The Biggest Hurdle for New Writers
Every year when January comes around, I always anticipate the same phenomenon.
Whether I’m hustling for Medium, Fiverr, Freelancer, or Amazon; January always means a wave of new contributors joining me on my chosen platform.
Every year, sites like Medium grow their contributor base exponentially in January because it’s the time of year that people choose resolutions and set goals for their future.
People want more from their lives, and January often means finally pulling that trigger.
Unfortunately, most of those new writers are gone by March, so it’s usually after mid-March that we figure out the ones who’ll be sticking around long term.
When I use to work on cruise ships there was a saying; if you quit after two contracts, you’ve quit for real. But if you come back for a third contract, you’re trapped for life.
We said this because once people were on their third ship contract, they became “lifers”.
Lifers would always talk about quitting, but once you’ve completed three contracts, you’re trapped. The ship has become a part of you and it becomes heart-wrenching to give it up.
Ships were a way of life, and this life only suits a certain kind of person.
Being an online contributor is really similar. Anyone can contribute to a platform such as Medium for a month or even two months, but it takes a certain kind of person to keep the hustle going long term.
If you’re someone who hangs on for six months, you’re hooked, and you’re probably a lifer.
But even people who are really well suited to the life can become derailed by certain factors.
I’ve seen friends of mine I’ve written alongside suddenly quit because of little traps they’ve fallen into over time, which is always a sad thing to experience.
Over the last month, I’ve been providing a lot of advice and guidance to newer writers who want to “make it” on Medium.
I don’t have any tricks of the trade, but I have achieved my financial goals here, and I feel comfortable as a regular contributor to the site.
Feeling comfortable as a contributor is not a feeling that should be taken for granted, and can be hard-won for anyone, no matter how talented or well suited they are to the life.
After giving the same advice seemingly hundreds of times, I’ve finally decided to write this article and get it out there.
Now, whenever I feel that this advice would be valuable to someone, I’m just going to give them this link, and they can read the solution. #efficiency
By far the biggest barrier for any writer, in my opinion, is imposter syndrome.
This is a term given to the feeling contributors have that tells them what they contribute isn’t “good enough” or isn’t “right for the platform.”
They don’t feel that they produce anything that’s worth reading, some even going so far as to delete previous stories to avoid people having to read what they’ve written.
This feeling is usually either born from experiencing low stats, or personal issues produced by their “real life” that they bring with them to the platform.
It can also be caused by negative comments, something that happens to almost everyone eventually.
Most people think that a negative comment from a stranger won’t hurt, but it always hurts more than you think it will.
I almost deleted one of my stories a couple months ago because of a few nasty comments the story received during its first week being live on the platform.
I opened the story up and sat looking at it for 20 minutes, wondering whether I should hit delete, and very nearly did.
Luckily, I had the support of a few fellow writers who’d been writing longer than me, who gave me the good advice to just leave it online.
They reminded me that while this story isn’t for some people, I was clearly gaining traction if enough people were finding me for trolls to be getting involved.
Trolls don’t know you exist until you’ve done enough right and become visible enough to be attacked.
This advice was perfect because while a percentage of people really hated what I had to say in this particular article, a lot of other people appreciated my opinion.
By the time the article lost its traction, it had earned me hundreds of dollars in royalties; my highest ever amount for any one article at the time.
All that money would have vanished in a second if I had just buckled under my feeling of being an imposter and listened to the trolls.
I had something worth saying, and people appreciated that I said it.
What really sticks it to the trolls is that whether they liked my work or not, they contributed to my royalties for the month and increased the amount I was paid. So they can say whatever they want, they’re still going to write me a cheque while they say it.
The Readers Aren’t in Charge
Whether people like what you have to say or not, their feelings have nothing to do with you.
Your career has nothing to do with that of anyone else, so you shouldn’t allow the feelings and opinions of others to affect your life or your craft in any way.
Your writing is valid and important because while some people in the world won’t like it, there are people out there that will.
You have no idea of the impact you may be having on someone because unfortunately, the trolls are always the loudest.
The people who’ve been touched by what you had to say may never ever let you know, but you could have altered the course of someone’s life forever.
Frankly, if you still have something to say and you quit the platform before saying it, you’ve acted irresponsibly to yourself and to your reader.
But forget the reader, imposter syndrome is about you and exists because you don’t know the power you have.
This platform exists so that you can say whatever you want to say. You’re completely free here to write on your own schedule and form the opinions you most want to form.
But that also means that your readers have the freedom to give you their attention, or reject you completely.
Regardless of whether your readership is where you want it to be or not, this doesn’t have anything to do with your value as a contributor.
If your stats are making you feel bad, don’t check them. This isn’t a race, and it isn’t a zero-sum game. You’re just as valuable whether you make $1 or $1,000.
To Sum It Up
I believe strongly in writers learning how to improve the technical aspects of the craft (such as spelling and sentence structure), but there’s no need to learn anything more than that.
No-one who isn’t a millionaire can know the magic secret to viral content, if they did they’d be a millionaire.
We’re all just doing the best we can, and we’re all worthy and deserving to do it. You’re free to write, and you’re worthy of being read. So get out of your own way.