I’m a proud man, but I don’t have a huge ego. If wrong, I have no problem admitting it. In fact, I know I have flawed judgment and my decisions are wrong most of the time. Lessons learned are by trial and error.
So, let’s start by saying I was wrong.
A few months ago, I wrote an essay on Medium. It would go on to be my most popular story ever. I haven’t figured out the appeal of the story yet, but it may have something to do with my honesty. In the story, I said I wasn’t an expert, and I didn’t know everything there is to know about Medium.
The story was about my new and improved writing process, which turned out to be impossible for me to maintain in the long run. But at the time, it was easy to think that this process was the best thing to ever come from the swarm of ideas I have floating around in my head. I didn’t think about how hard it would be to keep up such an aggressive schedule.
I’m a full-time writer, but I’m also a mentally ill writer, and I have to be careful that I don’t push myself over my limits.
What was wrong and right about my process
I was writing and taking care of the business of writing for up to 12 hours at a time and publishing 2, sometimes 3 stories a day — 7 days a week. Adding this on top of my already busy schedule proved to be my undoing.
In my defense, I was trying to turn writing into a full-time income. There were stars in my eyes and the plan was to be making thousands within my first year on Medium. I’d read the stories of other top earners and knew that if I wanted to be at the top, I’d have to work harder than everyone else.
But there was a problem and I didn’t know it.
The first clue that something was wrong was when I realized that none of my stories were being curated. At first, I blamed Medium and complained how I’d probably pissed somebody off and was on a curator blacklist.
Who doesn’t love a good conspiracy theory?
Thankfully, my writer friends came to my rescue and set me straight. Without coming out and saying I was a bad writer, they told me if I wasn’t getting curated, I didn’t need to look any further than myself. Jessica Wildfire made me look at the point of view I was writing from and got me to take a look at my perspective. Vanessa Torre, without directly saying I was being selfish, got me to see that I was being very self-centered in my writing.
There were others who happened to publish at exactly the time I needed them. Shannon Ashley was a huge influence, because she, more than anyone, had a style I wanted to mirror. She also had the work ethic that had proven to make her successful, and I wanted it for myself.
These three wonderful writers, along with the hundreds of other writers who gave me inspiration by publishing great work every day, made me realize that the problem was me, not Medium.
My writing wasn’t very good. Sure, I had my moments, but most of the stories I published were marginal at best. When I went back and looked at my work with a careful eye, I cringed at what I found.
I was writing for myself without giving value to the people reading. How could I expect others to read and clap when I was catering to an audience of one? I wasn’t adding value as much as I was trying to get everyone to like me without giving them the opportunity to know me inside and out.
I wanted to burn everything.
Instead, I set out to change. First, I started paying closer attention to great writers. I started to notice their voices and the structure they used. I started to see that the good writers gave their work personality and relatability.
I took what I learned and applied it to the writing I was doing. I found a voice and started to develop it into something I would use without thinking about it. My stories stayed personal, and I always tend to write first-person, but I started to show how my experiences could help others. I made the stories I wrote relatable and never concluded a story without sharing a lesson or nugget of information.
I didn’t set myself up to be an expert, and I used my experience as knowledge and shared it with everyone. Most of the stories I wrote were about mental health and the struggles throughout my life.
But I couldn’t keep up with the schedule I set for myself. As it always happens when I push too far, I crashed. My poor mental health became such a problem that I couldn’t write for a full week. When I was able to write, it was slow and painful.
I’ve spent the last two months crashing and recovering. My health is a constant concern for me. I’ve had to stop pushing myself and start taking care of my mind.
I was wrong when I thought my new writing process was brilliant. I had to change everything.
A new way of doing things
I’ve published much less in the past few months, but a funny thing happened as a result. Since I wasn’t constantly rushing to publish, I was able to take more time and put more effort into the quality of each story.
I still didn’t plan anything out; I prefer to fly by the seat of my pants. I’m a pantser, but I wasn’t sprinting through my process so I was missing glaring mistakes. My writing was more “put together.”
As the quality of my work got better, my stats did as well. Two of my stories were now doing better than ten of my previous. I was getting more of everything — views, reads, fans, claps, comments, highlights, followers. Where my older stories languished, my newer ones were getting over 1k claps.
