The dirty secret behind my very best writing

Hint: It’s not on Medium.

I have to make a confession. Yes, I have a blog, both here and on my own website. Yes, I write for a living, which means I get to work with awesome editors at a few different outlets. And yes, I’ve been known to write long-winded Facebook updates that cross over the invisible line between update and essay.

But of all the places I write, there’s one where I enjoy reading my own stuff the most: Yelp. Weird though it may sound, my Yelp reviews include some of my very favourite pieces of my own writing.

Only on Yelp would I confess that I once fantasized about replacing the buttons on my shirt with human eyeballs, describe a sandwich so good it could reverse a vasectomy, or recommend a restaurant for an exceptionally boring date. Only on Yelp would I collect random but valuable information like why you shouldn’t put elk in baskets, or how to cure your children of eating whole grains. Only on Yelp would I share my religious views on shoe worship, the dangers of poorly-aligned chakras, or what God intended McDonalds to be.

As you might infer, my Yelp profile isn’t strategic: I’m not trying to grow my following, and I’m not committed to any particular posting frequency. While I enjoy having that little “Elite” icon next to my name, I don’t think I’ve ever attended an Elite event or received any other material benefit from my Yelping.

What I love about Yelp — or at least, about my own writing on Yelp — is how it allows me to tell a story, and at the same time, to know that what I write is likely to be useful to other people. Here are my favorite ways of putting that power to work:

  1. Capturing memories. Yelp is our family travelogue: the one time I’m religious about reviewing every single business, restaurant and attraction we patronize is when we’re on vacation. Rather than writing generically useful reviews, I often write reviews that capture special experiences like meeting a favourite author in San Diego, our cruise through the Channel Islands, a pilgrimage to dig for rocks in rural Oregon, an epic afternoon of arts and crafts, and yes, even a trip to Target in San Francisco. I even enjoy remembering our worst moments, like the ten long minutes we spent at Fisherman’s Wharf, our trip to a poop-covered swimming hole, or that time the kid puked in the car.

In our eagerness to build a social media following or a strategic web presence, it’s easy to lose sight of writing for the pure joy of it — or to be of actual, immediate service. But that kind of writing is truly a five-star experience.

This post originally appeared on

Author, Remote Inc: How To Thrive at Work…Wherever You Are. Tech speaker. Writer & data journalist for Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review & more.

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