I’m on the low rung of “successful” Medium writers. I’ve had several articles featured, and nearly everything I post behind the paywall gets curated. My following is growing, but the numbers aren’t eye-popping. It’s all accidental, though. I couldn’t tell you why the editors and curators chose my work and not someone else’s. For whatever reason, I seem to be in sync with what they want. For now. I know that might change on a dime, as things often do on these platforms.
I entered this space last May and decided to post about what interested me. The intersection of race, gender, politics, and pop culture is where I find most of my material. Pretty early on, I realized I was never going to be one of those writers who posted daily. It takes me too long to produce most of my essays. Have I had a flash that I wrote up in a couple of hours that did fairly well? Yes. Most of the time, though, it takes a while for my thoughts to form fully. I almost never go with my first instinct on a story. I watch the discussion unfold, and only if I feel I have something to add to the dialogue do I raise my voice. It can take some time for this process to unwind. It takes more time for me to put everything to paper. I’m a sloppy typist and a horrible proofreader, so it takes me even more time to clean things up. Most of my work unfolds over a couple of days, sometimes longer. I spent all of last week down a rabbit hole of research and rumination that I don’t think is going to come to anything I can post. At least not right now. I don’t consider the time wasted, though. I can tell from past experience that the insights I gained will probably be valuable down the line.
I’m not “winning” the Medium game. I’m not fast enough or snappy enough. In addition, some of what I write makes people uncomfortable. I don’t pull any punches when I talk about race or the dangers the construct of Whiteness poses to people of color. I also go in on capitalism with regularity. That’s another reason my work takes time. These aren’t ideas that should be discussed carelessly. There’s too much at stake. Choice of language matters a great deal. I don’t always get it right. Nevertheless, I take the responsibility to be uncompromising but measured seriously. I try not to jump out the window.
I also take the craft of writing seriously. I want to improve. I want to become the best version of myself, and that means being the best writer I can be. I don’t think becoming a hot take machine will help me get there. Another giant time suck for me is tackling topics I don’t know if I have the skills to write. It’s frustrating and takes a lot of starting over and rewriting. I can feel the improvement, though. It’s quite a good feeling to accomplish something you didn’t think you could. Like this piece that took weeks of work:
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It’s possible to make good money on Medium. Some people can live on their earnings. They tend to be prolific. There’s a very real opportunity cost to the way I’ve chosen to go about this. I do check my stats and try to figure out what’s resonating with readers and why. Nevertheless, I don’t look for hacks or ways to game the system. Mainly because the system is always changing. Putting myself at the mercy of the algorithm doesn’t seem like a solid long-term plan. The editors and curators can be given different directives tomorrow. The rules for publications could change. Again. The work. Its quality. That’s what I can control.