Everything I Thought About Medium Might Be Wrong
Why you should write only when you’ve got something important to say.
First of all, I have some exciting news for you.
We just launched our very own Discord server for the Honest Creative folks. Yay!
My hope is that we can create a tight online community of creators – help, support each other, ask questions, tell stories, and grow alongside like-minded people.
Many people told me they lack a place like that, and I decided, why not start one? After all, I was looking for a place like that for as long as I can remember!
You can join by clicking the button below:
Say “hi” once you get there, so I know you’ve arrived safely!
And if you have a friend you’d like to invite, feel free to use this invite-only link: https://discord.gg/sjeCBGy.
More creators = better.
But apart from Discord news, I just wrote a piece I wanted to share with you. It was inspired by our discussion today in the Discord community. It’s about combining quality with quantity when creating content. And it’s something I bet most of you have been thinking about. You can read it on Medium (if that’s more comfortable), but I’ll also share it right here.
Creating content is not as easy as “publishing daily.” So let me know your thoughts, as this is an important topic which I want to talk more about.
Without further ado…
“Write every single day.”
This is what I told myself for 8 months. And this is what I did.
It helped me in all sorts of ways. I created my first “1,000 pots.”
Built an audience: I had 35 followers in October 2019, now I have almost 5,000. It’s also growing.
Improved my writing skills: as a non-native English speaker, I didn’t write anything in English before Medium.
Gained confidence: and I started calling myself a “writer”.
But as Marshall Goldsmith wrote,
“What got you here won’t get you there.”
You can’t expect to do the same thing that got you to Level 1 to get to Level 2.
Once you become comfortable, you need a new strategy to keep going.
When I think about why I started writing every day — where the idea came in the first place — I think of successful writers on this platform.
Back in October, I didn’t know what to do with my life. So I spent hours every day reading stories from the big Medium successes, people with 30K+ followers.
And I did what I usually do when I learn from someone.
I didn’t listen to what they said (or wrote).
Instead, I watched what they DID.
And what they did was publish daily.
Sometimes several times a day. It’s only natural I assumed that this is what makes you a successful writer.
But as I said, “what got you here — won’t get you there.”
Yes, writing every day is good for those starting out. You learn, build skills, find your voice, gain confidence. You learn to ship and hit “publish.”
But you also sacrifice quality.
And no matter what people say, it’s quality, evergreen content, that wins in the long-term.
I knew this for a while. In fact, I wrote a short piece on this two months ago.
But I didn’t do what I said in that piece. I didn’t start publishing less.
I am scared.
I admit I am scared.
I once read that the way to escape your fear is to admit you have it in the first place. I admit it.
I am scared that if I stop publishing and writing daily, all of my following — the one I worked so hard for — will disappear.
I am scared that I might stop making enough money to pay the bills.
I am scared that people will call me a hypocrite. I will be someone who yelled: “publish daily!” but then stopped publishing daily himself.
I am scared that people will forget me. And so I decided to show up each day to be at the center of attention 24/7.
Here, I admit it. I am scared.
(I actually do feel better now.)
Tension is natural.
Whenever you do something new, you feel scared. It’s natural.
It’s a sign you’re doing something important. It’s a sign you’re growing.
(Which is why, when you’re afraid to publish something — it means you’ve got to.)
Steven Pressfield famously said:
“Fear is good. … Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”
If I feel this tension with changing my strategy, I must be doing something right.
“What’s the worst thing that can happen?”
I might not make a dime for a whole month from Medium.
Is that really so bad? Not really. I can always go back to the same old strategy of publishing daily. It’s just fear of the unknown that’s holding me back.
But let’s talk about why you should change your strategy in the first place.
Nobody can write high-quality articles every day.
Nobody, I repeat: NOBODY can write high-quality articles on a daily basis. And whenever I hear people brag about writing 10,000 words a day, I know I am not dealing with a writer.
These people are copywriters.
In other words, they write for word count. More words = better.
That’s not my kind of fun. To me, that’s noise. And such people are noisemakers.
I seek to write to express, not impress. I seek to write to be understood, to get my ideas out there. Not create more bytes.
Even titans like Intercom — who have a team of ghostwriters for their corporate blog — don’t create content daily.
Instead, they focus on creating “evergreen content”: something so compelling that people will return to over and over again. This brings them success. They don’t even have to promote their content — their readers do it for them.
For beginning writers, writing daily is a must.
You discover the writer within by putting words on paper. It’s even OK to create noise at this point. Most new creatives suffer from a block — so it’s good to start somewhere.
But once you understand that you’re capable of generating content without vomiting your guts out, that’s when you need to reconsider your strategy.
Your mission as a creator.
What works for me, won’t work for you. And what worked for you today, won’t work for you tomorrow.
The successful writers I read when I first came to this platform are people from the Web 1.0 — that’s the world of early WordPress and content for the sake of content.
Compared to its current state, the Internet was a desert back then. You could become successful by writing a handful of 500-word articles.
Today, it’s all different.
The Internet is overflowing with content. Most of it is shit. Most of it wants to sell you something. Most of it can’t be trusted.
Readers are smart. They know this.
Our job as content creators is not to make more noise. It’s not to put our names on more words.
It’s to create high-quality content that matters.
7 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD STOP WRITING DAILY AT SOME POINT
I like directives. They make complicated things easier to grasp. They make stuff actionable.
Here’s a directive for new writers.
