I came across a quote from the CEO of Medium yesterday. It affirmed an idea that I’ve had for a while about writing. Here it is:
Some of the best content comes from DOERS, not creators.
Here’s the harsh reality: ALL of the best content comes from DOERS not creators.
I am guilty of being a writer, not a doer. When I write every day, I don’t always write because I have something to say. I write because it helps me think.
Some of these posts — to be blunt — are kind of shit. But, it’s my daily practice.
When people ask me how I get ideas to write about every day, my answer usually revolves around two things: the books I read and the life I lead.
A good post can come from an idea in a book. It can also come from an event that I had. The best posts incorporate both. And maybe there’s some story-tellers out there who can consistently combine their life with the ideas they hear about to generate something novel, but most of us really can’t.
When I look at the posts on Medium coming from top creators, I can’t help but cringe a little.
Some people do it right. They consistently put out quality thoughts. Many of them don’t. And to be honest — I would rather one great post come out every week from my favorite creators than some half-baked shower-thoughts shared every day.
I love writing every day. It keeps me focused and keeps me on track towards clarity. But, publishing every day? It’s not necessary.
I’ve noticed that when I have a great post, it is the result of weeks of slowly unraveling a phenomenon before I reach a conclusion. There’s a wide gap in quality between my posts, and I think it’s better for both me and my audience to publish only those posts that are of the highest quality.
The doers are by far the best writers. Take Paul Graham, for example. The man writes incredible pieces. But he had to work for that. He had to lead a life of entrepreneurial adventure and success to get to the point where he can write at the quality he does.
Writing on Medium Shouldn’t Be a Career
When you write every day, you become an expert in capturing attention. By repeating the paradigms that gave you most success in the past, you write posts that people click on. Even if their eyes glaze over while reading the post and they receive no value, you write the post.
If your goal as a creator is to create value, you need to define what value means to you. If you measure it by the money you make, you are measuring it by the attention you attain. Do you really want to measure your success by attention? There has to be another metric.
Because the truth is not everything that captures attention is good for those who read it. We’ve learned that from observing social media.
It reminds of me of the Ring of Gyges in Plato’s Republic. The idea is that if you could get away with everything you did, how would you act? Would you be malicious, stepping on others to get your way? Or would you ignore it’s power and stick to your morals?
That’s a decision Medium creators need to make. Do you write pieces that capture attention but improve no one’s lives? Or do you write to improve lives and believe that the attention will follow? If you aren’t intentional in doing the latter, I guarantee that you’re doing the former.
When we make a career out of writing on Medium, I think we are near-forced to do the former. Our livelihood depends on the attention we can capture. So, we find the easiest way to capture that attention.
Creating New Outlets for Creator Income
I want to be clear in my language here: I think supporting creators to have a sustainable living as a creators is great. That said, I think creator income should focus more on the relationships they develop than the people who pass by and gawk at what they see only to forget about them.
A creator that writes attention-grabby pieces is an attractive person without substance. They may get a lot of attention, but they don’t develop deep relationships. The creator gets views but no true fans.
A creator that writes well-thought-out pieces that they only publish every so often — they are the average-looking person with substance. You may pass them by without noticing. But the people who get to know them — they stick around. These are your true fans.
The True Fans as the Patrons of the Arts
There’s a few creators that I absolutely adore. Nathaniel Drew and Paul Millerd top this list. I support both of them out of my own pocket — I’m a patron for Nathaniel and a substack subscriber for Paul.
This level of connection gives me (almost) direct access to these creators. I get to interact with them beyond their work. It’s wonderful, and it gives me far more value than a subscription to yet another video-streaming platform does.
Supporting creators as true fans — putting money on the table to express your enjoyment of their content.
I see this as the necessary future of the creator economy. It’s not only better for creators, who can create content that they believe to be quality, not simply for grabbing attention, but it’s also better for the audience who can be more intentional in who they interact with.