Starting out on Medium in 2019, I wrote mainly about my job, faith, and mental health. I only had a small circle of people I read through Medium Facebook groups in the beginning, but that circle then grew, and I thank God every day that I am graced to read great, underrated writers here, who are the biggest inspirations to my own writing.
Through the luck of God, I’ve been able to make something for myself on this platform. Since last year and the pandemic, I’ve learned to stop restraining myself and give every topic a go, and it has paid dividends. I’ve gotten more into satire, true crime, history, and I learned that the best thing you can do as a writer is write, since I used to obsess about stats and a lot of other trivial things outside my control.
As always, my favorite pieces on Medium are more personal than anything. But I realize my favorite writers don’t have one niche — they are versatile, and can thread the needle between the personal, humorous, analytical, and instructional. Here are my 13 favorite writers in 2020.
Mansa is one of my favorite writers on Medium, and he’s not one of the most well-known. However, I love his ability to write about controversial topics and not be afraid to express himself. He is someone who deserves to be read more — he isn’t afraid to tackle issues many other writers would stay away from, and I first checked out Mansa’s work after he commented on a piece about my parents stopping my brother from joining the Marines. In one piece, Mansa talks about the nuances of being Black and supporting gun rights, supporting the right to self-defense, and for people of color to arm themselves. He has also written about his anti-Black prejudice as a Black man, which I resonated a lot with personally as someone with my anti-Chinese prejudice as a Chinese man. This is a very interesting read that I recommend everyone check out:
Joe is another writer who isn’t afraid to write about controversial and very taboo topics. Search Joe Duncan and you’ll see that he’s a master at writing eye-catching headlines that aren’t clickbait: “The Psychology of Fellatio,” “The Psychology of Double Penetration,” and “The One Thing No Guy Will Admit to Women.” No taboo topic is out of range for Joe — but it isn’t the headlines that define Joe’s writing — it’s the nuanced thought. He is an editor at Sexography, and one particular favorite piece he wrote is about the importance of free speech in academia. He’s someone I look up to on the platform for his boldness and fearlessness in his writing, and a constant lesson that playing it safe is the worst thing you can do. I had a politically oriented piece I spent a lot of time writing that I knew would have a lot of blowback. I didn’t want to publish it because of the repercussions — Joe convinced me otherwise, and it’s been my most successful piece this month.
Amardeep came onto Medium in 2020 as a newcomer but has absolutely taken Medium by storm since, becoming an editor at Entrepreneur’s Handbook, one of Medium’s largest publications, and having his entrepreneurship and self-improvement articles go viral with almost every piece. Amardeep is the anti-Christ of the “write every day” movement, and you won’t see him publish much — these days, it’s about three or four times a month. But Amardeep focuses much more on quality than forcing out a piece and writes informative, valuable pieces to all his readers’ lives. Not only that, but Amardeep, as a technology consultant, is a master UX designer, making unique, eye-catching photos with each piece. My personal favorite is his Mind Cafe piece on ikigai: “Stop seeking to do what you enjoy, instead enjoy what you do.”
In 2020, I started writing satire. And it was a welcome addition to my writing and my repertoire because I was taking my writing too seriously. But as I read pieces from Kyrie that made me laugh out loud, I started writing more of my own satire, some written in Onion-related styles, some written in other formats. I’ve learned more about humor writing from Kyrie than anyone else: I’ve learned the importance of a premise, and the importance of heightening throughout my pieces, and now my humor writing is among my most successful on the platform. One of Kyrie’s most popular pieces satirizes the overabundance and cliches of self-help’s “wake up at 5 a.m.” trend, and it’s a must-read.
Juliette is a nurse who has worked through the pandemic, and she is a fellow editor on Invisible Illness. She has made me a better writer, and she has made me a better editor. Her writing simply entrances to anyone who stumbles upon it, and her poetry about mental health, relationships, and family is the best on the platform. One of her most powerful and inspiring pieces this year was “I Left My Husband to Die,” a harrowing testimony of a woman suffering domestic violence with an abusive and suicidal husband. It is one of the strongest and most powerful pieces to grace Medium. After reading, all you can think is…wow.