Write daily for 4–6 months just to get the juices flowing. Then stop. Write whenever you have something important to say.
1You can’t create high-quality content every day unless you’ve got a team in place.
2You achieve success — including financial success on this platform — by creating viral content. Viral content is the one people can’t help but share. To create that kind of content, you need hours — even days — of focused work.
3It takes your writing to a whole new level. The writing skill is not in typing words, it’s in expressing your ideas in the clearest way possible. You will take the time to edit, and say only what matters.
4You do good for the world by not creating more noise.
5You become the person you want to be. “Publishing daily” is a rule. Like all rules, it has almost nothing to do with you. What if you don’t want to publish daily? What if you need time for your inner content to mature, like good wine? By publishing whenever you have something to say, you stay true to your values.
6Growth hacking is bullshit. Yes, it might give you traffic — but nothing beats a viral piece. If you put all of your efforts into creating the best possible content, you won’t even have to promote it. High-quality content is the ultimate growth hack.
7If you write on Medium, great content gets curated and distributed across email newsletters and home page. It amplifies your content grows exponentially.
Derek Sivers writes one of the most insightful blogs on the Internet. His personal directive is:
“Write daily, publish when ready.”
That works too.
“Sergey, you’re full of shit.”
You might say.
What I am saying in this piece might look like it’s going against everything I wrote for so long. But it’s not.
Nothing in life is black or white. You can have two opposite ideas that are true — but in different sets of circumstances.
Exactly. When you’re starting out.
When you learn, you focus on the quantity. When you go to the next level, you need to upgrade your process too and focus on other things.
Steve Jobs said, “Real artists ship.” Yes. I still agree with this.
Shipping is more important than the quality of your writing. But only IF you’re struggling with hitting “publish”.
It’s harder to ship something you’ve been working on for a few days than a blog post you wrote before breakfast. It’s a new challenge.
Right. They don’t overthink shipping (see above). And they don’t overthink while they’re creating.
But overthinking is not the same as creating high-quality content.
Overthinking jams you. Writing quality stuff and publishing only what you care about makes you more focused.
What writing and investing have in common
VCs work by placing bets. They make educated guesses.
They know that 9/10 companies fail, but they also know that the 10% that will succeed — will make them enough money to cover for the losses. (Which is why investors always look for a 10x return.)
The most successful investor on the planet — Warren Buffet — makes one or two investment decisions per year.
He is almost never wrong. He spends the remaining time thinking, pondering, and reading in his office.
This guy is the embodiment of patience.
When you’re a content creator, your job is similar.
To succeed, your content has to go viral. It has to be so good, people will want to share it. This is exactly what happened to my top-performing pieces so far: I started a discussion or posed an interesting, contrarian perspective.
If your content is average, you’ll end up boosting your content with paid efforts until the end of time. But if it’s engaging, it will work for you.
When you write daily, you’re essentially a day trader, making 1% here and losing 0.5% there.
But if you want to enter the professional league — where the “big boys and girls” play — you’ve got to start acting differently.
To get a 10x return on your efforts and time, you’ve got to write as Warren Buffet invests.
With patience. And diligence.
“Calling someone who trades actively in the market an investor is like calling someone who repeatedly engages in one-night stands a romantic.” — Warren Buffet
Every piece you publish is an investment. If it’s “evergreen”, it will keep making you money while you sleep for many months after you publish it.
Yes, you might increase your chances of success if you write a lot.
a) “a lot” doesn’t necessarily mean “every day”;
b) there needs to be a balance between content quality and quantity.
Bottom line: to win, you need to create consistently AND high-quality over many years.
90% of the money I made in 2020 from Medium comes from 3 articles.
These were the articles I felt I had to write. These were the ones I couldn’t stop thinking about.
This doesn't mean I could not write the other ones.
But for an idea to mature, you need to give it time. When you publish daily, you break the “maturity” process by selling yourself short.
I used to think that you have to publish daily to maximize your odds.
Well, you can also stay in the game long enough — for many years — while trying to create the highest quality content possible. That will make you even more successful from the money and audience standpoint.
Your readers will thank you for thinking of them.
As Patreon CEO Jack Conte says,
“The only thing that defines a creator’s success is how much they love their fans and how much fans love them back. Nothing else.”
Sometimes I have to balance between the two “me”:
The one that wants to make art, change lives with ideas;
And the one that needs to pay the bills, and wants to be at the center of attention.
That’s understandable. This is what all creatives go through.
Medium doesn't change the laws of physics. It’s a great platform that allows your content to be seen, but the same rules apply as that when you write any other content on the Internet.
How you write — is how you think. Good writing = good thinking.
And because my ultimate goal is to create content that matters— not simply write words or make money or get followers — I should start saying something different to myself.
Not “write every day” — I am past that.
“I will only publish when I have something important to say.”
It’s going to be uncomfortable.
It’s not going to be easy to hold myself from wanting to be at the center of attention all the time.
But in the end, I believe it will be worth every effort.
Go make something meaningful.
What you might have missed:
All You Need Is To Make 1,000 Pots – Why quantity always trumps quality in content creation.
How To Set Yourself Free – Make your personal projects a priority.
5 Ways To Become a More Creative Human Being – Or how to stop writing about writing.
Enjoyed this? Please help us spread the word about this newsletter:
In case you didn’t know, I also have a book out – Blog Is a Platform: What Blogging Can Do For You and Your Career. A lot of my readers found it valuable.