My quest to write 500 words a day has really gone off the rails recently. It was always an ambitious goal, but I also sort of set it up for failure by not designating a time each day to write. So I found myself scrambling at the end of each and every day to get 500 words up. As I’m finally figuring out with email, everything happens more smoothly if you designate a time to do it and stick with it.
And a place.
The other problem with the 500 word goal was that this site simply didn’t seem like a great place for it. You see, I run this site on Tumblr. And while Tumblr is amazing for many things, it’s not particularly well-suited for longer-form writing. Yes, even just 500 words. The text box that pops open when you set out to do a text post says all you need to know: keep it short.
I think a problem is journalism is being overly concerned with writing for other journalists. Twitter, in particular. Journalists have so engaged on Twitter and it’s so empowering and gratifying to write an article your peers really enjoy that you can forget that your peers are very different from your readers. It can be a little bit problematic.
Things are pretty different from when I started blogging a decade ago. Twitter didn’t exist. Facebook was a social network for Harvard students. Basically, the only way to spread your words back then was either RSS or, gulp, email.
So in some ways, it’s easier to get the word out there now about what you write. But in other ways, it’s harder because there’s so much more content out there.
As you note, Medium (disclosure: in the Google Ventures portfolio) seems to be doing a good job facilitating the creation of new content and helping it spread. Tumblr has long been good at this, but honestly, I find it better for sharing pictures, links, etc, rather than longer-form blog posts. WordPress, of course has long been the standard there. Then there are newer entries like Svbtle and Hi as well.
Honestly, if I were starting out now, I’d still do what I did 10 years ago: which is write a lot. It may be discouraging at first if it seems like no one is reading what you write, but if you keep at it for long enough, people seem to have this funny way of finding you.
Be sure to link to others as well. This remains a great way for other bloggers to discover you and hopefully send some link-love back your way.
You could put ads up, but honestly, without a big enough scale, the money will be tiny. I’d focus on growing the readership first.
I’d also try to focus on one topic or a set of topics to write about most often. For those of us you mention above, that topic was obviously Apple. It certainly helped that interest in Apple stories exploded in the past decade, but I think as long as you’re passionate about something, a similar audience will find you.
The key, as with just about everything, is to stick with it.
That’s what I look for in my work: when a writer can deftly describe the human experience in a way that you didn’t think could even be put into words. That doesn’t happen often, but it gives me something to play inside. Too much of the time our culture fears subtlety. They really want to make sure you get it. And when subtlety is lost, I get upset.
The truth is that it’s both easier and harder to write 500 words on a daily basis than I imagined. When I actually sit down to do it, it’s actually fairly easy. When I start thinking about something, the words usually flow. But it’s the sitting down that’s the hard part.
As a result, I usually find myself waiting until the very end of the evening to write — like right now. It’s 11:50pm. I have 10 minutes and 400 words to go. Knowing myself, I know I like this self-inflicted deadline. I always have.