Professional Medium Editors Taught Me a Seriously Valuable Writing Lesson

Their mere presence pushes us into becoming a new kind of “pro”

Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

Over the last year or so, I’ve had the opportunity to work with and get to know professional editors on this platform.

At first, when Medium made the announcement they’d be growing out their own pubs and bringing on outside writers and staffing up, I didn’t understand why platforms always felt the need to pivot when something’s already working.

“Are we not good enough?” I thought.

“If people clearly like what we’re doing, shouldn’t that be embraced?”

“Do they think we’re not strong enough thinkers and writers?”

“Am I too simple?”

But the more I got to know the “new” writers and editors on a more personal level, especially over the last six months, a theme slowly began to show its face that surprised me: instead of looking down on us like me and a lot of my friends assumed, many of the professional writers and journalists told me they really admire us for figuring out how to get our words to spread without having a background in the writing world.

“Do you have any tips to make the transition onto Medium?”

“What do you think I should be doing to better connect?”

“We come from a different world and what you guys are able to do is really cool. You’re scrappy!”

I’ll be the first to admit that on the outside, it’s hard to see this. But from what I’ve gathered, it’s the case with the majority. And I hate the fact that even when writing this my mind immediately goes to “them” and “us” as when I hear from other indie writers who’ve written in Medium-owned pubs, the feedback is always the same — they’re pretty normal and cool people.

It’s also been nice to see editors at Forge testing different styles, writing short posts about ideas writers who don’t even write for them have published, and other editors literally using the puppy of an indie writer I know as the cover image for an article before dedicating a post to how damn good he is.

That’s them making an effort.

That’s them saying they see us.

When you think about the number of pitches, posts, and messages they have to deal with, for a small team handling hundreds of thousands, I think taking time out of their already over-booked day to do that is cool.

And I’d be willing to bet not a lot of writers reach out to them to say — “Thanks for being you as you’re doing good work!”

As I said, I didn’t want the pros around when the door was opened and I didn’t like the fact that they were immediately prioritized. Looking back on it though, that was for one simple reason: I was scared that they’d take our place because let’s face it — when it comes to technical writing — they blow us away. Also when it comes to running a company, I’d imagine that any of us would do whatever we could to bring in top talent and push the messages we want to see in the world. I know I certainly would.

Plus, when you think about it, outside writers and internal pubs being prioritized wasn’t the writer’s or editor’s call, it was the leadership’s call, and from getting to know a few of the editors the last thing they seem to be worried about is walking down the red carpet. Fast forward a few years, and despite complaining like the best of them at times, I think it was the right decision to bring people in as I don’t know about you, but just their mere presence drove me to take my writing more seriously. When comparing the quality of the average successful Medium indie writer today to a few years ago, it’s not even close. Even though that’s hard to put a number on, from where I’m sitting, having seasoned pros around will benefit both Medium and readers for years to come.

To stay relevant, we had to do what indie writers do best and fight to be heard and without even realizing it, setting a higher-bar pushed us to push ourselves.

In short, whether we see it or not, they helped make us a new kind of “pro.”

Some people see the recent changes as “us” winning this fight and Medium’s way of giving more control to people who drive subscriptions. I really hope that’s not the case as it’s not about winning or being right about what Medium readers want.

It’s about figuring out a way to blend our worlds as there’s gotta be something cool waiting at the end of two groups of talented people coming together who do things differently.

I like to do this thing where I think of the one true word to describe something. For me, my one true word for Medium is and always has been “Discovery.”

This doesn’t only mean the discovery of new writers — which to me is quite possibly the coolest mission of any company on earth and something Medium should take serious pride in as every day they give people like me and you a shot.

But I’m also talking about the discovery of ourselves, the discovery of our tribes, and lastly, the discovery of how different people move forward in the world because no one has a road-map for whatever this is and no one is immune to getting lost and this includes the people steering the ship.

I’ve never written a thought piece about Medium before. I don’t have any plans to do this again as I prefer simple things and navigating the online world right now can’t be easy because shit, I like to think I have a good head on my shoulders, but I still don’t even know how to effectively use Mailchimp.

I guess what I’m trying to say is I really like the editors and journalists I’ve met. They may type differently than “us”, but they’re a lot like “us.”

Because at the end of the day, we’re all here to do the same thing — make cool shit!

Co-creator of 2 cool boys with an equally cool woman • Career Coach • Business Insider, Fast Co., Forbes • Follow along for career tips and life reminders.

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