Send in the clowns
I looked for a picture of a clown to go with this post but almost all of them were sinister.
There’s a metaphor for life in there somewhere — or at least a damning critique of the internet circa 2019.
But, yes, the rumours are true.
According to Medium I’m now a Top Writer in Humor. Stop laughing!
The only other time I’ve been called a top writer is according to my mum.
What’s in it for you?
I swear this isn’t one of those smug self-congratulatory posts where you pat yourself on the back for doing basic stuff.
Well, maybe just a little.
I don’t want it to be just that. I don’t even like those sorts of posts.
I will at least try to offer some useful advice on how to get Top Writer status, what it means for you as a writer, and how to keep it.
Narcissism and self-aggrandisement seems to be de rigueur on Medium but that’s not what I’m about at all.
What do you think that says about me though?
Yes, that was a joke. I never said that I was funny.
How do you get Top Writer status?
Medium send you a notification email when you get a top writer tag.
It’s usually based on a combination of the frequency with which you use the tag and the performance of each post.
You can only achieve top writer status in certain tags so you might want to consider that when selecting them for your story.
Medium said in their email that three stories helped me to reach this milestone of mirth.
They’re the usual suspects. They’re not really — I just wanted to say the usual suspects.
Here are the friend links if anyone wants to read them:
I Love Music More Than I Love You
So You’ve Been on Medium for Two Weeks and That Suddenly Makes You an Expert on the Subject
For the Love of Good Music
I Love Music More Than I Love You was published in P.S. I Love You. That was also the first and only piece I’ve ever had curated. So basically I love P.S. I Love You right now.
So You’ve Been on Medium for Two Weeks and That Suddenly Makes You an Expert on the Subject was published in The Partnered Pen.
I love this smaller independent publication and I’m familiar with most of the writers in it from hanging out in Medium-friendly Facebook Groups and, of course, through their great writing.
For the Love of Good Music was published by Publishous. This was a really big deal for me as I know Publishous by name and reputation as a heavy-hitter.
It was the first time I’d submitted anything to them so I felt like I’d knocked one out of the park when they accepted it.
Then they published me on a Sunday, and I swore quite a bit, but I’m not sure that it matters so much on Medium.
The only theme here is that each piece was published in a publication that I loved.
They all were tagged Humor. And they all performed okayish — which is to say better than some of my other posts but didn’t exactly set the world on fire.
You never forget your first time
Don’t worry, I won’t be writing a post every time I get a top writer tag.
This is just the first time I’ve been given top writer status in any tag on Medium.
It wasn’t something I’d been trying to get. I’m not even sure what passes for humour these days on Medium. I’d even cut back on how much I’d been writing on the platform of late.
To be honest with you I’d just about given up on writing on Medium altogether because it felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere. So it was a strange thing to wake up to.
Laziness rules? I’d like to think so.
People tell you that the only way to succeed on Medium is to post several times a day, every day, like you’re on-the-job at an assembly line for hastily-written self-help articles.
Nope. Nope. Nope.
What does it all mean?
Maybe I’m just naturally funny. *hold for laugh*
As much as I’m delighted to be thought of as a funny writer I fully expect this accolade to be about as permanent as a fart in a soap bubble.
I expect the rewards of readership, the untold riches, and the extra cups of tea will be quite nice.
Top writer tags are easy to get and easy to take away. They’re not a sign of quality. They’re not something to shout about. They don’t really mean anything.
All it means is I currently place fifth from the bottom on a list of the top 50 writers that write frequently in the tag of Humor.
But is it possible that…if I tried… really hard…I could be… funny?
Sorry, my brain hurts.
Joking aside I don’t think that trying too hard is the key to humour — or indeed the key to anything other than a hernia.
Yes, that’s humour with an our. I’m English.
Tag, you’re it
The one good thing to come out of this is that it made me rethink my writing.
It’s actually quite encouraging and motivating to realise that you’re close to the bottom in a category of writing that you’re happy to be associated with.
Or, more accurately, that you’re happy to be mentioned in the same breath as a bunch of writers whose work you already happen to like quite a lot.
Instead of chasing tags like Pokemon, like some people do, I’ve decided to concentrate on this one tag.
I like that this happened organically rather than in any strategic way. I’ll just have to find the funny or at the very least write in this tag more often.
Being the underdog only makes me want to drink tea and swear a lot and try to be a better writer — in other words it’s business as usual.
Does any of this really matter? I ask for a friend.
How much of a difference does being a top writer in a tag on Medium make Do top writer tags matter at all?
How do you personally go about holding on to it until they prise it out of your cold dead fingers?
That’s what I want to know from you — apart from whether or not you think that laziness rules, of course, because we all know the answer to that one.
I guess writing more in the same subject wouldn’t hurt. But what else can you do? Is there anything strategic that has paid off for you in the past?
I’d love to hear about your experiences writing on Medium and what you do about this sort of thing.
In short: What’s your experience of top writer tags and what do you do about them?
Oh, and who are funny writers that you think people check out?
The best advice I can give
I asked around, did a bit of digging, and even did a bit of research. Here’s a summary of the best advice I was given — plus my own half-assed opinion.
If you want to keep your tag then keep writing in that tag. It isn’t rocket science — unless your tag is rocket science.
Make sure you use all five tags on your articles. Tag according to what you think is the best fit.
You can only achieve top writer status in certain tags — so either prioritise those tags or make sure that at least one tag on each of your posts is eligible.
Volume and frequency count — but performance and engagement count too.
If you’ve got a top writer tag and want to see where you rank just click on the tag on your profile and then click on the ‘top writers’ section.
This is the list of 50 writers that have achieved top writer status in that tag. Don’t obsess about where you fall on the list — that way lies madness. It’s just nice to know you’re in good company.
If you have a top writer tag then people can see it on your profile. It’s useful as social proof and to indicate to potential readers what you’re about.
That said, if you have too many top writer tags then it also makes you look like a jackass.
My hot take
Some people try to game the system and get as many Top Writer tags as possible.
If you go after tags indiscriminantly that doesn’t make you a top writer in anything — it makes you a dick.
Tags aren’t Pokémon — there’s no need to chase or fight for them.
Not all tags are created equal. Some tags are easier to get than others. That doesn’t mean you’ve gotta catch ’em all.
Pick two or three tags that you love to write about, frequently write about, or love more than life itself, and get to it.
I don’t pretend to be an expert on this. I just got lucky that several pieces I’d written in the same tag did ok.
Some people chase tags and are very strategic about it. That’s all very clever and more power to them. I say just write the best pieces that you can and tag them appropriately.
Also drink tea and swear a lot. I find that helps.
Ding Ding, Round Two!
The picture Medium sends you along with the Top Writer status is one of some sort of comical robot / computer monitor boxer.
I’m not sure it sends out the right message but it made me laugh nonetheless.
Writers shouldn’t think of themselves as being in competition with each other on Medium — even if they are.
I prefer to think that writers are only in competition with themselves. The only opponent you need to punch out is any fear of or resistance to writing.
It’s not a fight to get to the top of the heap. Well, maybe just a little.
I followed all the 49 other writers in the Humor tag. In a friendly and supportive way, of course, and I genuinely like a lot of their writing.
I promise that I haven’t rewatched Looper and I don’t plan to go back in time and eliminate the competition by erasing them from existence.
That sounds like far too much work.
Does anyone know where I can buy a blunderbuss?