The Problem Writing What People Want To Read

The advice is loud and consistent; to be a successful writer, write what people want to read. But the advice is flawed — here’s why.

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The advice is loud and consistent; to be a successful writer, write what people want to read. But the advice is flawed — here’s why.

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The prevailing expert advice for writing success on Medium, and online in general, tells us in no uncertain terms…

Write what people want to read

I read it almost every other day in one form or another, from writers who follow the rule, find success and have the numbers to prove it.

But there is a problem with this advice.

Several in fact.

And I want to break them down here because it’s pissing me off big time.

Problem #1 — Everything Begins To Sound The Same

If everyone here is to follow the staple advice for writing success, most of what is written will begin to sound the same.

And it’s already happening.

I don’t know if it’s just my feed, but I see the same cheesy headlines, the same boring how-to-save-your-life advice, and the same pseudo-vulnerability articles over and over again.

There might be a tweak here or a tweak there, but by and large, within specific topics, there is the same stuff churned out time and time again.

For Christ’s sake, I’m even beginning to consider writing tripe like this myself!

Medium Staff, it’s nauseating.

The Medium curators who choose what to circulate on a daily basis, are presumably, a set number of people with few changes in personnel.

It’s reasonable to assume this.

It is also reasonable to assume that their preferences for content are tuned, either by design or by natural consequence (I doubt the latter), to select articles of a particular kind.

Taking my assumptions are accurate; how can we ever expect to achieve an adequate level of content diversity?


“You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless
things!” — Marullus, Julius Caesar

Problem #2 — Originality Dies

There may be a broad range of topics here on Medium, and that’s great, but the echo-chamber here breeds a lack of diversity within a given topic.

It is literary (and perhaps intellectual) in-breeding, and it kills originality.

Writers are encouraged by what they see as “working”, to write more of the same stuff — to attempt to evoke a response from the reader rather than write what’s meaningful to the writer.

In the pursuit of numbers, creative muscles slowly die as we continue to feed the algorithm.

I have been guilty of this.

It’s like the music industry.

Music biz corporates convince artists that they should work with a given producer, so they do.

So do many others, and soon they are riding high and burning bright, only to disappear when the fad dies off.

The artist is left broke, cast aside and the music corporates have moved on.

It’s a quick sugar rush, it’s fast and furious, and it’s snake oil.

It’s soulless, vacuous crap.

Problem #3 — We Pursue The Same Version of Success

What is success?

Stupid question.

You, of course, decide.

Do you adopt someone else’s, do you follow the trend or go off alone and create your own?

Up to you.

What Should I Do?

What should I do?

Should I write for you?

Should I pen you a verse that mirrors your pain?

Self-righteous advice so you may in future refrain?

Should I write what they write just to win your adornment?

Or pen something truthful to bring out your scornful

Response, to ideas born from whence I don’t know

Should I sacrifice me just to be adored, to put on a show?

Soulless, meaningless, vacuous tripe

Penned for no other reason to win cheap applause and likes

I won’t go that road; it’s not for me

One minute of that and I’ll be

Assimilated, part of the vacant trend

No more, at my end

Integrity is what matters to me

And if that means I’m alone then so it shall be

The Mindless Crowd

Crowds of people, be that online or offline, to me are automatic, dangerous, and include individuals incapable of rational, independent thought.

Most people don’t want to learn something new; they’d rather wallow in their current conditions, craving others to join them there, to reinforce their current state.

The more support, the better.

It means they don’t want to work, to go it alone, to step out into a wild and dangerous place where there is no one they can mirror themselves in.

It’s undesirable and dangerous to attempt to stand out from that crowd, so you’d better not do that.

So instead, to my greatest extents, I’ll endeavour. I’m wandering off into the open plane inside my skull, and I’m writing what I choose.

And if you don’t like it, that’s not a problem, not my problem.

My reluctant advice?

Go deep and go alone.

Find out who and what you are without the reinforcement of current conditions, without the fickle crowd.

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