I’m Not a Success Because I Write Personal Essays

Jason Weiland

I stopped writing to make money and started having fun again.


Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash

I complain, but I complained a lot more in the past about why success hasn’t found me after years of writing on the internet.

It’s tough when you write for a platform like Medium.com for years and am only earning a few hundred dollars when you see all these kids coming in and writing pseudo-self-help and guides about how to make money on Medium, and they are earning thousands after only a few months.

My paranoid mind starts dreaming up these scenarios when a few rogue editors for Medium have blackballed me and put me on a list of writers not to curate and promote. I start thinking that algorithms are being throttled so I don’t receive any traffic or reads.

After all this time, I start thinking that I truly am a crappy writer, and no one is connecting with my work. After all, my stats on News Break went in the toilet after my Medium stats, so ‘they’ must have realized what a terrible writer I was and stopped showing my work to the readers.

Like many writers, I think only of the worst-case scenario instead of seeing the truth right in front of me.

The Real Reasons My Stats Suck

I’ve known for a long time that my writing doesn’t appeal to everyone. I tend to write self-indulgent personal essays about mental health and rants about the evils of American politics and capitalism. I write about my childhood in a religious cult and my failed relationships.

I write about the years I lost to illness and pain and how I am finally getting my shit together.

I write about myself, my experiences, and the things I have learned over the years from dealing with severe mental illness.

A few years ago, I complained in an online Medium group about how I felt it wasn’t fair that my writing was being ignored. A veteran writer for who I have a lot of respect spoke up and said that people aren’t connecting with me because I write about myself. Nobody is seeing what is in it for them and are getting turned off by my stories.

She suggested I write more reader-friendly articles that have takeaways and bullet points. She suggested that I stop focusing on myself so much and start focusing on what I could do to show that I had my audience in mind when I write my essays.

So I changed my voice, and instead of writing about my experiences and allowing the readers to connect with me and relate to my words, I made it blatantly apparent that my number one goal was to make sure I addressed the reader’s needs.

Mind you; she gave this advice in the context that the main goal of my writing was to earn money from it so I could pay my bills. After all, what I wanted mattered little if I wanted to earn. I made it no secret that my main goal was to generate income, and my need to address and explore my experiences and pain was a close second.

But, I had a problem. I liked the results when I wrote essays from the heart. I enjoyed writing about my experiences hoping that people would relate and see themselves in what I was writing.

I didn’t like writing crappy self-help and listicles. I hated writing about blogging, even if they were the only articles that made money.

The problem was that I wanted to be free to write what I wanted, not what would make money. But I had tied so much of my effort into being a success on Medium and other writing platforms that it was hard for me to follow my heart and write in truth.

I finally had to stop trying to monetize my writing. If I earned money, it was a bonus, but I had to stop putting all my creative focus on creating to earn.

I realized that I need to expand creatively in the areas that could make money and start creating new income sources.

I earned a few hundred dollars a month from my essays and a little from other platforms where I publish my work. I decided to branch out and start developing some of my other interests and skills and see if they could turn into something.

The goal was to write what I wanted without caring about earnings and algorithms, so I stopped trying to publish every day. I only had a few hours every night to write, so I wanted to focus on subjects that interested me and taking whatever time I needed to make sure what I produced was good.

The goal was no longer to publish something every day. The goal was to enjoy writing again and write about topics that made me fulfilled and satisfied.

Then, I started a YouTube channel. Instead of monetizing my writing exclusively, I started to make simple music videos and uploaded them.

Even if I didn’t have the right equipment or wasn’t sure I was 100% ready, I got started. After a few months, I have 50 videos. I am beginning to get subscribers and views and on my way to being able to monetize my work.

I know it will take time, so I am building, creating, learning the ropes, finding out what works and what doesn’t, and having a blast doing something I never thought would be enjoyable for me.

Finding the right music, images, and video and putting it all together is the most fun I’ve had in a long time, and it’s not only inspired me creatively but sparked my interest in writing again.

Now, in the past couple of days, because I have seen more possibilities to earn, I am working on a new idea for a channel that no one is doing, and I think the idea is unique enough to make a splash with it.

Stay tuned!

So I wake up at midnight every night, and I spend the first few hours of my workday writing about important things, like this essay. I don’t try to rush something out the door, but I take the time to explore and enjoy the creative writing process again.

For the rest of the night, I work on videos, and for now, it takes me longer than it should because my computer is relatively slow to render video, but I am getting a new epic computer this month, so I will be able to create videos much quicker and easier.

And now, because I focus less on stats and money, my stress levels have decreased, and my enjoyment has skyrocketed.

I enjoy being creative again, and although I still am not making a lot of money, I know the channels I am setting up will pay off in the future. If I work hard and have patience, I know the money will come.

So I stopped worrying about becoming a writing success and started just being a writer again, and I have to say, I am having fun again!

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A writer and world traveler interested in the American Southwest, West, and Pacific Northwest and the surrounding area news and happenings. Food, travel, culture, creativity, and media are what I like most to cover.

Los Angeles, CA

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