If Medium is the only means by which I measure myself
This summer I took off for four weeks in the Canadian wilderness. Miles away from the closest wi-fi signal. All writing was done on small notebooks, often while riding a horse, being whacked by low branches or crossing a stream.
My writing is barely legible, but it speaks to the world around me at the time.
Then I got home. My Medium stats sucked. I threw my heart into writing- which was easy because my podiatrist locked me in a boot and I was largely house-bound for five weeks. Easy to write a lot when you can’t run, hike, or whatever.
My stats steadily shot up. I engaged a lot. Wrote a lot. Still am. For two more days.
Looks like success, right? Write. If you’ll pardon the pun.
Here’s the rub. Thursday of this week I’m heading to Mongolia for five weeks. No wi-fi, except in Ulaan Bataar. I will stop writing and engaging with readers for hours at a time.
My stats will drop precipitously. So will my income.
Because during that time I’ll be riding camels and hardy little horses. With any luck, learning how to eagle hunt, interviewing Mongolians in their own world. That’s one hell of a way to spend five weeks.
Here’s the piece, folks. I’m a prolific writer, but I can’t be unless I have material. I have to go engage. I have to live, and in my case, that means epic adventure travel. Who I am and what I do.
If I measured who I was in life by my Medium stats, and those stats alone, I’d be pretty unhappy.
Vanessa Torre wrote this piece today about how she torpedoed herself as a writer. Look, I’m not Vanessa. Neither are you. The point here is that there are metrics for success in every single endeavor.
If all you ever do is write, which another Medium writer discussed, then you aren’t living. By the very fact of your being seated for hours on end at your computer, you’re fucking up your body as well as your life in general.
That makes you kinda useless to the rest of us.
If you’re going to produce relevant copy, then kindly, get your buns out the door. Experiment, try, fail, fuck up, faceplant, try again. Unless of course you have a physical disability which prevents that, but that’s another story.
Writing offers a great excuse to not engage, as in, “But I have all these articles I have to write for Medium.”
No you don’t. You have a life to live, and Medium is only a part of that life. Not your whole life. You can be just as compulsive writing for Medium as you can doing too much weed, too much exercise.
The best writing, for my part, has the sharp edge of truth to it. The feel of immediate pain or application, the humor of what it actually feels like. That legitimacy makes your writing stand out. Without it, the articles are just that much more blather about not much at all.
Here’s what I mean:
I recently saw an article by a barely-over twenty-ish writer who had only recently been handed her degree. Her piece was full of the kind of mindless homilies that you see etched on signs that folks hang in their kitchens, offered up as sage advice. You can walk through a Home Goods store with a notebook and get precisely the same thing. Then she wanted me to sign up for her e-book on Productivity Secrets.
From a twenty-year-old.
Will you please kindly get the hell OVER yourself.
I have a very hard time reading articles about success and achievement by people whose mothers still do their laundry. Please, folks.
I feel much the same way about weight loss and dieting tips.
Call me a crank, but the easiest part of losing weight is the weight loss. Don’t believe me? Kindly lose eighty pounds. Then keep it off for thirty years.
I have. And I can by god attest to the fact that losing it is vastly simpler than making a study of the body, shepherding it through the inevitable changes of age, and making the appropriate adjustments as your body shifts. That I still wear a size 2 skirt at the age of 66 speaks to a history of success in that regard.
Or, share how you navigate the waters as a large person, which is done superbly by Your Fat Friend. It doesn’t matter. It’s your hard-earned POV that counts. She lives her truth, which is why what she has to say is important.
Vanessa’s life is very different from mine, as is yours. What works for her is not going to work for me. I can’t focus on Medium as primary, or at least very signficant, source of income the way Shannon Ashley does. I have supreme admiration for Ashley, for her work ethic. I’d love to have her income, but I wouldn’t trade one single minute of my badass, epic adventure life for it.
My Medium metrics are reflective of my life. As in, being temporarily grounded by injury, with plenty of time to mine the material that I have gathered over ten long years of adventure travel. I have reams of material. That often meant scribbling onto any available piece of paper by campfire light, on the back of a camel between Arusha and Lake Natrone, in a treehouse in the middle of gibbon forest in Laos.
That’s what gives me agency.
You don’t have to do what I do. In fact, I don’t recommend it if you value comfort, predictability, a regular income and a calm lifestyle. What I do isn’t for you. Because I’m also writing a third book, developing my clients, selling my butt off to get more clients, and all the other things which allow me to write for The Startup and other publications.
The Australians, who have such unique talents in so many areas, started a community program that went national back in the Eighties. They had a cartoon character named Norm, who sat his couch with a beer in his hand, his expanding belly so representative of the many blokes I met at hotel pubs and bars. The point of the program, called Life.Be In It., was to pry Norm off the couch and get him to participate.
I wish to hell I could pilfer that phrase, but I can share it. Be in life, guys. Go out and live it. We write about the life we live, not hide from life by writing. Your Medium stats aren’t as important as your authentic voice.
But that’s just me. After Thursday, I’ll have more life to report by October.
In the meantime, I’ll just have to be a failure on Medium.