To Write or to Be Read

That is the question.

When I started writing on Medium, one thing became extremely clear to me.

Unless you put your effort on promoting your writing, your writing won’t be read.

In the first months, I trusted the “platform” to work for me, in distributing my writing, according to quality metrics. But it doesn’t work so. Your content is buried under millions of other posts, and algorithms and Medium editors work straight for the platform, not for you.

Without your personal effort in promoting your writing, any small growth of your stats or your audience is just an illusion. I tried, and it goes nowhere. You can make some new friends, but you mostly remain a ghost. The one link shared, the one person appreciating, they don’t compensate the oblivion, the millions of other new pieces that will come forward, the thousands of other writers that will push their writing in front of your possible readers.

There’s no such thing as an “organic growth”, in writing, especially for an unknown author.

Promotion means a lot of things. It means to be present in communities which can appreciate your work. It means direct promotion, with no shame. It means a strategic selection of your channels. It means writing thousand and thousand words which are ancillary to your core purpose. And so on.

But most of all, promotion means a helluva work, beyond imagination. Beyond competitors. Because there’s room for everybody. But everybody is taking over that place and is going to be read before you.

The moment you stop reading and commenting, tweeting and announcing, writing and publishing and submitting, rewriting and recycling and republishing, maybe add a video or a podcast or show up in a Facebook group, your stats sink and your audience forgets you.

Yes, your lovely and appreciative audience will forget you. Only a few fans will say hi again.

But, of course, you’ll try to find your compromise, because you want to write. You don’t want to lose your soul in the marketing. You have something to say. You want to share. You want the best form for your thoughts.

You need to read, to learn, to research. You have to edit and sometimes to trash.

Good writing is art. Art needs technique. Art needs years of digging deep in life, minds, tools. Years of mistakes and trivial hacks.

You’re learning and growing even if you’re not an artist. Even if you write about black holes.

So, good writing needs time. And substantial writing needs much more time. Substantial writing is incompatible with daily presence under the eyes of the readers. Even just good writing rarely means fresh words on a daily basis.

It seems that the medal of the creatives has two faces, if a medal is there for them. And writers make no exception.

You’re left with a dilemma.

On one side there is writing. Good writing. Expression. Exploration and sharing. Something worth to be read by many.

This face is called writing. But it’s also called starvation. Or invisibility. You write, but nobody reads. The one reader matters but can you live by that? Do you mind that others won’t read?

On the other side, there is promotion, there is the effort you put in your being visible, enticing, sharable. The effort of putting shame aside and telling the world that you write and that it’s worth reading. The acceptance of the need to compete. The acceptance and feeding of your ambition.

This other face is called promotion. But it’s also called marketing. Or mundanity.

No time for substantial writing is left. You have to run fast in the hamster wheel, or everything stops, and what remains is nothing.

The medal of the creatives seems to be ironic, or perfidious.

To be free, you risk becoming a slave. To make your life richer in creativity and accomplishment, you get you and your family poorer.

Of course, some geniuses succeeded just by writing. And some luck.

Or some unstoppables succeeded just by marketing hot air or by marketing marketing techniques. And I bet they’re much more.

Or a hero got the whole medal.

If the words genius or unstoppable or hero resonates with you, let me remember that the probabilities for you of being in the team are one in a million. At best. We’re both on Medium, and that’s a bad sign.

One face of the medal is purpose, and starvation, your and of your family.

The other face is popularity, and competence in popularity. Money and likes.

To write or to be read. That is the question.

Is there a third way, in the middle? Yes. Most writers are on that path.

I’m on that path too, like millions of others.

Just pay attention that they usually have a job, or don’t need it.

The third way is possible, even if you need money. Examples are there. But be prepared for a fucking amount of work, to force your writing way beyond the productivity levels you imagined. And you’ll need a supportive family or no family at all.

Sooner or later, the marketing side will call you, like a siren. And you need it.

But if you’re a writer, you have to remember where you started from, and where you want to go, or you won’t like the person you will become.

You want and need to stay on the third way, and the third way requires both sides of the medal.

Being a marketer is a job, it’s not being a writer.

And just writing will bring you nowhere.

To write or to be read.

You need both. But you will be asked to choose.


Originally published at www.insideblogging.net on March 12, 2019.