A Word to the Wise — Stop Watching Your Stats!

Watching your stats all day long can undermine your writing mood.

Credit: Photo by bruce mars from Pexels

I know others have written about this before, but I’ve come to several realizations that I just wanted to share on this topic. They have to do with those metrics we all love to keep an eye on as an indication of how successful our writing endeavors are on Medium. Maybe you’ve had a similar experience to the one I’ve had.

I’ll be reading posts and notice that the number in the notification circle at the top right has jumped up. I open the function and it says something like this:

  • Glorious Fan and 4 others clapped for Brilliant Story
  • Undying Devotion and 5 others clapped for Fascinating Story
  • Funniest Story Ever has 50 fans
  • Forever Yours and 3 others clapped for So Touching It Made Me Cry
  • Never Seen Anything Like It has 10 fans

Excited, I’ll go to my stats page only to find I have a grand total of 3 more fans than the last time I looked and that bright green bar doesn’t look like it’s grown at all. What!?!!? How can that be?

A Matter of Notifications

Those days when my notifications are continuously high, I find I have more energy and feel more inspired to write than on days when that number is lower. I also feel more like interacting with other writers, reading, commenting and becoming involved in the different Medium related Facebook groups that I am in.

It’s a bit of a double edged sword however, as the higher I get the quicker I fall. When I feel like things are going particularly well, with my stories showing a lot of reads and high engagement, should a new story I write not follow that pattern, I find myself crashing. Also when notifications are low over the course of the day, my mood typically bottoms out.

The other problem comes as a result of notifications reflecting not just claps and other engagement but also whenever someone highlights something I’ve already highlighted. So at times it may seem like my stories are getting a lot of traction but when I open my notifications I find that the majority of notifications reflect people who have highlighted the same thing I have in someone else’s article.

The bottom line is that notifications and the number of fans listed on your stats page don’t always match up. I can’t tell you why that is exactly but it seems like it is often the case. Don’t worry too much about it, things get corrected eventually.

Numbers Often Play Catch Up

I’ll wake up the next morning, turn on my laptop and find that somehow although I checked my numbers after midnight, the previous days stats have increased. I’ve also sometimes noticed that I’ll look at my stats well after midnight and the graph hasn’t rolled over to the next day yet. The point of all this is just that the system may be behind in updating things.

The Number of Fans Does Not Always Reflect Actual Engagement

I am in several Medium Facebook groups and know that there are times that writers will list old links and people who have already clapped for them will go back and add more claps to indicate their support. When this happens although they’ll be listed in your notifications every time, the subsequent claps will not count towards additional fans and so the total will not increase.

Setting Arbitrary Criteria to Indicate Growth

What that means is as long as your numbers for that day were higher than for the day that dropped out, your totals will go up. If however, your numbers for that day were lower than for the day that dropped out your totals will seem to decrease.

This graph shows my fan total for today. At the stroke of midnight when there will be no new fans for tomorrow, my fan summary stat will show whatever the total number of fans were for today minus 46 which is the number of fans shown for March 22th the number reflected in the first bar of the graph above. I will need to get 46 new fans tomorrow before this number will go up Anything less than that, and the number will go down.

While I’m aware that this occurs I generally don’t worry about it. We all have good days and bad and with this type of system dropping doesn’t mean that the success you’ve realized is heading in the other direction.

Yet this characteristic can make me downright despondent whenever I jump to the next 100 fans. This is because invariably there will be days that my numbers lag and my totals drop back to the previous hundred. What I mean by this is, for example, if I go from 1500 fans to 1600 fans I get excited. I know each day number will drop as I lose all of fans from the day that dropped and until it gets to be about midday, I’m not likely to reach the same number that would put me where I had been. So if I’ve reached 1500 fans for example, and it drops back to 1400, I feel depressed and my imposted syndrome will kick in full force. I decide that all the previous days that had gone into me reaching the level I am at were meaningless.

I also have a bad habit of reviewing my past performance in 30 day intervals. When the increase in numbers seems to be leveling out I also feel like a fraud. I know it’s easy to double your numbers in the beginning because they will be fairly low. Going from 20 fans to 40 fans is a lot easier than going from 1000 fans to 2000 fans. But thinking about 20 to 40 in terms of doubling fans sounds impressive while the difference between between 1000 fan and 1020 fans doesn’t seem very impressive despite it being the same increase.

The Takeaway

But watch the head space you are in and the rules you establish for yourself in determining what your statistics mean in terms of your overall success. There are no objective criterion for how to define success on Medium and how exactly to know that you are continuing to grow in the ways you desire based on the statistics alone. Even positive trends that you are excited about one day may reverse a few days later which may be the result of several things that have nothing to do with you at all.

If you get caught up in monitoring every view, clap and read, you’re liable to experience decreasing motivation, make yourself crazy or just become so frustrated you drop off Medium all together. I’ve found that for me it’s best to view statistics sparingly. Try looking at them perhaps once first thing in the morning and once at night, as this is when you are most likely to see the biggest increase in your reading engagement that occurs across the day. This will help imbue you with enthusiasm and motivation for your writing so you can continue on your path to success.


Natalie Frank (Taye Carrol) has had work featured in Haunted Waters Press, Weirdbook Magazine, Siren’s Call Publications, Lycan Valley Press and Zero Fiction among others. Her poetry has been featured a several anthologies. She is the Managing Editor for Novellas and Serials at LVP Publications.

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You can also find links to all of the articles, stories, fiction and poetry I publish on Medium here. Thanks for reading!

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Natalie Frank, Ph.D. (Clinical Psychology)

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I write about behavioral health & other topics. I’m Managing Editor (Serials, Novellas) for LVP Press. See my other articles: https://hubpages.com/@nataliefrank

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