How I Made $10,000.00 on Medium
And how that’s not the point of this story
I came to Medium in February of 2018 because Quora.com banned me from writing on their platform and because I consequently lost a book deal with Random House. The novel I’d poured my soul into for years would not be published after all.
My heart broke over both events
To say I was crushed wouldn’t even begin to explain the depths of my despair. I’d lost a powerful public platform that I used to write about LGBTQ and HIV issues and to reach out to queer youth in need of dignity and self respect. As a long-time activist and advocate, I’d been thrilled that Quora had amplified my voice to the extent that I sometimes reached a million people a month.
As an artist, I hurt almost as badly. My novels are precious to me, maybe in ways only other novelists or artists can understand. They fill my soul. Their characters whisper to me and demand that I tell their stories. Publication with a major imprint is a dream most of us never dare to even hold. But to have it come through, to get that phone call from your agent! We’re ready to sign! And then to have it all snatched away?
Medium saved me
Medium gave me a voice back. Medium gave me a platform for art and advocacy. Yes, I had to struggle. No, nothing was easy. Yes, I often still get discouraged. But Medium offers real community! Other artists, activists, and advocates network here and facilitate great ideas and great work.
Linda Caroll is a wonderful writer who welcomed me to Medium the very first day I arrived. So many others followed suit, and before long my fiction and essays were chugging along. People were reading! People were helping with constructive feedback and with encouragement and engaging comments.
Medium gave me the means, the desire, and the heart to keep writing after a devastating blow. I’ve found more community here than I have in any other writing community ever, on or off line.
I have to work my ass off if I want to reach people, of course. I have to leverage other social media effectively. I have to put my nose to the grindstone and write my ass off. I have to write well, I have to write often, and I have to write in a manner that engages the audiences I mean to reach. I don’t always get that right, so I have to start over and try it again. And again. And again!
Because Medium is here I can try!
I can be a real artist in the company of other real artists. I can live the life of a 19th-century Parisian literary bum, knowing my efforts are part of a community of efforts, that I’m part of a movement of people who care about things that matter. Not everyone here shares my specific interests, obviously. But all the great writers on Medium share something with me. Passion!
But, I haven’t written about money, have I?
Why not? As far as I know, art is never fundamentally motivated by money. Neither is heart-felt advocacy and activism. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some spoiled trust-fund baby who sneers at the need to earn a living. I know what it’s like to be poor and to struggle. Been there, done that, may well be there again one day.
I have made money on Medium.
I’ve made more money than I would have made from my canceled novel, almost certainly — unless it had achieved wildly improbable best-seller success. But THINKING about making money on Medium? Concentrating and focusing on making money on Medium? If I did that, I’d be chasing money instead of chasing the things I care about.
I care that LGBTQ youth suicide rates in North America are through the freaking roof. I care that 40% of all homeless youth in North American identify as LGBTQ. I mourn that homophobia is respectable and respected so long as it’s expressed in religious terms.
I care that my art consumes me and burns me up from the inside out. I care that I have a place to mold, fire, and polish my art.
I celebrate Medium for putting this incredible opportunity together, and for working so hard to a find a way to pay artists for our work. In some ways, the people who run Medium are like the ancient Medici, Renaissance patrons encouraging an explosion of creativity.
If I focused on making money, I wouldn’t be focusing on creating
Jenny Justice wrote about making money on Medium just the other day. More to the point, she wrote about an explosion of articles about how much people are making and about how they feel they did it. She expresses herself much better than I’m probably managing, so go ahead and read her words, would you?
I Honestly Don’t Know if I Can Read Another Story on Medium about Making Money on Medium
A story that is not really about making money on Medium but is about writing about people who write about making money…
When I read articles about how much money people make on Medium, I get discouraged. When I read articles that center on HOW to make money on Medium, I feel like a stranger in a strange land. Is Medium about making money or is it about writing and art?
Yes, I understand the two are intertwined. Yes, I need money too. Yes, I make money on Medium and I’m delighted at that. But I make money on Medium because I’m a passionate, dedicated artist and advocate. I make money (I guess) because my enthusiasm and careful crafting are catching.
Money is an important side effect. I can’t teach anyone how to make money on Medium. I CAN help share my craft. I CAN seek out other writers as I do most days to encourage them and help build Medium communities. I CAN help Medium be a success by doing my very best to produce high quality work.
I feel if I focus on those things, then I’m doing what I need to do.
So I’m going to keep struggling, working, writing, pouring my heart into art. I’m going to keep being grateful that Medium can pay me for that sometimes. I’m going to keep being a part of this COMMUNITY.
But you know what? When I see articles about how much money people make? Or how I can duplicate their success? I’m gonna take a pass. I have writing I need to be doing instead, and if my friends and colleagues and I all focus on outstanding writing, then success is going to find us.
Cream rises, people — sometimes even after devastating setbacks.
P.S. The 10,000.00 figure in my title is ironic commentary. I’m not going to tell anyone how much I’ve made on Medium since I’ve joined the Partner Program, for all the reasons I hope I explained above, but which I probably hopelessly mangled.
James Finn is a long-time LGBTQ activist, an alumnus of Act Up NYC, an essayist occasionally published in queer news outlets, and an “agented” novelist. Send questions, comments, and story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.