Don’t Drink that Writer Haterade

Why do you make me be the positive one? I hate being the positive one. When someone ahead of me pays for my drink at the Starbucks drive-thru, I’m like YOU HAVE GOT TO BE MOTHERFUCKING SHITTING ME WITH THIS SHIT, because that selfish asshole has either made me the party-pooper who ends the streak or the person who gets screwed by paying double what my doppio con panna was going to originally cost. I willingly entered into an agreement with an establishment and then you, you nameless wonder philanthropist, forced me to do something I DID NOT agree to or face the disapproving glares of baristas because you want to feel like you’re doing something. Go volunteer someplace. You see? I am not a naturally positive person.

But I’ve been reading a lot of get-off-my-lawn articles about all the list-makers and life-improvers and productivity-hackers and “bad” writers who are thriving on Medium and elsewhere. Now you’ve gone and forced me to weigh in. Look, I hate them, too. Honestly, if I see an article that is advising me how to make the most of my life, I make a toot sound with my mouth with spittle and everything.

Unfortunately, we ALL have something to learn from these people. Gone are the romantic days of being an alcoholic, shut-in, introverted author. If you are writing in the world today for any kind of marketplace, you have to understand what people want and how to get people’s attention. And right here is this grand experiment in audience demand. You have access to information in the way of green hearts that tells you what the people want. And you’re not taking lessons from it? Why the hell not?

Now some of you are thinking, “But I refuse to be that kind of writer!” Good for you, you bastion of artistic integrity. You and your artistic integrity can go kick rocks alone... no post on the subject needed.

Others of you are thinking, “Look, Kel, I’m not writing for any reason other than the art form, not to get more followers and hearts.” Except youse a motherfuckin’ liar because if you really didn’t care you’d be writing to your aunt and three friends on Blogger instead of on a social writing site. On one of these haterade posts, this guy actually said something like “I’m not trying to promote a blog or a book, I’m just writing things…” Um, so, not having a goal is some kind of a virtue? Like, somehow that is the superior motive to having a bad goal?

They’re both bad. Get a goal! Have a goal! If you can’t tell me why you’re writing than why would anyone have reason to listen to you? Also, anyone can write for any reason. There’s no rule that you have to write for some noble purpose. You can write to get over depression or become famous or to sort out your head or because the sound of the keys clacking gives you a boner and it’s how you get off.

And if people want to like shit, they can! Some people like craft beer. Some like Coors Light. But the Coors Light people are probably just like, trying to make it through the day to be with family like the rest of us and aren’t intentionally trying to ruin beer for everyone. People are always gonna like self-help posts and they will never stop because, the nerve of some people, everyone wants to have a better, easier life.

Beyond that, a lot of these haterade posts create a false dichotomy. Be a sellout and write like them or don’t get views and write like you want. But you can take the principles behind these self improvement posts and write something useful to people. One time that author Jon Krakauer liked one of my posts on Medium about my shitty childhood. The title sounds very self-helpy, and the piece is, but it’s also about writing as I want to write. With passion, with empathy, with humor and with a heart for helping others. It’s in the middle. And an author whose book I had sitting on my motherfucking shelf at home recommended it.

You’ve also cut off your success before you’ve even started. I have 3,300 followers give or take. That’s not a super lot, but it’s not NOT a lot either. I’m writing a fucking shit ton and with each post I get a few more followers and lose some, too. It’s a process. Just because you’re not getting views on your first ten or thirty or ninety posts doesn’t mean anything.

I just know that it’s not in my blood to be very popular. One of my favorite bands is The Sword, a metal outfit out of Austin, Texas. Do I believe that they are ever going to surpass Katy Perry in popularity? No, because she writes and performs motherfucking POPULAR MUSIC. It says so in the title. The Sword’s always just gonna have like dudes with long hair and nerds and stoners who are into their music. If you’re not writing popular stuff, you’re just not a popular writer. That isn’t to say you can’t find an audience. I’ve seen The Sword six times and will continue to do so, because they have customer loyalty. As a writer, find the people who love you and figure out how to write to them.

Finally, here’s a list of things Medium doesn’t give two shits about:

  1. Your success
  2. Becoming the voice of “good” writing

Here’s a list of what Medium cares about:

  1. Money

That is all. Medium is a business. Whatever they say they care about … they don’t. I mean, they probably do in some philosophical way. But if someone is holding a gun to my head or to the head of Gary Vanerpump or whatever his name is, and they’re like “Pick a writer to die, Evvy boy!” I have no illusions about who he’d save. It’s a bottom-line situation and you can enter into it or not. No one is forcing you to buy their triple venti caramel machiatto. So just take your stupid drink and quit being such a fucking hater.