Finding my medium
How I found a way to hear the voice I've been listening to for years
Back in the day, I wrote a satirical news blog called “The Wolf Report.” It was kind of like the Onion, only better. Okay, not better. But mine.
I’ve got a good sense of humor—at least according to everyone who is not my wife. I’ve learned the trick to writing stuff that makes people laugh.
Here’s the trick.
The trick is that there’s no trick. Write a line, and if it doesn’t work, rewrite it. And rewrite it. Sometimes I’ve had to rewrite the lines that came up to the line that doesn’t work.
Sometimes I’ve had to give up and come back later.
Sometimes I’ve had to give up entirely.
Finding the voice
I’ve learned that after writing and rewriting and rewriting (and rewriting), something changes. I’ve called this “finding the voice.”
Every piece that I write has its voice.
I know the voice when I see it (or hear it after seeing it.) Once the voice appears, the writing gets easy. The piece seems to “write itself,” as they say.
Sometimes it takes me a long time to find the voice.
It would be if I had a better way to find the voice.
Today I realized that I might have a better way.
The better way
Don’t write. Write to someone. The best way, I’ve found, is in a chat app.
Don’t write something long. Write a series of short things. Chat apps force me to do that.
When possible, make it a conversation. Sometimes I’ll write a long series of short things to someone who is not reading it. That’s ok. Other times, I call tell they’ve received what I’ve sent. That’s better. Other times, they’ll reply. That’s best.
Decide who to write to. Who is the friend (or acquaintance) who would be most interested in what you want to write about? Who is likely to contribute criticism or ideas?
Write to someone else—Copy-paste the conversation, an entry at a time, into another chat app with another person.
Collect it all and put it into a blog post. Publish the post.
Summarize the post in a series of Tweets.
How I discovered The Better Way
I’d been having a WhatsApp chat with Jonathan, the BFINM (Best Friend I’ve Never Met.) Near the end of the chat, I asked him if he’d ever read “Winning through Intimidation.” I expected a “no.”
So instead of a no, I got:
I should have expected it. It’s a cult classic, and who but my BFINM would be in that cult with me?
The next morning he’d replied to the last thing I’d written in the chat. I was off and running.
I wrote, in WhatsApp-sized chunks, about what I’d learned from “Winning from Intimidation.” Then followed with a series of related things I’d learned.
And there I had it. My medium. Conversation.
I was writing “to Jonathan” and not just writing. That made a difference.
And I was writing in chunks and not writing an essay. That made a difference.
I was onto something.
The next day I copy-pasted the conversation into a Substack draft and started what became this post.
And before that, I wanted to write about Jonathan, so I wrote this (cited above). I did it by going back to the first chat conversation I had with Jonathan and building the post around that.
And I remembered that I’d had long chat conversations with Justin and Daniel and others, all preserved in the cloud because I am a cyborg.
And for the first time ever, I started a Twitter thread.
The future is now
That was a couple of days ago. Since then, I’ve been flexing my muscles and doing more of the same.
Maybe it’s a fad.
Maybe it will last.
For now, I’ve found my medium.
If this turns out to be your medium, you might want to subscribe. You can probably figure out how to do it.