The Bitter Taste of My 1k Followers

My romance with Medium went in parallel with my gap year. Happy ending not included.

Party’s Over, Sugar — by Roseanna Smith — via Unsplash

I started writing on Medium 16 months ago, and never stopped since then, publishing an average of ten stories per month.

Just a few months before, I had to leave a loved job. One morning I went to work with a job, and in the evening I was jobless. It was 23 December 2016. No job. No plans. A wife. A Christmas to celebrate. And now something that felt like a trauma to recover.

Detail: I was 48.

I took a much-needed gap year. I needed to recover my entire mind, to recover my private life, and to find a path into the woods of what had to be next. I have life goals, but they don’t have a sustainable shape.

The time was good to give a new direction to my life, but I needed time, study, experimentation, solitude. The latter was especially true.

In my youth, being a writer was among my dreams. Then, life. But that thing was in the drawer, and part of my life goals.

So, encountering Medium, was love at first sight, for a number of reasons.

Reading. Writing. Connecting with thoughtful persons who could understand what my current peers couldn’t. Improving my English (I’m Italian).

Staying away from everything had accompanied my past life, and diving in a new fascinating world. Instead of drinking inconsiderately, I wrote inconsiderately. Fair enough.

After a few months, The Medium Partner Program. A concrete opportunity to earn something from my writing too.

Earn a living, at least in part? Who knows… Why not try.

My gap year taught me a lot about authenticity, and about minimalism too. I was not interested in restarting a career, and the “common” well-being. I was interested in pursuing my life goals and trying to earn a reasonable living out of them.

To earn a very modest living could be an option, at least in the first following years.

But growth on Medium has been very slow. Certainly, my inexperience of the first months and my modest English didn’t help. Most of all, especially in the first months I didn’t search for growth.

Now I may have clear goals in writing, and some experience, but it’s too late. No way out is in view.

After the gap year, other months passed, and I now need to restart a professional life, which, of course can’t be writing. Writing was a dream. I won’t abandon writing, because the right moment to continue writing is now, like anything else which has a value in my life. But I’ll have to restart considering what I was before. Reinventing yourself at 48 may be way harder than expected.

Meanwhile, during summer, the psychological threshold of the 1k followers was approaching. And the more it approached, the more it was distant.

Medium was no more what had been before.

Tools for writers were clearly not in the plans. Not even a customizable profile. Or the multilingualism, much needed for writers like me.

Publications neglected, and even tools for editors stuck at what I found 16 months ago. Even the best publications crushed by the competition of Medium itself.

Readers showered with featured content, with no serious tools for prioritizing their reading list, doing searches, or manage their followed topics.

An endless ad of featured content. Pop, trendy, US-related, polarized, members-only.

And the algorithm treating my writing in the same way it was 16 months ago, with no consideration of the quality metrics. Articles in September (9 so far) have an average of 38 views. Pay attention: views. 38 average views after having published articles with hundreds of fans and dozens of comments. Good old days.

A monster which asks only two things: daily presence — mostly by reading and commenting — , and the payment of the membership.

No more the home of my writing.

The 1k followers, which was a dream a year ago and would have made me happy and proud, had become a void number. Not that I don’t appreciate it. It’s still something. But it has now a bitter taste.

That number was ironically hit the day of the wedding anniversary. Maybe to highlight how insignificant is that Medium threshold.

Insignificant and useless. My stories which got more than 1k views were published when I had a few hundred (or less) followers. Now, hitting 1k views without being featured by Medium is just a mirage, for me.

Professional future uncertain, but necessary. Writing future uncertain, and not on Medium for sure.

Medium will stay in my life. I have no alternatives to it, even if an external website is now clearly necessary.

But the love story with Medium is over, and the 1k seems to seal it.

My writing is not Medium, and won’t stop here. But the old days, when publishing on Medium was a celebration, and notifications filled days like decorations fill the Christmas tree, are gone.

Like my gap year.