The Biggest Lessons I Learned on Medium After 30 Days

After hitting the ‘Publish’ button many times last month, here are my thoughts on earnings, curation, and the growing pains of being a new writer.

Photo of young woman holding a plant.

With April now behind us, I’m sad to think that the challenge I had made for myself has now come to an end. At the beginning of the month, I had announced that I’d be returning to Medium full-force in order to revive my love for writing.

It was definitely a hard process some days, but very exciting and fulfilling on most. And while I did fail to produce work on 3 out of the 13 days I’d promised to publish, the stories and stats I made along the way imbued me with a sense of accomplishment I have long craved.

So to bid my top writing goals in April 2021 farewell, here’s what I have learned since I started writing again in the past (almost) 30 days. I did promise to be transparent and share my stats with you so as to see how the process looks for a new Medium writer with a small readership. This is what it gave me, and what it can also teach or remind you about your own Medium journey.

Note: Before I dive in, I also want to point out that my observations based on my stats does not apply to everyone who starts on Medium. My experience will be different from yours and if you find yours numbers or topics do better or worse than mine, that is perfectly fine. There is no baseline for how successful you should be on Medium — the only measurement should be your own level of satisfaction. Got it memorized? :) Let’s jump in!

What Ten Stories Can Do

Below is a screenshot of my views over the past 30 days and in it, you can see how much the quality and impact of my stories fluctuated with interest and timing. For context, all except one of my stories did not follow trending topics. They were each pretty personal to my feelings and experiences at the time. It shows that intimate writing can connect with people in a very fluid state.

Screenshot of the author’s stats in April 2021.

Because of this flexibility in my writing, I gained 36 new followers and lost 3. While the engagement fired me up, my average viewer reading time often only sat at only half the length of the full story. This realization did bum me out a little, but never enough to quit — if anything, it only makes you want to figure out how to hook people onto your stories more. And after going through each story today, and calculating how much I earned on each newly published story since April 2nd, I have made $6.81.

I am still shook over this revelation because this is the most money I ever made in a month. The highest I ever earned before this was $0.59.

My royal-focused story entitled, “Prince Philip Is Dead: You Can Mourn Someone Without Excusing Their Bad Behaviour” gained the highest earnings at $2.29: that was more than I ever made in a month since I joined Medium 5 years ago. And my cautionary friendship tale called, “One Dead Giveaway A Friend is No Longer Your Real Friend” had the highest impact at 60 views. These might not be that high for other writers, but for me, they were the best stories I apparently ever wrote.

I remember how excited I was when I earned $0.06 on the first day I returned last month, and this jump was incredibly eye-opening. It also reminded me, however, that while making money writing is possible on Medium, the growth is slow and depends widely on the topics popular at the time and your audience reach. Tracking your growth on Medium sobers you up as quickly as it fires you up — the same way it does for anyone with their own content or business.

Regardless, I can only imagine if I had written more what my potential could also have achieved.

Catching ‘Reader Flies’ With Honey Does Work Better Than Vinegar

I noticed pretty early on that stories where I took a more assertive approach, were not received as well as the ones where I was more comforting. So I shifted my focus to the latter. Today, I am happy with the direction I took in my writing for two reasons.

Firstly, the initial stories I wrote about my depression didn’t resonate very well because they were depressing to read themselves— I wanted to share thoughts and feelings that were personal to me, but trying to connect with readers through the language of loneliness and failure made it harder to swallow. For both sides.

Writing less about the pain itself and more about enduring it allowed me to find a positive light that even I needed. Sharing your struggles is cathartic but it requires a very strong writing skill so as to not sound like a pity-me, sob fest — and I am honestly not yet well-equipped to do that.

But second, the stories where I took a friendlier approach and offered advice gave me another important aspect of writing: a healthier personality.

“People will love it when you poke fun at yourself, share your failures, and show you’re just like them — because you are.” — Tim Denning

Tim said that writers should write like how they actually speak in real conversations and so I followed his advice. I tried to write my articles more like how I speak to a friend than a stranger. It quickly became easier for me to write because I was treating it like a sit-down than a speech on a podium.

I feel like I am also more authentically me when I am trying to help people with a positive tone. I would much prefer to be a stranger’s friend first than to be their guide.

Curation Gods Really Do Exist If You Give Them The Right Offerings

The very first goal I wrote for myself was that I wanted my writing to improve so well that it had a better chance at being curated. 8 of my 10 stories all got curated and were added to topic pages such as Self, Relationships, Work, Gaming, etc. When I tell you that I jumped each time I found out, I was over the moon.

