The Inconstant Blogger

May 4, 2020 | No-Niche Posts, Writing

It is a poorly-kept secret that I have been writing “elsewhere” and not on this blog, the last couple of weeks.  My friend Rasheed Hooda, who once declared me Queen of the No-Niche Bloggers, likes to do to me what I so blithely do to others. Like the Pied Piper, but instead of a flute he balloon-twists his way through the Internet, leaving breadcrumbs and nudging and cajoling until it’s hard not to follow his wanderings. This time, he lured me back to Medium, where I had an account, circa 2015, but only as a reader.

An Accidental Writing Portfolio?

I had stumbled onto the site long ago – The Atlantic has a presence there – and that may be where I first read work by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Is it any wonder, then, that I had never ventured to write, there? I had not seen Medium as it is widely regarded – as a blogging platform. And as a writer who viewed Medium as a platform for more serious, professionally vetted and edited writing, can you imagine my horror at returning there to learn that every comment is treated as a Story? That people had actually “clapped” for some of the passing comments I’d left behind? I had…followers. A lot of followers. 1,277 of them, as of this moment. I’d already built an audience there, without even trying.

Who were these people and why were they following me? Mostly, I think, they were writers, hoping that I would follow them back. But of course, I hadn’t. I hadn’t returned to Medium at all in about three years. I followed everyone back, indiscriminately. And then I deleted all my Stories – my comments. I tested the waters by re-posting an old blog post. A few readers, there, liked it.

And then Rasheed started nudging. Join the Medium Partner Program, he nudged. Maybe it’ll be another income stream, he suggested. I’m all for getting paid to write, but I had no intention of publishing listicles and formulaic blog posts like “8 Things You’re Doing Wrong with Your Life – Pay Special Attention to Number 6,” just to earn a few pennies. Been there, done that: Themestream, Redpaper, Vines… The idea of micropayments, tiny amounts of cash in return for the time spent reading an article – the challenge of holding a reader’s attention long enough to earn a payment for the work – has its appeal. But I was still determined to be worthy of rubbing elbows with writers published in The Atlantic.

I’m Not a Hack, I’m a Busker!

pink and white concrete building

By January, that first “dip-a-toe-in-the-water” story that I’d posted had earned a whole penny. Dreadful.

Then came The Great Pause. Celebrities showed up on TikTok and Instagram and competed for attention with ordinary, but extraordinarily creative, people. They came without make-up or camera crews, and they came with bad lighting and laundry baskets in view. The originality was breathtaking. “We’re all in this together!” we all proclaimed, but almost as soon as we shouted the hurrah, it was clear that we were not, in fact, “all in this together.” The real celebrities still had more expensive homes, even if they tried filming from their walk-in closets. Pandemic brought into sharp relief the differences that separated us: wealth, “essentialness,” ideology, sense of duty, sense of humor, maturity. Who had the capacity to find the silver linings among the scraps of rust; who could turn rust into useful things? And, if nothing else, who had the capacity to entertain themselves and not be bored under #StaySafeStayHome orders?

Normally, I’d have relished the quiet, the solitude, the ability to sleep in late without guilt. I had plans, too. Vague, but serious, plans. I was going to write a novel, finally. But now, it wasn’t a choice, and I felt less inspired, less creative, less imaginative than I’d envisioned my April self. I felt like a small boat, anchored, motor running, with no one at the helm. Rudderless. There were no waves, just little circular ripples.

So. Why not try Medium as a writer, for a change? Why not. 

Busking is performance art. So is impromptu collaboration, as you can see here:

View at Medium.com

two biplane on flightThat was fun.

So Where Am I Going with This?

I still don’t see Medium as a “blogging platform,” even if that’s what it is. Jahangiri.us is my website, and Medium never will be. It’s more like a warm-up area before the performance. As is this, in a way – but I control it. My original plan was to use Medium to increase readership on my own blog. I know that Amy Marley gets that; I think she’s the only reader from Medium who ever followed me from there to here – and that’s probably because I’m one of the few who went straight from her bio on Medium to her own blog.

I think that I have widened my reach and found a new audience for my writing, but there is little cross-pollination. “Build it, and they will come,” is utter bullshit. Marketing and PR are exhausting.

It’s not my intention to drag you, Constant Reader, over there. Although I have done exactly that, to at least two of you – and I don’t think you were disappointed. You will find some of Medium’s best articles tucked behind their paywall, including most of the ones I publish there. But even a few of those are free each month whether you choose to pay the $5/month membership fee, or not. Much of that is distributed to the writers whose work you spent time reading (so no skimming, okay?) My plan is to use whatever pennies I earn busking over there to support my own $5/month Medium membership and maybe help pay for the domain and hosting fees (about $250/year) here.

