This year, I started a new experiment where I began reposting some of my old content onto Medium. I’ve found it to be a fun experience – a very different place to write, where I really feel like more of a writer rather than “just a blogger.”
Backing up a bit, Medium, if you’ve never heard of it, is sort of like the YouTube of blogging. It’s an all-in-one platform where you can write and publish articles. Medium has a membership system where readers pay $5 per month to read articles on the platform. That money is then divided up between writers who write on the platform. The more people that read your writing, the more you make. If you’re looking for a way to get paid purely on your writing – without having to deal with ads or affiliate marketing – Medium is one way to do it.
One advantage of writing on Medium is that you get access to a huge base of readers. Much like YouTube, there’s a sort of algorithm and curation system at play. If you’re consistent enough and write well enough, Medium will eventually start pushing your work to a larger audience. You’ll then gain more followers, continue to write more, and earn more money.
That all sounds well and good, but there’s more to Medium than just writing. Getting your work to a larger audience really requires getting yourself into publications. Think of these as online magazines. Readers subscribe to these publications and whenever a new article is published in them, their subscribers can see them. Without publications, a lone writer without a large following really isn’t going to get their work out to a big audience. In short, you need publications to get readers and subscribers on Medium.
Here’s the problem with publications. It’s a gatekeeping system. Some publications are more lenient than others, but the largest publications where you’ll get the most exposure are – at least in my experience – difficult to get into. At this point, I haven’t been able to get any of my writing into the big publications on Medium. And with many other large publications, I’m getting rejected at about a 90% rate.
It can be disheartening. When you make your living from writing and yet get constantly rejected, it wears you down. There usually isn’t much comment on why an article I wrote was rejected either – usually just something like “thanks for submitting, but we’re going to pass as this time.”
You might wonder why I’m spending my time trying to post things on Medium when I already have a fairly large platform of my own. This post I write here will likely get more views than I get in an entire month on Medium.
I think it has to do with my own mindset of wanting to get picked. It’s sort of like my urge to chase prestige, even when I tell myself I don’t want to. There’s a sort of validation factor at play here too. Most of us go through life like that – we wait for people to pick us because it validates us. So here I am – honestly, probably wasting my time – editing old posts and trying to write new stuff in hopes of getting picked by some gatekeeper.
After a few months of this, I’m starting to remind myself. Screw that. Pick yourself instead.
What Picking Yourself Means
I have a section of bookmarks in my browser for what I call life-changing posts. These are posts that completely changed how I thought about the world. One of those posts is Seth Godin’s famous (and really short) post about picking yourself. As he explains it:
It’s a cultural instinct to wait to get picked. To seek out the permission and authority that comes from a publisher or talk show host or even a blogger saying, “I pick you.” Once you reject that impulse and realize that no one is going to select you–that Prince Charming has chosen another house–then you can actually get to work.
It’s a powerful paragraph – one that has probably influenced thousands of creators out there. For most of our lives, we’ve been taught that we had to do things so that someone would pick us. Study hard so that a school will pick you. Smile and take orders so that a job will pick you. And if you want to be a writer, write the way they want you to write so that they’ll pick you.
Picking yourself means a couple of things. As Seth Godin puts it in another post of his:
What pick yourself means is that it’s never been easier to decide to be responsible for your own work, for your own agenda, for the change you make in the world. To have a chance to matter. Not to be finished right now, but starting now.
Pick yourself means we should stop waiting and whining and stalling.
Why You Need To Pick Yourself
Waiting. That’s the big thing that I think a lot of us deal with. Instead of taking action or trying something, we wait for someone to tell us it’s okay. In short, we wait to get picked.
Before the internet, getting picked was often a requirement. If you wanted to get yourself out there, you needed to get picked because a few people controlled all of the entry points. You couldn’t write and get your ideas out there unless you had a publisher pick you and put it out there. You couldn’t create videos unless a TV station picked you and put them on their channel. But it’s a different world now. You don’t need a gatekeeper to let you through.
That’s not to say that picking yourself is a guarantee you’ll be seen. There are still so many algorithms and other weird things that decide whether you get through or not. But the key is that you at least get to try. And it doesn’t mean trying to get a million people to find you. You only need to impact a few people to make a difference. If you don’t try, you have to ask yourself what’s holding you back.
Too often, we wait for gatekeepers to pick us. It’s more comfortable – a way to push that part of our life to someone else. If you don’t pick yourself though, why should anyone else?
How To Pick Yourself
Control Your Own Platform. If you’re creating something, you need to have your own platform. This is something you control. Writing on Medium has been fun and I’ll keep trying it out because I find it interesting, but the problem is Medium isn’t my platform. I’m giving up control to someone else. If you don’t control your own platform, that means you’re waiting for that platform to pick you. And that can be tough.
You Have To Let People Criticize And Laugh At You. The biggest fear with creating anything – or really doing anything – is that people will laugh at you. People are naturally inclined to not like it when people stray from the normal. When you’re putting something out there, you’re doing something that the vast majority of people won’t do. This applies to anything you do. You need to roll with the punches and let the haters hate. Of course, that doesn’t mean you’ll succeed. But if you’re scared of ridicule, you’ll never even start.
You Have To Start. Perhaps the most important thing of all. If you want to do anything, you need to start. It’ll be messy at first. You’re going to suck at it. But if you don’t start, you can’t get better. And if you don’t start, you’re either letting laziness get you or you’re letting fear hold you back.
This is a post that would never make it on any of the publications I want to be in on Medium. And since it wouldn’t get picked by those publications, I wouldn’t write it. The world would lose a little bit of something simply because I needed someone else to pick me.
I have my own platform and I picked myself a long time ago. Some people will find a post like this stupid. Others will resonate with it. Since I picked myself, I (and nobody else) get to at least decide if I can put it out there. Whatever you’re doing, make sure you pick yourself too.