How long have you been writing on Medium?
Yesterday marked my first anniversary. It almost slipped past me. Nobody sent me flowers or anything.
Maybe because the story I published wasn’t very memorable. The day was. It was the day I began a new adventure that I am still enjoying today. But it started with this piece, which was my first on the subject of photography. I got it published in Writers’ Blokke, and over the last 366 days, it has earned me a grand total of $0.42
But today, I post my 421st article on Medium and, if you, dear readers, will just help a brother out, maybe it will clear a buck or two.
But I wanted to share some of the things I have learned along the way, and mayhap one that I have, well, not.
Four Things I Have Learned
Learn the System
Medium is a system like any other. And to succeed in it, you need to understand how it works. If you want to succeed on it. Maybe you just want a place to post whatever strikes your fancy. And that’s one of the nice things about this platform. They don’t care what you post. But again, if you want to earn some money here, you need to care what you post.
Remember the movie Happy Gilmore? Adam Sandler’s character swung his golf club like a hockey stick. And he succeeded. But that was a movie. In real life, you can’t do that. You have to learn the system. When and how to use which driver, which wood, how to putt. It’s a system. To succeed, you have to learn it.
Fortunately, many people have come before you that are willing to teach you the ropes. Because it is a system. And for any system to succeed, all the moving parts need to succeed. That’s you. For this thing to work, people have to come here and grow. So read all those posts on what to do and not to do. Even the crazy ones about how to make a million dollars overnight. You just might learn something.
Luck Be A Lady
Learning how to play golf doesn’t mean you will succeed at it. And learning how Medium works doesn’t guarantee you will succeed at it either. There is some luck involved. You post two similar articles, and one goes viral, and the other tanks. Maybe your title wasn’t good enough on the second one, or the picture you chose didn’t attract readers.
Or maybe, it was just blind luck.
I have encountered the exact same thing with my stock photography. I submit a picture. For whatever reason, someone sees it right away and buys a copy. Now it is higher in the rankings, so more people see it, which hopefully means more people buy it. Which puts it higher in the rankings and so on.
It’s not quite the same here, but the right people seeing it at the right time can make a difference. Editor A sees it and thinks it’s brilliant instead of editor B, who is having a bad day. It gets picked up right away and published instead of sitting there for a few days and falling down the rankings.
It hits the right place on the right page at the right time, and the right people read it and share it on social media. You can’t plan viral. You can do the wrong things and guarantee it won’t go viral. But doing all the right stuff never guarantees it will go viral.
Another movie metaphor. Rocky Horror. Did you see it? Of course, you did. Everybody saw it. Because it went viral long before the term was even invented. So, one day, years later, Richard O’Brien and Jim Sharman decided to make another one. After all, the first one made them a ton of money; let’s do that again. Did you see that one? Me neither. Nobody saw it. I don’t even remember the name of it.
You can’t make viral.
Don’t Just Write What You Want to Write
Success here is an iterative process. Success builds on success. Volume will eventually win out. To succeed here, you have to be consistent. You have to keep writing. Maybe not every day like me, but at least once a week, preferably more.
But you have to write what works, not just whatever you want. That first article didn’t work, but not because there was anything wrong with it. I first needed to build a following. I had to develop a group of readers that wanted to learn about photography. Eventually, I started a publication, which made those articles much more successful.
But I have written on other subjects that just never took off. I have written hundreds of articles about construction. That didn’t work here. Maybe I could build a following, but it just didn’t seem worth the effort.
Memoirs don’t do well here. For the most part. Every once in a while, I have struck a chord. But nobody really cares how you spent your summer vacation.
So, if you want to succeed, you have to write what works. Even if there have already been a thousand articles on the subject, people want to read about it and can’t wait for number 1,001.
Write From the Heart
Be real. Be genuine. We can tell the difference. If you are real, we will get to know you. Some of us will like you and keep reading you. You can’t worry about those that don’t.
Unless there are a lot of them. Then you might need to go back to step one.
This is a place where people come to read stuff. Some of it is entertainment, and some of it is informational. Most of it is both. You can’t make it here with cold hard facts. You aren’t writing a carburetor manual. You need to engage with the readers. And for that, you need to be real.
I’m going to leave the movie metaphors for a minute because most of his movies sucked. But Stephen King is one of the most successful authors of all time. Not because he scared people. Because he was genuine. And therefore, his characters were authentic. You got to know them and care about them. You didn’t want them to get eaten by the monster.
Be real in your writing.
The One Thing I Have Not Learned
Don’t Just Write What You Want to Write
As I said in the heading of the same name above, to succeed, you have to be consistent. You have to write a lot. And to do that, you have to enjoy what you are doing. Well, you don’t have to. You could treat it like a job. A boring, tedious job full of endless drudgery.
But screw that.
If you write what you want, you will keep writing. If you don’t, eventually you will fade away. So write what you feel like writing. Figure out what works and keep doing it. And that’s the key. Figure out what you like to write about that works within the system.
But every once in a while, cut loose. I have written many articles, I knew would get no traction. But it’s something I wanted to say at the time. It was something I had to write right then. And that’s the great thing about Medium. You can do that.
Sometimes, just write whatever the hell pops into your head.
I know a few of you have been with me for almost the entire ride. And for that, I am genuinely grateful. For, if not for you, I probably wouldn’t still be here. I would have slinked off back to Content Content and wrote about heater repairs and bumper pool tables.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all my loyal readers, and welcome to the new ones.
I will try and not disappoint.