Nikki is someone I collaborate and talk with a lot. We’ve been honored by her column at Invisible Illness on parenting, mental health, and trauma. Her writing gives voice to many who go struggle with mental health and is incredibly personal to her own experiences parenting a non-verbal daughter and dealing with abusive parents. Not only that, but she has written this year while having a newborn child born during the pandemic. Her most successful piece, which everyone should read, is about being labeled a slut as a teenager, being treated with judgment and vitriol, and the long-term effects on her. While that piece is one of her finest, each one of Nikki’s pieces is incredibly personal, and delves into a different part of her life, whether it’s about setting boundaries, childhood trauma, or giving birth during COVID-19.
Edward is also someone I’ve interacted a lot with during the pandemic and during my time on Medium. He is a master at storytelling and narrative, and he is a major part of the reason I’ve found a home writing in the true crime genre. As an editor at CrimeBeat, Edward uses true crime cases to make ties to larger societal themes, and he is great at writing introductions that pull the reader in — in almost every one of his pieces, every case, no matter how obscure, everyone can relate. His most successful piece is about Thomas Gilbert Jr., a privileged heir who eventually murdered his ex-girlfriend’s husband.
I don’t agree with everything Ayo says, but I’m wowed by his style and his consistency in self-improvement. For someone who doesn’t like reading self-help that much, reading Ayo’s work always provokes significant thought, whether I agree or disagree. One of Ayo’s best, in my opinion, was recent, in an incredibly personal and vulnerable piece that documents his past as a self-proclaimed “former asshole,” and how he’s changed and reformed his life since. It’s one of the best pieces I’ve read on this platform, with Ayo sharing things most people would rather hide and keep secret, and take pride in his struggles as a reference point to the new person he is now:
I think Timothy is the most underrated writer on Medium. His writing about addiction and mental health are just incredibly harrowing, and for a lack of better description, every sentence sounds like music. I always feel like Timothy’s writing sings. He holds nothing back, no details that most people would rather keep secret, and no recollection of grief or trauma. It’s always an honor having his writing in Invisible Illness, and I take a lot of pride in helping Timothy gain more traction through curation and editorial feedback, more so than almost anything else on the platform.
Erik is someone I’ve engaged with since almost the beginning of my time on Medium, and he always engages with very thoughtful feedback, whether he agrees or disagrees with what I write. Erik is actually mostly the reason I started writing history — Erik has a great skill at making history relatable to present-day lessons in self-improvement and more. Recently, he wrote about how the samurai dealt with stress and anxiety, an informative and valuable read.
Kristi has held no punches back on Medium and isn’t afraid to call out anyone, myself included. Kristi continually reminds me of the importance of giving back to the writers and readers who supported me to make it where I am now. I came onto the platform around the same time as Kristi and love her writing style, which is incredibly honest, all the time. She has written about the inequities of the platform, as well as travel and family. This year, Kristi has suffered an insurmountable personal tragedy: her son passed away. The same day her son died, she encountered two women on a lake in the Canadian Rockies, and how her world broke that day.
Anupam writes a lot of coding, programming, and technology-related articles that go way above my head. Maybe I’ll understand those pieces one day, but Anupam is also a killer and hilarious satirist. I can read his satire all day and never stop laughing — my favorite is “If Trump Was A Programmer,” which uses almost verbatim Trump rhetoric for common programming issues like when a product fails, when a bug is reported, and during the early stages of development.
Don’t worry — I couldn’t make it to the end of the list without forgetting about Felicia. Felicia is one of the best, if not the best writer on Medium. Her voice and style are incredibly powerful, and she is not afraid to speak her mind and be vulnerable about her life. Simultaneously humorous, instructional, and personal, Felicia is as good as they come. As a professional marketer and someone who has written two books, and is working on a third, Felicia is never afraid to call out B.S. Her piece about writing advice was the most inspirational for how I approach my own writing — writing first, everything else second. It’s a sense of relief to every person on this platform. I am still reading through her first book, The Sky Isn’t Visible From Here, and I won’t spoil anything — you’ll have to read it yourself, and it’s well worth the read.
Happy new year, everyone. 2020 is over, but we had some great writing here in the process!
Originally published on December 31, 2020, on The Partnered Pen.