questions drove a lot of inaction and made it easier to use "research" as an excuse or justification for not publishing. Granted, there were tools like Wordpress.com, Tumblr, Blogger, and others, but they looked really amateur and were rarely good writing environments.
Medium changed all of that.
What Even Is Medium?
In case you haven't heard of Medium — or have heard of it but haven't quite gotten it — it's a cross between a social network and a writing platform and is the first major online writing platform to evolve after social media. This is significant because lots of writing platforms developed before social media and have been trying to tack on social media rather than starting with it as a foundation. The founder, Ev Williams, was part of the founding team of both Blogger and Twitter, so he's been at this online writing thing since the beginning.
While I could go into a lot of detail about the writing platform and social network, I'm going to keep it simple and clear: Medium’s writing platform is, bar none, the best writing experience you can find on the web, and the social network means that there are already people there wanting to read stories.
You know how you go to Facebook to see what your friends are up to? You go to Medium to see what people you follow have written and what's been written about topics you care about.
I'm going to repeat that part because it's so important to understand: people go to Medium to see what people they follow have written and to see what's been written about topics they care about.
Why is that so important? Because the worst part about starting out online is that no one knows and cares who you are, so getting them back to your website is hard. First, you have to get in front of new readers on social media or hope they find you via search — neither of which are easy when you start — and then you have to hope your title and the description of your content is good enough to get them to click through.
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Most writerly folks and deep thinkers simply aren't good at titles, and, yes, they really do make a difference. (I've been at this for ten years and have ample evidence between PF and my work with clients.)
Medium Keeps You From Getting Stuck
Many new bloggers thus spend a lot of time, money, and anguish before they even begin publishing, only to start their blog and see that, three months later, only fifty people have visited. They didn't realize it, but they had the Field of Dreams fantasy that if they built the blog, readers would come. It's demotivating to learn that the readers don't just come.
Before Medium, the way to get more readers and attention was to get better at marketing and promotion, but most writers and thinkers I've known and read specifically don't want to learn to be marketers and promoters. They want to share their ideas, stories, and experiences and have great conversations about them. That was the spirit I started PF with back in the day, but, straight up, it also meant that the PF community took a lot longer to grow and didn't really grow until I became an expert content marketer.
With Medium, though, you can just focus on writing great content and having good conversations. The community is there specifically to read new content, and it's much more meritocratic, even though top writers like me get considerably more spread. What I learned early in my immersion into Medium is that I actually got more reads on my responses to other people's posts, and, since Medium counts a response as a story, it was more motivating to comment and join conversations sometimes than it was just to write.
Since you don't have to worry about tech, hosting, domain names, plugins, and the like with Medium — and it's free — you can just get to writing and engaging with other people on stuff you care about. I wish Medium had been around when I started. You have no idea how much time I spent learning tech stuff, fiddling with plugins, and experiencing that I’m a terrible graphic designer — time that displaced writing and publishing.
That's why I tell people to start at Medium if they've been thinking about blogging but have gotten stuck in the over-thinking, over-research trap. I strongly considered moving all of our content to Medium, but it didn't resonate because it'd delete a decade’s worth of comments and community contributions here. Honestly, I still think about doing it because we get more and better responses to our work on Medium than we do here, and it’d focus all of our efforts on creating.
You Can Start Right Now (and Add More Later)
All you have to decide to get started is whether you're going to use your real name or a pseudonym. The default should be your real name — do not create a brand name as a pseudonym since the Medium community responds better to individuals — but you may have your reasons for not wanting to be public with your personal thoughts.
A few other things to know about Medium:
You can always export your content somewhere else later. Responses won't go with you, though, since the responder owns that content.
You can set up a publication later. A publication lets you have what approximates to a standalone website so you can feature your content however you want. We set up a PF publication and later killed it, but we’ve just started one up again (for reasons I'll explain at another time).
You can create an account and just respond, share, and recommend posts on Medium. Every response counts as a post, so you don't have to come up with a topic to write about every time.
Since folks tend to use their real names, there are far fewer trolls and spammers on Medium. It's mostly people looking for great content to read, engage with, and share.
So, if you've been thinking about starting a blog — or simply publishing your thoughts, ideas, and experiences — just go to Medium, set up an account, and start writing.