This December, I was offered the chance to write for Medium’s Writing Pilot Program. It’s has been a fun and educational journey, and I wanted to take a moment to reflect on some of the challenges and lessons I have experienced so far. I hope these tips and thoughts can help other up-and-coming or part-time writers like me who share my experiences.
1. Start observing things in your daily life with more scrutiny
One of the very first things that writing on Medium caused me to do was to be more mindful of my daily experiences. Since I was writing about Design and Human Factors, I started paying closer attention to things like checkout aisles at grocery stores, applications on my phone, dials in my car, switches on kitchen appliances, etc. — anything that Human Factors principles could be applied to — to make my field more relatable to the average reader. In the process, I learned to look at the world from a writer’s point of view, searching for a story in every object and experience.
2. Keep up to date with the news, and look at how certain stories may relate to your field
I found that topical issues that are relevant to current issues are a good way to make technical topics accessible to the average reader. I looked actively for stories regarding COVID-19, airplane incidents, and even the Presidential Election to see how Human Factor concepts could be related to them.
Encouraging myself to think in this way led to one of my most-read stories about how COVID-19 has been affecting decision-making, which was published in the Medium publication, Forge. Some other interesting ones include data representation in the US election results, or automaticity and flying.
3. When faced with a block, keep thinking about the topic and related words
Many a time, I knew that I wanted to write about a certain topic such as sleep hygiene or online learning. But found myself lacking clarity of thought on how I could relate those topics to what I knew and studied. So, I’d continue thinking about those topics throughout my day. Keeping these topics in the back of my mind usually yielded a ‘Eureka’ moment of sorts just before I went to sleep that night.
Inspiration would strike me either as a potential first sentence, or a topic that could be connected to a concept from Human Factors. Once this happened, I could easily overcome my writer’s block.
4. Don’t lose track of why you started writing
This is something that I still struggle with but have recognized. Ever since I got my first major earnings out of the article about COVID-19 decision-making, I found myself striving to write more about topics that would receive a similar kind of acceptance and viewership. If they didn’t perform well I’d be discouraged, even though objectively, I was receiving requests from independent publications to publish my work.
This interfered with my main goal — which was to write about what I find interesting in my field and to share my passion with my readers.
It is easy to get sidetracked by a monthly or weekly quota of articles, or by secondary goals such as money, publications, and viewership. But, it is imperative to remain authentic to yourself and your writing motivations.