Last night, I told my boyfriend some concerns I had about my writing.
The article I’d gotten published in The Ascent yesterday turned out to be “uncurated” not long after it went live.
It did not get distributed in relevant topics, even though I thought this one had the best chance out of all the articles I’ve written and published to Medium so far.
I now have 37 stories on Medium, and none of them have been curated. I thought getting published with The Ascent might be my saving grace, my way out of “curation jail” as a writer put it in an article I read the other night.
Alas, it was not so.
The dreaded message still appeared above my story: “Our curators were not able to review this story for distribution in topics due to high volume.”
I felt a pang of disappointment at the time when the message appeared. I had thought that maybe this time, it would be different.
I guess not.
I was explaining all this to him, and sharing my fears around it.
Maybe the articles I’d been reading lately on curation and how to tell if you’re in trouble (aka “curation jail,” as many have started referring to it) weren’t helping.
They didn’t manage to give me many answers, after all — but they did leave me feeling a bit hopeless and anxious, wondering what I was doing wrong and when I’d ever be freed from my prison.
And then the inevitable:
What if I never got freed!?
What if I kept writing on Medium every day for years, and never once got curated?
Could I live with that?
It brought up some interesting insights.
Along with it, though, it also brought up a lot of questions that I couldn’t possibly know the answer to, and that I don’t think anyone else really knows the answer to, either.
I think the top writers on Medium are simply making their best guesses and assessments when it comes to how curation works, piecing together information they’ve collected through experience — which they’re then trying to neatly package into digestible theories and steps for the rest of us.
And I’m not saying they shouldn’t be doing this. Some of it is helpful, and they’re likely doing it with the best of intentions.
After all, most of us new writers (or at least new to the Medium platform) are curious. We’re asking for answers and guidance, and to be shown the way, step by step.
We all want to believe there’s some invisible key that we just have to locate somehow, by finding the person who’s developed the magic goggles with the power to make the unseen visible. If we just find that person, we believe, then we’ll be able to unlock the door to the outcome we want.
But I don’t think that’s how it works, in reality.
(And trust me — I’m one of those people who really, really wants to believe that this is how it works!)
Once I’d finished unloading all my scattered thoughts and feelings about the situation onto him, he did something that surprised me.
He started laughing.
This wasn’t his typical response to my struggles, and it threw me off.
At first I didn’t know how to react. I just sat there, staring at him while he giggled away from across the couch. Part of me wanted to be upset with him, but pretty soon the laughter won me over, too.
“What’s so funny? I asked him, smiling through my teeth.
It turns out that he wasn’t laughing at me, but at all the worrying and defeat I’d caused myself over the dizzying and contradictory influx of information and opinions I’d been taking in lately.
As I rambled on about how I might never get out of jail, stuck in the only tiny perspective I could fathom in that moment, all he could see was the much, much bigger picture of how none of it was permanent.
He then proceeded to bring my attention to all the things I hadn’t thought about, like:
What if none of this is actually accurate? What if Medium has a totally different system than any of us think, and the curators are just sitting back, reading all of our ridiculous attempts at understanding the system with puzzled looks on their faces, as if to say:
How on earth did they ever get this impression?
That could be the case!
And it could also be the case that on the 500th story I publish, I suddenly get curated.
Or even the 1000th story! That would be a serious test of will and commitment and consistency, but maybe that’s exactly what I need.
Maybe that’s the key to unlocking the door to the curation Gods’ hearts. Maybe the universe is testing me, to see how long I’ll keep publishing without being curated before I get sick of it and give up.
Any of these things are possible, and there are an endless number of other possibilities as well. Just because I can’t see them or understand them right now doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
And that’s what he made me see.
Honestly, right now it feels more helpful to believe in not knowing than it does to believe in anything I’ve read about the topic so far.
I admire the writing of many people on this platform, and respect them for the dedication to their work, their consistency, and their success. Many of the people I follow are top writers in their categories, have been published in many of the biggest publications on Medium and elsewhere (or have their own publications), and have hundreds, if not thousands of followers.
They’ve been writing on Medium a lot longer than I have, and there’s no doubt they know more about it than I do. They’ve got way more experience than me, they’ve written a lot more than me, and they’re way better writers than me as a result of all those things combined.
Despite all this, none of these people know this one thing:
How my journey is going to unfold.
I don’t know it either, and I have to stop pretending that I do.
Just like everything else in life, Medium is a living, breathing, unique creation of its own — which also means that it’s ever-changing.
Nothing stays the same forever, and just like I must grow and evolve as a writer (especially if I hope to one day be successful), Medium must also grow and evolve.
How either of these things occur should be of no concern to me, because whenever I make them my concern, I end up feeling the most hopeless, anxious, and defeated.
I can follow everyone else’s advice all I want, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m not them. My path is not the same as theirs, and how they did something doesn’t mean that’s how I’m going to do it, or even how I should do it.
Life is not one tidy, straightforward pathway through the forest where it’s easy to walk. We each walk our own path.
If there’s one thing I do believe in, it’s that life works in mysterious ways.
There are a million different ways to wind up in the same place, and a million different combinations of events that may get us there.
As long as we stay open to the unknown and keep believing in possibility, rather than seeing our lives as fixed and our paths as defined (by what other people tell us), then we’ll get there in whatever way the universe sees fit.
So for now, my job is to keep writing — and to keep laughing.