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I See an Intense Anxiety Expressed About “Status” On Medium

  • 7 min read

Most writers fall into an abyss of comparison.

Is my writing worth reading? Am I worth “success”?

I don’t only write on Medium.

I also write on Substack and put pen to paper for my scripts on my YouTube channel.

From the emails, DMs, and comments I receive I’ve got the feeling that there’s an intense anxiety about “status” on Medium.

Especially among new writers or people 50+, this is a thing.

Some people feel a lot of pressure to grow their Medium presence. Grow their audience. Why? They want to earn some extra money, turn their hobby into a side hustle, a full-time writing job, or simply want to get attention online.

Apparently, when I share “success stories” about other writers such as Anne Bonfert or Michelle Teheux many feel bad.

Apparently, what is supposed to inspire others often disheartens my followers and subs.

I’m really sorry if you’re reading this and nod your head right now.

I’m really sorry.

That’s NOT my intention. I want to inspire you. Learn from others. See that follower counts can be a vanity metric, or that others also struggle to get Boosted but then after putting some research and labor into it, finally succeed!

There are also the questions:

“Is it worthwhile to write on Medium or should I quit?”

“Is my writing worthwhile because I only earn a few dollars?”

and…

“Is my writing worth reading? Am I worth “success”?”

In my opinion, when writing on Medium the main purpose should be to write and publish original and authentic stories that come from the heart.

  • If you write on your own blog it takes months to get seen and read and you write in a silo.
  • If you want to become a freelance writer you have to offer your services on Fiverr or other platforms but also your expertise (except you offer your services for free).

Writing on Medium can be anxiety-provoking.

What some writers promote in their courses with “you can get published besides names such as bestselling author Ryan Holiday” makes many people really anxious.

Often they feel they will never get to that point when writing. Becoming a “published author” is only a dream. This can’t become a reality. Even if a handful of Medium writers got their book deals.

Legends such as Tim Denning who are popping up in our feeds every day can make us anxious and jealous. Most of us aren’t full-time writers. We are part-time writers. We can’t pump out as much (quality) writing as full-time writers.

Of course, there are some who are seeing a huge increase in their followers. That’s great. However, when I ask them about their earnings they often share that they don’t earn more with the bigger follower base.

Talking about (vanity) metrics.

There are so many writers making themselves miserable by focusing on (external) engagement metrics. In addition, there are some who are obsessed about getting Boosted. They are putting a lot of work into analyzing Boosted stories from others and trying to write about similar topics, copy their frameworks, or get published in the Boost-eligible pubs those writers were published in.

“This is what the ego does. It crosses out what matters and replaces it with what doesn’t”, is what Ryan Holiday says in “Ego is the Enemy”.

Whereas some feel invisible, there are also others who think they are entitled to be seen and read.

The truth is, we’re not!

There are hundreds of thousands of writers on Medium and on other socials.

I still remember the day when a 50+ blogger visited our agency in Frankfurt Germany. Back then, I was working for the world’s biggest agency. So one evening this blogger talked about how she grew her blog from zero to one of the most successful 50+ blogs in Germany. A zero to hero story that INSPIRED me.

She only heard crickets when she started. She also heard her husband smashing the door and leaving her for a younger one one night.

She was wondering: “Is there anyone out there interested in my stuff? I’m 50-something. My kid is out of the house, my husband left me for a younger woman, is my life worthless, am I worthless? Who would read my writing?”

After publishing for 300 days straight and sitting down every single evening on her couch and instead of watching TV, writing, she was thinking about quitting.

“Just one more story and I’ll give up,” she said to herself that night.

Guess what happened the next day?

She got her first comment on her tiny place on the internet!

Here on Medium, you’re not writing in a silo. There are so many writers (me included) who are loud. Who are making noise about their (small) wins.

But you know what? Except for some writers most of us are putting the work into writing here. This means we want to become better online writers.

We’re not overnight success stories. We fail, we cry, we scream, we want to throw our laptop out of the window…

10K is “nothing” compared to the “success” other fellow writers are seeing at the moment. However, they don’t earn more than me. They simply get more followers. But followers are what people see and compare themselves with.

“He has 5K, I only have 500…”

“She got published by publication X, I got rejected!”

“How come she can write so much/good (insert whatever you feel jealous about)?”

Now with Medium’s badges, people feel anxious about “status”.

  • The author badge is here for authors. “I don’t have a book!”
  • The Medium friend badge is here. “I can’t afford to pay 150 USD when I only earn 5 USD per month.”

When I shared my story about Medium’s new friend badge I got an email from someone asking me if he would now even earn less because he won’t join or if he won’t get Boosted anymore, what if people don’t share his friend links because he can’t reciprocate this gesture.

Writing can be a hobby but it can also be a side hustle.

No matter what writing “is” for you, it should be a labor of love. Can we agree on this?

While writing this I watched Surf Girls Hawai’i. Usually, I don't watch TV or binge-watch Amazon Prime video, but I’m really frustrated today.

We’re driving home for a pre-Christmas party in a few days and I wanted to batch create some stories.

Since my hubby (full-time software dev and part-time YouTube and course instructor) has to work in the night for his side hustle, I’m the one who cares about our baby girl while our toddler is asleep.

My baby girl is awake every 30 minutes and wants some milk.

I try to write with one hand but it’s exhausting.

It’s so frustrating at the moment because I feel behind! My next YouTube video is waiting to be finished. My newsletter issue is still in draft mode. I haven’t submitted a piece of writing to The Shortform yet…

So I’m watching Surf Girls Hawai’i for a few minutes. Why? Because it’s fun and reminds me of my honeymoon on Oahu and Maui. I love watching those female big-wave surfers.

One of them is the 21-year-old Puamakamae Desoto. She talks about how pressure takes away the love for surfing.

There’s one scene in which they are sitting by the ocean and pro surfer Koral Mccarthy asks her:

“So what's the overall goal?”

“You grew up loving surfing because it's so much fun and the ideal is to do what you love as your job, but it’s hard. Do whatever brings you joy.”

If you love competing, compete.

If you don’t keep surfing as a part of your life that brings you joy.

Just make sure you’re loving it along the way and you don't lose touch with that fine joy it brings you.

I’d like to leave you with this for today.

Comparing is a dead-end job.

The social media culture somehow demands we keep up.

I’d like to remind you that you’re doing what you’re doing because it’s fun and impactful for those who read it.

In Koral Mccarthy’s words:

Don’t lose touch with that fine joy it brings you.

For more, watch my video with Anne Bonfert to feel inspired and learn more about vanity metrics you shouldn’t follow:

My mantra: Have FUN writing!

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