I’m on a few Facebook groups about writing, and time after time, I see the same question posted. People say they’re about to start writing articles or blog posts and ask what they should write about to go viral or make the most money. I find these posts kind of disappointing, as it really highlights what this has all come to. That’s a privileged position to have, and I know that. I do not intend to say that you shouldn’t or can’t earn from your writing, just that your writing should reflect you; it should be about what interests you most.
Writing to go viral doesn’t work, and even if it does, is it worth it? I entered this writing journey clean and somehow, along the way, got sidetracked into the same question of virality and money-making, but now I’ve taken a step back, and I’m ready to recognise that I don’t want to be viral, I want to be relatable.
The majority of my articles earn a maximum of $10 in their first month. Some of them continue to earn, so a few of my older articles have reached $60 or even $100, but they’re always slow burners. I haven’t gone viral, but I have one article that defied these expectations, and it continues to earn the majority of my monthly income from Medium.
As I write this article, it has earned $453 in total. It was published in February but started to gain a lot of attention in mid-March when it suddenly peaked out of nowhere and began earning about $10 per day. Alongside the reading time, I also began earning from affiliate products in the article, a total of about $100.
I am not proud of this article. I don’t think it reflects my best work in any way, mainly because my reasons for writing it were financial. I had signed up to be an affiliate partner, and I wanted an article that could contain affiliate links. I’m being really honest here; I just wanted a piece that could make sales. I do use all of the products mentioned, but this isn’t my ‘niche’ or even a real interest of mine. 90% of my articles are about mental health and feminism, so this is far from my comfort zone. I wrote this article to earn money, to get easy traffic, and I can really tell when I read it.
This is the closest I’ve come to ‘viral’, and I don’t need to go back there.
An article by Violet Daniels really opened my eyes to this, as she captured how I had been feeling perfectly into words. When you begin writing online, and especially once you actually start earning some money, there is this temptation just to churn out content. To write for the sake of writing, rather than having a message or goal.
Your monthly earnings stop looking like a gift and more like a challenge. If you earned $150 one month, it feels like a failure to earn less the month after. But you can never predict what you’ll earn with an article, as you never know what will do well and resonate with readers. So you create more and more content, hoping one will stick. You write excellent pieces that don’t earn much and therefore are labelled as not good enough. And you write fluff pieces that somehow hit the algorithm and take those as a direction.
It’s easy to lose your love for writing when money is involved. It’s easy to forget why you started writing in the first place. I began writing articles just to try and earn more. I fell into writing listicles that I couldn’t have cared less about. I even searched for controversial topics that could ignite something in readers. But in this, I strayed away from why I started writing in the first place. I stopped using my life as inspiration and instead looked for it in existing articles.
Through that, I lost my passion for writing, and it became a chore rather than a chance to examine my unruly mind. So I began writing less and less, until I read Violet’s piece and finally understood why.
I didn’t start writing online to earn money. I’m a novelist at heart, and so I began writing online to refine my craft, grow an audience and create a discussion about things that are important to me.
I wanted to write the articles that I needed when I was struggling most. I wanted to talk about mental illness and not just the easy stuff. I wanted to discuss Borderline Personality Disorder, self-harm, eating disorders and everything that comes with it. I wanted someone to read it and feel less alone, even for a moment.
Somehow along the way, I lost that passion. I stopped weighing up topics by their importance and instead by their earning potential. I stopped working on my manuscript as it didn’t provide immediate gratification and income. My ideals for success shifted, and it felt so hard to get back to what started it all.
I have a day job that keeps me going financially, so writing was meant to be about me, about moving closer to my dreams of being a full-time author. I need to remind myself that anything I earn from my work is a welcome bonus but not the goal, and not the description of success.
Virality is tempting, the idea of having so many eyes on your work and the perks that can come with it. But virality is fleeting, here one day and gone the next. I’d rather build a base of readers, of people who come to my articles and trust me to inform them, to interest them. I’d rather reach fewer people but resonate with them.
Every other week, I get an email from someone who has been struggling with BPD or another issue, and who thanks me for my work. I’ve had people say that I helped them come to terms with their diagnosis, that I made them feel less alone and that my words helped them to explain their issues to others. This is more valuable than any dollar amount next to my articles. This is why I tear out my soul and bear it on a platter day after day, as hard as it can be, because I have the wonderful chance to reach people. Nothing is more important to me than the chance to help someone, however minor, to come to terms with themselves. This is what I needed for so long, and I cherish giving it to others.
I don’t need thousands or tens of thousands to see my articles because it wouldn’t resonate with most of them. I don’t write articles that easily go viral because they’re not fun and easy, they’re not based on the most recent trend. I can’t write like that and others can, which is good for them. I’m okay with this, more than okay, because I now remember why I’m here, and why I’m not going anywhere.
Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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