Why you shouldn’t write as I do if you want to pay the rent
When I joined Medium I naïvely assumed it was a forum for people who wanted to exchange ideas with others, courtesy of the magic of the Internet.
Paying $50 for a year’s access seemed like a great deal.
Then I discovered it was possible to earn money by writing on Medium, so I set myself a goal: I wanted to see if I could earn $20 in a year, in order to offset 40% of my Medium subscription.
To my surprise, I surpassed that goal in less than a month. But even more to my surprise I discovered there are writers here who are earning significant sums of money ranging from $1,500 per month to several thousand dollars per month.
Meanwhile I’m achieving a daily total of around $1.40. As I write for about two hours per day to generate two or three articles and also comment on an average of ten articles by other writers, that comes out to $0.70 per hour.
Now here’s the thing: I have a BA and MA in English Language and Literature from Oxford University. I also have an MS in Systems Engineering and an MBA from a top European business school. Over the years I’ve had fiction and non-fiction articles published in a variety of journals and magazines. I even paid for my first honeymoon by winning a writing contest while studying for my MS degree.
And with all these qualifications and all this experience, I can proudly announce that I’m earning less per hour than a six-year-old child laborer in a Bangladeshi garment sweatshop.
What’s the secret of my persistent financial under-achievement?
I’m very glad you asked.
I write basically what pleases me. Sometimes I’m serious and write about economics or evolution or politics or operations management or systems theory. At other times my atrocious sense of humor gets the better of me and I write satirical pieces. Sometimes I write about sex (which given that much of it is about my own experiences, is arguably likewise humorous).
See the problem? You never know what you’re going to get. And no, I’m not going to quote a well-known line in a Hollywood schlock movie. Even though you want me to. Just. Forget. It.
I write to amuse myself and to connect with others who may share some of my quirks and attitudes. Currently I have a little under 200 followers and I am profoundly grateful for each person who clicks the Follow button. Not because it may result in a few dollars of income each month but because it means something I’ve written has been of interest to another human being.
Often I end up following them too, for the same reason: we’ve connected.
Despite living thousands of kilometers apart and never having met in real life, one human being has connected with another through the power of the written word.
I simply cannot over-state the importance of human connection in this fragmenting populist-ridden modern world of ours.
I have a memory from my teens. Soon after I saw a television for the first time, the BBC broadcast a series called The Ascent of Man. It was fronted by the scientist Jacob Bronowski. In the particular episode that touched me deeply, he was outside the crematoria of Auschwitz where four million living people had been turned into ash. He was standing in the rain solemnly delivering his scripted message to camera.
And then, spontaneously, he knelt down in the mud and put his hand into the mire. He looked up and, his voice breaking, said directly to each and every viewer: “I owe it as a human being to the many members of my family who died here, to stand here as a survivor and a witness …. We have to close the distance between the push-button order and the human act. We have to touch people.”
And in a very minor and likely trivial way, that’s all I hope to do here on Medium. I’m thrilled that I can come and read articles I disagree with but because they’ve been written with style and intelligence they enrich my perspective. I love it that I can discover individual voices talking about the challenges they’re grappling with, striving and persevering despite the immensity of what they are trying to surmount. I love being able to learn a few new things from specialist writers and from writers dealing with circumstances I’ve been fortunate enough never to experience myself.
And I’m deeply touched that nearly two hundred people have found something of value in a few of the things I’ve written here and consequently have decided to follow me in case I write one or two more.
Thank you for reading my words, and thank you for writing yours.