I’ve now posted over 200 articles, essays, and stories on both my personal blog and on Medium. I’ve published most of them during the last 140 days, during which I’ve kept alive a streak of posting at least one piece daily. (50 articles being published in a span of just 30 days.)
By keeping this streak alive, and publishing this many articles, I’ve been probing for my personal outer limit of maximum productivity. I wanted some answers to a burning question — What kind of results could you get, and what would life as a writer look like if you“red-lined” it all the time?
You May Throw More Balls Than Strikes
Those familiar with sports will appreciate the analogy to a baseball pitcher. He may be able to throw 100 mph fastballs—100 mph being his red-line. But while red-lining can he consistently hit the target his catcher sets for him? Or does maximum velocity come at the expense of control?
If you’re a creator, you will appreciate what I’m saying. At some point, maximum output takes its toll in eroded creativity. Quality suffers and yields more balls than strikes. We may fool ourselves for a time and call it production, because it is a type of production. But if we fool ourselves for long, we risk losing the creative spark along with the discernment to tell the difference. Sure we can “throw” 100, but easing off may help us find the strike zone more consistently.
Revision Goes On Holiday
I’m glad for this time I’ve red-lined it and churned out as many stories as I could realistically write. Though I know fully that not each story is my best work. Some may be embryonic. There may be the framework of an idea, but that kind of speed doesn’t allow for much reflection before you take up the next story. Writing means revision. You revise little at the red-line.
“I’ve found the best way to revise your own work is to pretend that somebody else wrote it and then to rip the living shit out of it.”― Don Roff
Thankfully, some quality seeped into one of my stories which is sitting at nearly 1000 views and over 500 reads since its publication earlier this month. This may be the norm for many or you, but it isn’t yet for me. Compared to my usual results, the stats for this story are pleasantly shocking.
I’m encouraged by the number of reads, highlights, comments, and positive feedback this story is garnering. I want my writing to be meaningful. The experience with this story is affirming. It is driving my current statistics causing this month to outpace anything I’ve achieved on Medium as measured by reads and engagement—which equates to more pay.
Meaning Over Money
I’ve consistently earned over a hundred grand a year for the last eighteen in the job I’m transitioning from to write full time—but I haven’t touched this many lives in two decades. That feels fantastic. Money is nice. This is better. Both would be, well…
I’m far, far from real money in my career reboot, and farther still from making a living from writing solely for my Medium audience (which may not be possible at all—at least not for another 4 or 5 years), but there is some attestation that with time and continued hard work, I can make a living writing.
There is a nice growth curve happening due to both the productivity of having more articles up, and the instance of one well-performing story. If there’s a formula for success on Medium, it’s likely found in some combination of those two essential ingredients.
Of course, another thing I’ve learned besides my production limit is that pushing the publish button isn’t the harbinger of personal nuclear destruction I once feared. You may occasionally publish what is mere sophisticated drivel, and it won’t kill you. Critics don’t automatically jump out of the woodwork to cut you to shreds with the cat-o’-nine-tails of derision in an open public forum.
Besides, if you’re anything like me, you’re your own harshest critic. You know when your stuff is flat.
Out-Publish Your Fears
I out-argued myself for decades into writing nothing at all for public consumption. I was afraid. The fear of failure arising from my belief that I would write nothing good enough to matter kept me from writing anything but journal entries, copious notes, and skeletal drafts of ideas—each of which I abandoned before giving them skin and heart. Publishing stories at my red-line has taken away a lot of the fear of both failure and criticism. Now I’m motivated much more by the hope of success than by those fears.
You Write What Life Gives You
Writers know it isn’t as easy as falling off a log. There’s a lot of demon wrestling. If everyone could write well and make money at it, they would. Let’s see your creative work, critic.
Writing isn’t supposed to be too easy, since good writing is born of life. It has the truth of life in it—and it sows seeds of life from writer to reader. Raise your hand if you think life is easy. But writing should be more emotionally and mentally rewarding than just chasing a buck in a meaningless job. And that means not writing all the time at your highest WPM (words per minute) red-line.
Take Your Foot Off The Gas — This Isn’t A Drag Race
I will gradually ease the tachometer of my writing output away from the red-line of imminent engine failure, but I’m hooked on the habit of daily writing now. I realize this isn’t a drag race. There is no shortcut to success that sprinting can achieve. Good writing, like becoming a good writer, is a process. That engagement with the process is the best fruit of the last 140 days. I’m a daily writer — not because I have to be in response to external pressures. I have no contracts to meet, nor a bucket of minimum words to fill at two cents each.
No, I’m a daily writer now—because I’m compelled internally. I always marveled at those who said you know you’re a writer when you have to write. I never really understood. Now, I do.