This is the power of art: The power to transcend our own self-interest, our solipsistic zoom-lens on life, and relate to the world and each other with more integrity, more curiosity, more wholeheartedness.
So many Stories!
I have only been writing on Medium for a few months, but in that short time I have noticed some trends in how people write. Writers on Medium come in many varieties. And judging by the amazing following many writers have, they are scratching an itch and meeting a need.
Some people are drawn to erotica. Stories like, “My best orgasm EVER” (its all down hill from here), or “The day I got laid while in the McDonalds Drive through line” (would you like fries with that?).
Some people enjoy topical writing such as art, history, science politics, etc. I can enjoy a good story about the history of electricity, or a review of ancient Chinese military tactics, or a comparison of contemporary classical music genres (I prefer polystylism). A good story about the life of Lincoln or Churchill would be a great read too.
Many authors write formulaic pieces like “The Five Ways I Avoid Commitment” (I had trouble sticking it out to finish that one), “The 6 Things You MUST Do to Succeed In Your Career” (If you don’t read this story you are doomed to failure), or “The 17 Reasons I Don’t Like Sausage” (Aren’t you dying to know?).
I have come to the conclusion that the best way to be a rebel (don’t we all have a little James Dean in us) is to write about whatever crosses your mind and damn the critics, ignore the statistics, and don’t worry about the Partner Program payments.
To be honest it is easier for me to say that than some more experienced writers on Medium, as my statistics look like Mel Gibson’s newsletter subscription list in “Conspiracy Theory”, and I can barely buy a hamburger off my partner program profits in a month. My goal for next month is to earn enough to get a combo meal(!).
So what should you write about, and how should you go about it?
Sitting down and picking a topic to write about is hard for me. I have found that ideas pop up at odd times during the day. I wind up writing down short story ideas as I think about them so they don’t evaporate. I don’t develop all of them. I just wait to see which idea leaps out at me when I decide to write. And while I don’t really schedule those times, they generally happen when I am winding down for bed. So I guess I am not a schedule driven writer. I can’t see myself retiring and spending each day in the conservatory from breakfast to dinner generating a steady pace of two sentences a minute.
You might write a variety of stories in any month depending on what is on your mind: a sarcastic review a political debate you just saw, a bitter tale of office politics after that nasty meeting with corporate, a thoughtful piece on children with special needs after a trying day meeting your autistic child’s needs, a motivational piece on facing your fears and moving ahead after failure after you lost that job you wanted so badly, a heart wrenching tale about suicide recalling the loss of a spouse, a technical story about renewable energy since you are excited about solar power, or a factual piece outlining the structural changes needed to make health care more efficient because you are sick of politicians reducing this complex problem down to policy sound bites.
More importantly, who am I to be giving advice?
As I have said in previous stories, I am often writing to myself. So, if something I say here resonates with you that is great — and I would love to hear from you. But I am very much a novice at this craft. I feel that writing what moves you — when it moves you — is the road less traveled. But in the long run, I am betting it will be the most rewarding road for me to take — and I am following it at a trot.
Be Naked And Vulnerable In Your Writing
I suddenly realize that I’m naked, which shouldn’t bother me since it’s the phone, but for some reason it does.
There is a feeling of satisfaction and even outright joy when exposing ones heart in a story. However, it entails risk. It is akin to psychological and emotional nudity. We throw away the fig leaf of convention and open ourselves to everyone. What if everyone laughs at me? What if people notice my flaws? It takes some courage.
An essential element of any art is risk. If you don’t take a risk then how are you going to make something really beautiful, that hasn’t been seen before? I always like to say that cinema without risk is like having no sex and expecting to have a baby. You have to take a risk.
André Gide in Poétique:
Rolling the dice, letting the chips fall where they may, and laying your balls on the counter with a “This is who I am. Take it or leave it” attitude smacks of real art to me. I am pouring out my spirit in prose. It may suck. It may be beautiful. It may be just ok. But it is authentic. When I resort to a formula —and I must admit that sometimes I have done that — I feel my story is less.
Am I becoming a snob? I don’t think so. I don’t have the skill or countless followers to justify snobbery (snobbishness? snobbiness?). But I honestly do not feel the draw of stories like: “My Best Orgasm Ever”, or “The 36 Ways You Make Women Hate You Without Realizing It”, Or “I Hate Cheese”.
Actually that last one sounds promising… perhaps some really good sarcasm. Sarcasm is my love language…
You Have to Start Somewhere
“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it.
That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.”
― Octavia E. Butler
I know that some of my work is better than others, and I am okay with that. It can only go up from here. I am writing for me. I am going to try to make it real, spill my guts, be authentic, be spontaneous, and have fun with it — unless I feel like bitching, or crying, or something else.... whatever….
In the end, I am going to trust in myself, and I am going to write to myself. If others find enjoyment in my writing that is awesome and magical. I hope to achieve the level of passion, skill and openness some day to touch others as my writing touches me.
I will continue to share my heart and enjoy the great stories others share with me on Medium every day.
“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
― Sylvia Plath