I was also getting curated more often than not. I went from a 10% curation rate to an 80% rate. I was breaking ground writing in topics new to me. I was taking chances writing about new areas of mental health. I was reaching new people more than ever before because I had the time to focus on quality and I took the time to engage with everyone that I met.
Instead of my stories focusing on my day-to-day struggle, I started writing about my past experiences and how they shaped my life. I still wanted to talk about my everyday life, so I started writing all the personal anecdotes on Facebook. I use Facebook as a journal now and write about my trials and tribulations in a post, instead of clogging up Medium with the minutia.
So many people have told me that my writing has improved. It feels good. I know I still have a long way to go, but I’m willing to put in the work and improve a little each day.
I never get a big ego. Before my epiphany a few months before, I thought I had it all figured out when it came to the business of writing. I felt like all the writing and freelancing in my life had made me a good writer and I didn’t need to improve. I had blinders on when it came to myself, and it wasn’t until I saw my writing for what it was that I started improving.
When I stopped putting pressure to publish constantly on myself and started to focus on quality and improvement, things began to happen.
What this means for you
I wrote about myself a lot in this article, but like everything, there are some lessons for everyone. There are some things that may help you whether you are a mentally ill writer like me or not.
- Kill the ego — If you aren’t where you want to be, or if you aren’t getting curated, stop looking for fault elsewhere. Figure out how you can improve yourself. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been writing for 50 years, you haven’t been writing on Medium that long. Good writing is still good writing but this platform is a completely different animal. Kill the ego and figure out what you can do to be a better Medium writer. It will make you a better writer overall.
- Accept things will change — I thought my writing process was brilliant. I thought I could keep up with the 12-hour days. I thought I could publish multiple times a day forever. I couldn’t. I had to change everything. When I did, big things happened! Accept you need to change to get better. Nothing is set in stone.
- Medium is a marathon, not a sprint — I expected I would be making loads of money within a year. I soon realized that I needed to be thinking longer term. There is a lot you have to do before you get where you want to be. Take it easy on yourself and settle in. Not everyone can be successful overnight.
- Take care of yourself first — It’s very easy to get in a rut of pushing so hard that you don’t take care of your needs. This can be very damaging, especially if you have special circumstances or an illness to deal with. Remember that you need your mind, spirit, and body to get everything done in a normal day — if one part breaks, you’ll crash! Take care of yourself.
- Always seek to improve — Never settle. Always keep trying to be better than you were the day before. Be a better writer, promoter, marketer, influencer, or whatever comes into play to be professionally successful. You can always be better.
Medium is a great place to be. Imagine — we have the opportunity to make money doing the thing we love. We get to experience the joy of creating every day. Even if you may not be earning much, isn’t it worthwhile to publish whenever we want?
I’ve been writing on Medium for almost a year, but I’m not making thousands of dollars. I’m making hundreds, and I do a little better every month. I’ve changed from being a producer to a creator. I create quality writing and I have fun doing it.
For me, writing is the most fun I can have with my clothes on.
Now try to get that image out of your mind.
Find out the process I came up with after this:
This story was not curated. If you write and publish on Medium, you know what that means — a quick death. If not, it just means that it won’t be promoted to other readers on Medium.
But it doesn’t always have to be like this, and this is where I add value to your life. It works like this:
We all write free content for Medium. They don’t pay for it. The money we pay to be members is more than enough to pay the writers who are making money. In return for us writing millions of words of free content and paying the writers who engage with the readers (us again), Medium forbids us from adding any more than a simple text link to the bottom of posts to promote ourselves.
If you do everything right, you get curated.
I have no problem with that. I’ve been with Medium for over a year-and-a-half, and I absolutely fricking love that they gave me a platform to earn and share my writing. I tell everyone I know to join Medium and start writing.
But, if I don’t get curated, my stories die. I don’t earn. The only traffic I get comes in is from Google, and if the people they are sending are not Medium subscribers, I don’t get paid.
But Medium benefits greatly. Every time we bring eyeballs onto the platform, Medium gains authority and in turn, members. They also get income from writers paying them for exposure by featuring them in publications and other places on Medium, even if they aren’t members. It’s a great business model.
I thank Medium for giving me the platform, and I respect them, especially when they curate me and my stories live on.
So Medium, I love you, and if you curate me, I will follow the rules and only put a small text link to my newsletter at the bottom.
But, if I am not curated, I am going to use my work to promote myself and my brand.
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