A Year of Great Writing: The Most-Read Editors’ Picks of 2018

Every year, the team of editors behind Discover scours the web to find the most compelling WordPress sites and blog posts to share with you here. We look for diverse and compelling voices that cover a wide range of topics, and it’s always fascinating to see which items resonate the most with readers around the world. This year is no exception.

Here are the 15 most-read Editors’ Picks of the past year, which include web comics and pop-culture criticism, personal essays, and reflections on identity, travel, and mental health. If you’re looking for writing and blogging inspiration for the new year, reading (or revisiting) these posts is a great place to start.

15. The Internet Made Me Hate My Notebook (But I Fixed It. We’re Good Now.)

K.C. Wise’s post at Black. Bunched. Mass. Mom. is nominally about her changing attitude towards her Moleskine notebooks — but it’s also a meditation on writing, self-acceptance, and staying level-headed and grounded in a rapidly-moving digital world.

14. Grammar Purity Is One Big Ponzi Scheme

Ah, grammar! Everyone loves a heated debate about pet peeves, creative license, and unforgivable offenses. At Literaty Hub, June Casagrande takes a well-aimed shot at self-appointed grammar referees, pointing out how constantly in flux English is — and always has been.

If someone tells you that it’s wrong to X, where X is something native English speakers do regularly, you can be pretty sure the rule is bogus.

13. Stupid Inspirational Quotes

How do we heal from past pain? What do we remember — and what do we try our best to forget? Kalee, writing at Sincerely Sassy, reflects on how hard it is to sum up our messy lived experiences in neat, memorable quotes, and why so much of the advice we get often sounds like empty, if well-meaning, platitudes.

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12. Should You Write Every Day? A Close Look at the Oldest Piece of Writing Advice

Writer Nathaniel Tower frequently shares insights into the nitty-gritty process of stringing words together (and finding an audience to read them). In this post — published right at the end of last year — he applies some much-needed pressure on what has become a writing cliché: the need to sit down and put some words on the page (or screen) every single day.

11. The Problem with “Pretty Girls” and Princesses

Angela Noel blogs about topics ranging from the personal to the political on her own author’s site; in this post at Open Thought Vortex, she talks about the narratives and social constructs that shape gender roles and expectations, and offers ideas for moving the conversation forward.

Our world focuses on the looks of girls and the accomplishments of boys. Despite the best efforts of individual parents, the community begins this indoctrination practically from the moment a child is born.

10. What Is the Most Nostalgic Song of All Time?

Just a few weeks before the sad passing of The Village Voice, Airborne Toxic Event frontman Mikel Jollett wrote this viral piece on the power of music to elicit nostalgia and to shape our memories.

9. A Comic About My Bad Ass Grandmother aka Nag Finger

Lisa Lim’s MUTHA Magazine comic about her Chinese immigrant grandmother is both funny and poignant. It pays tribute to a woman who’s had an outsized role in the author’s life, but who also propagated (in ways big and small) her culture’s tendency to privilege young boys at the expense of girls.

Comic by Lisa Lim.

8. Redefining the Hero: The Extrapolated Costume Design of “Wonder Woman”

At its best, cultural criticism opens our eyes to details and elements we’d normally miss in the artifacts we consume and enjoy every day. Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez’s analysis of the costume design in Wonder Woman does just that — richly illustrated and deeply analyzed, it shows how integral Diana’s clothes are to the development of her character and to the movie as a whole.

7. You don’t have to live in public

Through his books and on his blog, artist and author Austin Kleon has empowered many a reader to find inspiration and to break through creative blocks. In this post, he goes in a different direction, encouraging us to question our digital addictions and constant connected-ness.

It seems ridiculous to say, but 2013, the year I wrote the book, was a simpler time. Social media seemed much more benign to me. Back then, the worst I felt social media did was waste your time. Now, the worst social media does is cripple democracy and ruin your soul.

6. Depression is a Loaded Gun

Published right before the beginning of 2018, veteran web designer Derek Powazek’s powerful essay on depression has resonated with thousands this year. It’s a retelling of years of struggle with mental illness, and of the ways he’s found to accept it as part of who he is.

Having depression isn’t the same as being sad. I’m sad sometimes, too. But depression is different. Depression is being empty. Being nothing. Sometimes it’s loud and sometimes it’s quiet but it’s never completely gone. It’s part of me but it isn’t me.

5. My name is Wil Wheaton. I live with chronic Depression, and I am not ashamed.

Tackling a similar topic to Derek Powazek’s post, actor Wil Wheaton shared the remarks he’d delivered earlier this year to the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ Ohio conference, in which he recounts growing up with depression and facing family members and friends who, even at their most well-meaning, still didn’t know how to help. It’s a sobering-yet-inspiring read, but also comes with actionable advice on how to seek help (whether for oneself or for someone we know).

4. The desert island

Michelle, a dietitian who blogs at The Fat Nutritionist, wrote a post that asked a thought-provoking question: what if the most difficult challenges of being fat were not about health, diet, or anything else within the power of a fat person to change, but rather all originated in the way society stigmatizes and shames fat people?

3. Three Things I’ve Learned about Grief

At once intensely personal and widely experienced, a process and a mental state, grief is a tough topic to talk about. At Be Up & Doing, Allie Lehman was up to the challenge, discussing what she’s learned about herself in the period following a close person’s death. Judging by the lively discussion in the post’s comments, her words hit a nerve among many who’ve recently experienced loss.

2. This is why you are afraid of photographing people while traveling

Photo by Lola Akinmade.

Part photo essay, part reflection on the challenges of connecting with strangers as a photographer, this post by Sweden-based travel writer Lola Akinmade was full of wisdom, heart, and vulnerability. One of the best things about it is how the struggles Lola talks about in the context of photography — fear of rejection, the inability to see the needs of others — apply in other domains as well, both professional and personal.

1. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Bloggers

Some of our most perennially popular posts on Discover revolve around the experience of blogging — finding inspiration and motivation, trying out new things, and growing one’s voice (and one’s audience) as a writer. So it came as no surprise to see Christian Mihai’s post on the qualities that help bloggers succeed become a must-read for thousands of visitors. If you need a morale boost as you embark on a new year of writing in a few short days, here’s one choice section from Christian:

You’re passionate about what you blog about, aren’t you?

I know that so many advertise being passionate about your niche that it has become such a cliché, but this does not make it any less true…

Not only do you need to feel strongly about whatever it is you’re writing, but you also need to make your readers feel it too.

They need to feel your fire.

For everyone in the Discover community: thank you for a lively 2018! If you have another favorite post from the past year to recommend, feel free to share a link (and a quick line about what made it memorable to you) in the comments.