I’m ringing in the New Year with the realization that my voice no longer wavers when I call myself “a professional writer.”
No stats page or paycheck can decide that designation for you. Being a writer is something you claim for yourself, if and when you are ready.
In January 2019, in a piece for the Writing Cooperative, I asked my husband,
“How long do we keep making time for my writing, if it doesn’t make enough money to really count?”
Of course I realize I was asking the wrong question. I write for my mental health. I write to help others feel less alone. I write to make the world better. I write because I don’t know how not to.
However, as I let my voice flow, something incredible happened: I started to make a living doing it.
2019 was an incredible year for me as a writer.
I dabbled in non-Medium writing — bylines in Scary Mommy, Mamamia, The Jewish Forward, Storyborne, Fusion, and Raise Vegan — but Medium is where I found I could write whatever I wanted and get paid for it. And Medium is where I found my incredible writing community, so being a freelancer never feels lonely.
When I sat down to write this, I imagined I’d do a Top 10 of my favorite pieces of the year, since that’s what I did for 2018.
But I wrote 147 Medium essays and articles this year, so please don’t make me pick favorites! Because I just love the nuance and honesty of this one about the man who choked me on a first date so, so much. And how great was it to laugh but also not laugh together about the tyranny of pocketless women’s fashion? And damn it felt great to speak the truth about the anti-choice movement in I am not a host body, and they are not pro-life.
So I’m going to do a Top 4. But y’all readers get to pick em.
Here are my four most-read Medium stories of the year.
Added up, these four stories have
*over 186,000 views,
*over 73,000 reads, and
*over 3,200 fans.
The top story is self-published. The others are in the big publications Human Parts, Gen, and Heated. In 2020, I hope to publish more pieces with those pubs, while also continuing to write for other wonderful publications on Medium, like Fearless She Wrote, P. S. I Love You, An Injustice!, and the collective parenting publication Home Sweet Home.
Here are the stories that resonated most with readers this year…
1. Married Red Pill: The Soulless Subreddit For Men Who Game Their Wives
Curated in Digital Life, Culture, Women, and Equality
Married Red Pill: The Soulless Subreddit For Men Who Game Their Wives
They’re seeking connection through domination, at the expense of gender equality.
Yes, this Unsplash stock photo is comically overused, but as this piece continues to be my biggest monthly earner — even 10 months after I published it — I’m not going to change a thing.
This piece is different than any of my others, though I would like to write more things like it. I often find myself losing an evening to some appalling part of the internet. I figured, I could justify the time I lost learning about MRP if I wrote about it.
When you google “Married Red Pill,” the first hit is my Medium piece. The second hit is the actual subreddit. I don’t know shit about SEO, so I have no clue how that happened. But I love that impressionable boys and men, in search of truth and understanding, will find my piece before they find that “soulless subreddit.”
Meanwhile, perhaps some of the SEO comes from prominent Red Pill dudes hate-tweeting my piece? (I write about their hate tweeting here.)
As I predicted in “Medium’s New Earning’s Model is Great News for Feminist Writers,” misogynistic trolls have always been reading feminist writing; now they’re paying us for the pleasure.
My story on Married Red Pill has been viewed over 88,000 times. It’s my #1 most-viewed and most-read story, and it has my 3rd most fans. It’s earned me the most money out of all my writing, and it shows no signs of slowing down.
2. I Don’t Understand Straight People, Even Though I’m Married to One
Published in Human Parts
Curated in Relationships, LGBTQIA, and Sexuality
I Don’t Understand Straight People, Even Though I’m Married to One
I’m confident in my sexuality, but my husband’s makes no sense to me
This piece has my 2nd most views, my 2nd most reads, and my #1 most fans (1,150 people have applauded it so far). Here’s my giddy story of how I pitched it to Human Parts. I’ve now published 4 pieces with them, but this was the first one, and I consider it my breakout piece on Medium.
This story reached the #1 Trending spot on the Medium front page, and I’m especially proud that, aside from the headline/sub, it didn’t need any editing.
When 24,000 people read about your marriage and sexuality, not everyone’s going to like it. Surprisingly, some of the complaints came from other LGBTQ folks. I heard them out and wrote this piece in response.
3. The Time I Called Out a Children’s Book Author For Letting Girls Down
Published in Gen
Curated in Writing, Women, Parenting, and Equality
The Time I Called Out a Children’s Book Author For Letting Girls Down
To my shock, he actually responded
The wild thing about this story is it made literally $7 in its first month on Medium (even though it was already quadruple-curated). Then Gen picked it up and featured it on the Medium Front Page, and it quickly made over $1000.
From this piece:
“Haven’t we all considered calling somebody out (or in), but stayed silent, because we think it won’t make a difference? Well, in this case at least, it did.”
I told a friend the story in real life, and she said, “That’s incredible! Guess this is your next Medium story!” so I tried to write it out, to convey the hope and power this experience gave me.
I’m extremely passionate about children’s books and the difference they can make in the future of the world, but I find it really tough to convey that in writing. Maybe that’s why this is my only feature that went through substantial edits before getting added to a Medium-run pub. I’m really thankful to Medium editors for believing in the story enough to work on it with me.
I positively glow when editors tell me my writing doesn’t need much editing. But sometimes we all need help, and this piece needed it.
My first and only Gen story (so far) has my 3rd most views, my 3rd most reads, and my 2nd most fans.
It came right on the heels of my Human Parts debut, and the Gen weekly email referred to me as “Essayist Darcy Reeder.” The phrasing made me squeal, but still, I was afraid to call myself a professional writer.
4. I Owned a Restaurant, and I Know How You Tip
Published in Heated
Curated in Money, Food, and Work
I Owned a Restaurant, and I Know How Much You Tip
Do men tip better than women? The truth is more complicated
My third piece for the the food publication Heated has my 5th most views of any Medium story, my 4th most reads, and my 4th most fans. And that’s after only a month and a half!
I love combining personal essay with current events and research. Here, I go back and forth between tipping statistics and a personal story from my time owning a vegan pizzeria in Seattle.
This story was featured on the Medium Front Page. But my road to publication began with me pitching Heated before I’d even finished writing the piece. Without even seeing a draft, they signed a contract with me!
Getting money upfront was life-changing. In hindsight, I was a professional writer before this moment, but signing that contract is when I mentally made the shift. Yes, that came with imposter syndrome, etc., etc. But it also came with finally buying myself a laptop that doesn’t constantly freeze. (I’m typing on it now!)
2019 was an incredible year for me as a writer.
But I’m just getting started.
Sign up for my weekly newsletter, Empathy For the Win! to keep up with my writing, see what else I’m reading on Medium, and of course to listen to me gush about how awesome my kid is. Happy New Year!