Photo by Tommy Lisbon

I May Get Rich Someday

But I’m pretty sure it won’t be from writing on Medium; the hill is too steep.

I need to hurry and get a story on Medium today. So I’ll spend 30 minutes to an hour writing a piece, then I’ll spend another 30 minutes editing it. Then I may ask my husband to proofread it. He’ll spend whatever time it takes to correct typos and point out any awkward sentences I need to rewrite.

I now have a lot of stories on Medium that will pay me from zero to less than one dollar this week. I have one or two stories that have “lifetime earnings” around $5 to $7 dollars after three or four months exposure. The time and effort is hardly worth it unless one just wants to see their work online or writes on Medium as a hobby. Frankly, one might get more exposure by writing a letter to the editor of almost any newspaper; or by pinning a copy of a story on the bulletin board at the laundromat.

Working Cheap.

I’m not the best — or even among the best — writer on here, but I’ve never sold my work for the prices Medium is paying. I made better money as a part-time high school kid working at a drive-in.

I’m finding it hard to accept my work isn’t worth more to Medium. I wrote for newspapers and made my living that way for years. I’ve had articles published in trade journals, sold work to niche magazines, and even once sold a little piece to Reader’s Digest.

It seems someone, somewhere along the way, would have told me by now that I can’t write worth a flip. Medium is telling me, I guess, by what they pay me and about a zillion other writers to keep fresh copy on their platform.

It’s a funny thing competition here is so fierce considering the nickels and dimes we’re paid. Medium makes it more challenging, too, by paying their own writers to compete with their dues-paying members. I’ve heard they pay them some pretty pennies, too. I don’t really know, and don’t care much, since I think all writers should be paid well for their work. What’s not so wonderful is to flesh out a platform with the earnest (practically free) contributions of thousands of others.

My experience here seems to be fairly typical. It’s hard for me to believe the income some writers are producing, but I’m sure it’s true and they must have worked very hard to earn their incomes. I’m just a newbie. What do I know?

I only know my own journey for the few months I’ve been writing here. This will be my fourth month and I’m beginning to wonder just how long it will take me to start getting a dollar for my stories.

At first I was curated.

I’ve been on Medium since late August. I got $4 and change for my first whole month. I knew it wouldn’t be much. One must have readers, of course, and I knew others had worked years to get where they are. I wrote almost every day and was curated five times. I was thrilled. I had hoped being curated might boost me a bit. But it didn’t elevate my stats much. It still made me feel good to get curated several times the first month and was tonic for my mood and motivation.

I have not been curated again since the first month.

Honestly it seems strange — and a little suspicious — I was curated often so soon. I was rusty. I hadn’t exercised my writing muscle much for years and it took a little while to regain my style. (Just FYI regarding my style: If you’ve made it this far you’re aware of my fondness for sentence fragments, comma splices, improper punctuation, etc. My hideous and merciless bludgeoning of good grammar is mostly, but not always, intentional. An English teacher told me long ago that once I learned the rules, I could break them. Bless her heart, she never should have said that.) But I’m getting off the subject, as usual.

Things started looking up the third month of my Medium experience. In October, I made $43 and change. Woo-hoo! Not bad for a new member. I read most never make $100 in a month. Happily, I was almost halfway there. It was a good growth rate and I was back to working my behind off writing pieces for this platform.

Illustration by Jordan Whitfield

Then in November, I made less. I earned $33 and change — I’m too lazy to look up the exact amount

So far, December looks even worse, although admittedly I wrote considerably less at the end of November and the start of December due to a family crisis. However. I’ve written more in the last couple of weeks to make up for it and I’m still averaging a piece every day.

Write, read, and follow.

I also read and follow a lot of people every day and I follow back everyone who follows me. I read for hours and I respond, too. In fact, I spend most of my time writing for or reading Medium. There’s a lot of good content and the reading is enjoyable.

Still, there’s no denying most of us are writing for free or pretty close to it. I’m doing this for extra income in retirement, and not just for fun. I doubt I’d ever waste this much time just having fun. At my age, time is precious.

If things don’t get better in a few months I think I’ll move on to a more productive use of my time. For now I’ll keep trying, although I may take a little break for Christmas. It’s been a long time since I had a gig that demanded I work through the holidays. But, damn, I could miss out on 16 or 17-cents if I take off a day and don’t post a story. After all, I made 13-cents on a recent piece. Less than 8 more like that and I’ll have made a dollar.

Seriously, this does seem a bit ridiculous.

Write the truth; take the consequences.

After posting this bitchy piece I’m pretty sure I will never be curated again. Oh, well. I’ve never let consequences keep me from saying what I wanted or needed to say. I know I’m risking the coins I’ve been earning — but sometimes here I feel like the organ grinder’s monkey. And I’ve written investigative pieces that could have gotten me seriously hurt. Not financially. Physically. So consequences don’t scare me.

If I get thrown off the platform, goodbye everyone. Ya’ll have happy holidays or a Merry Christmas, whichever you prefer. Basically, if Medium throws me off, I guess I’ll have to go back to living and enjoying my life.

I’m going to miss those encouraging stats, though.

Former print journalist, former mayor, retired law enforcement officer. Writing about politics and government along with random personal essays.

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