In the beginning stages as a Medium writer, when your readership is still low and your following is non-existent, nothing makes you smile more than seeing your writing have the potential to be highlighted on the topic page — except maybe a thoughtful comment from a reader. It did indeed get more eyes on my stories and so to anyone still curious about whether they should aim to get their Medium stories curated, the answer is a big emphatic yes.

I also want to give a quick thank you to the Medium curators who took the time to read and select my stories! You don’t know how thankful I am that you enjoyed them.

You Can Still Trip at The Finish Line

I love that my writing has improved and that my stories are getting noticed. But I can’t count my blessings or successes without obviously counting the times where I misfired.

First, I was too shy to submit any of my stories to a publication.

I knew the value of submitting my Medium story to a publication. I had already selected a few that I enjoy and follow regularly, as well as which of my stories I thought might belong to them. But I was afraid that my profile wasn’t ready and that I didn’t have enough experience. So I quietly ignored any and all thrills of hitting the Submit button.

This month, I will be sure to try and attempt to submit at least three stories. Even if they get rejected, at least I will still have tried.

Second, I let my old habits get the best of me and I failed to post three times.

Focus and productivity were a large struggle for me at the beginning of my return to writing. Many of us go through writing blocks and sometimes they’re harder to overcome than we anticipate. While suffering high anxiety and mild depression in April, my mind would cloud and I lost huge sources of motivation even when it was right in front of my face.

In the last week of the month, I remember sitting in front of my laptop for hours, trying to write for my upcoming publish deadline, and nothing would come out. I had to effectively give up on writing anything for those dates, and accept that no story was better than a mindless one.

I still think that it was the right call to make for myself and my mental health. But it definitely threw a wrench into my consistency goals.

And third, I didn’t read enough as I wrote so my writing didn’t have the depth that I wanted.

Elizabeth Dawber and Alberto Garcia made wonderful points about how reading is necessary for a writer. In order to understand the way that things are today, we have to look at the past. We have to mix old writing with new writing in order to be informative and remain credible to our readers.

Looking back on my stories in the past month, while inspired, they feel somewhat hollow without the added weight of past knowledge behind them. And I hope to correct that going forward.

This means more philosophy and psychology books for me!

Final Thoughts

My journey is young. But seeing how the last 30 days and 10 stories have played out has given me a green light at the writers’ crossroads where I stopped myself. I wasn’t sure where my writing would take me on Medium or if it would even take me anywhere at all. But even without the stats or numbers, this entire experience of returning to my favourite hobby since childhood has allowed me to feel proud and at peace with myself.

Martin Vidal said in his latest story, “Better a skill without reward than a reward without skill”. The words still ring true. Pride over your own growth and hard work will always outshine pride over your monetary gains, else you continue searching for something new to keep filling that void.

And I know that although I had asserted in my April intentions that money was an important factor for me, I am still content without the dollar amounts: I still write because I love to write. I love the topics I am interested in enough to share. It’s not solely about the money. And I’m happy that the end of this journey has reminded me of that.

I don’t know what May will have in store for us, but I would definitely like to continue the same challenge for myself for one more month: I aim to curate. I aim to post 3x a week. I aim to make money.

But a few new goals for May 2021 will include:

  1. Getting one story accepted into a publication.
  2. Making my own publication for a collection of my own stories.
  3. Earning $10.00 in earnings.

These might be low-hanging fruit for some writers, but I prefer to have low expectations and be satisfied with whatever does or doesn’t happen.

And as for the big announcement…

I have decided to start using a pen name going forward.

So starting on Monday, I will begin writing under the pen name, Abby Cheval, but if you still want to address me by my real name, that is perfectly fine. And if you’re wondering why I chose this pen name, don’t worry, I’ll share that story very soon.

So thank you to everybody who read my stories in the past month. And whether you are new to my nook of the website, or a returning reader ready for more, I just want to say I am honored and will keep improving for your reading experience. You might not be impressed by my stats, but I certainly am, and I’m happy that I was able to share them with you regardless.

I can only hope the month of May is kind to me and to all of you in your writing journeys — or if you are just a reader, then in your personal growth tales as well.

Good luck to everyone out there, be safe, and I will see you again with more words to come.

Millennial, noncommittal romantic, walking the tightrope between hope and depression. Sounds like you too? I’ll write something for both of us.

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