I’m Not a “Joiner,” but It’s Nice to Find a Writing Community

I’m not big on writing groups, but that’s probably just because it’s hard to find the right one. To build a sense of community isn’t easy, and why would you trade reads and edits with people you don’t feel a sense of kinship with?

Shortly after dragging me over to Medium, Rasheed coaxed me, like a wild bird, over to a Publication called, “ILLUMINATION.” Its founder, Dr. Mehmet Yildiz, has the sort of boundless energy for promoting himself and others that you might attribute to a whole team of PR people. He, himself, swears it has something to do with the strength of his mitochondria, and I can’t quibble – whatever it is, no amount of vitamin supplements is giving it to me. I became a contributor there, and to two other publications: Writers Blokke and The Bad Influence. In the process, I’ve made writer-friends. I’ve connected more with my Facebook friend, Bob Jasper, who is spreading his wings over on Medium as a writer – I’m not the only one Rasheed plays Pied Piper to!

I’ve also learned how to use and administer Slack workspaces, and started building my own little community of writers – independent of Medium or WordPress or YouTube or any other platform, just a small community of friends who don’t talk about the horrors of the day. We write about them, if we must, but for the most part, we’re pretty determined to write about the worlds that live in imagination or the silver linings we’ve found and want to share. We don’t just trade links and outrage and mutual despair. We trade links to say, “Hey, I made this thing. Come lookit!” like excited nine year olds. Because we’re starting to feel energized and creative, and having fun with that, again.

 

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle, illustrated by Jordan Vinyard; A Puppy, Not a Guppy, illustrated by Ryan Shaw; and the newest release: A New Leaf for Lyle, illustrated by Carrie Salazar. She draws inspiration from her family, from her own childhood adventures (some of which only happened in her overactive imagination), and from readers both young and young-at-heart. She lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, J.J., whose love and encouragement make writing books twice the fun.

11 Comments

  1. Mitchell Allen

    I didn’t feel dragged and I so appreciated “Bananas.” I love the view behind the paywall, too! Distraction-free.
    You know, it’s not like we have to gas up the car to travel from Jahangiri US to Mediumville. 🙂 The hyper in hyperlinks may be the closest we ever come to teleportation. Ain’t it grand?

    Cheers,

    Mitch
    Mitchell Allen recently posted…My Friends Are BananasMy Profile

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      I knew you didn’t really feel dragged; I was just hoping you’d vouch for me, rather than me putting words into your mouth – and here you are! 🙂

      Indeed you are right on the hyperlinks! I have been wondering something – is the speed of thought faster than the speed of light, do you think? Could that explain quantum mechanics and perhaps enable teleportation, at some point?
      Holly Jahangiri recently posted…The Inconstant BloggerMy Profile

      Reply
      • Mitchell Allen

        In order to answer your question, I’m going to send you my unedited novelette. I covered the physics and reveal a surprise about infinity. 🙂

        Also, a traffic-jam in the teleportation tubes might end up scrambling atoms. You come out the other end with an ironing board sticking out of your skull.

        Cheers,

        Mitch
        Mitchell Allen recently posted…My Friends Are BananasMy Profile

        Reply
  2. Amy

    I love all your writing.

    My attention is scattered and Medium is like a labyrinth of golden wisdom for me. I admit I am distracted but practicing and enjoying too!

    I find it surprising that I am the only one so far who sought you out over the walls
    of medium. Interesting.

    I loved your creative dance with Chuck.

    Thanks for writing.
    Thanks as always for being you.

    Reply
  3. Marian Allen

    I’ve never regretted anyplace you’ve lured me, but I’m feeling peculiarly un-lureable at the moment. And I tried Slack and Did Not Like. Anything forum-y scrambles my brains like an ironing board sticking out of my skull. (Mommy, what’s an ironing board?)
    Marian Allen recently posted…“Adult” Entertainment #1LinerWeds @StoryADayMayMy Profile

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      But our Slack is super quiet. 🙂 It’s okay. (Though I actually hated it when I first tried it and had nowhere to GO… Slacking off by yourself is only good OFFLINE, y’know? The secret is to be a Slacker along with kindred Slackers.)

      Reply
  4. Bob Jasper

    Check your email to confirm your subscription.

    I was pleasantly surprised to see my name mentioned (always nice to see my name in print and not in the police-activity section).

    As you know, I enjoy Medium. It scratches my blog-itch nicely. The thing I enjoy most is getting to know other bloggers. If someone reads something I post, I make it a point to visit their profile and learn a bit about them and read some of what they post. I think others must do the same. I love that so far it has paid for itself. I never considered doing it for money, so that is an unexpected benefit. In just a couple of weeks last month I got enough reads to pay for my first months subscription. I’m well on the way to doing that again this month and it is only the 8th. I’ve done that even thought I was ill a couple of days and didn’t write much. Another unexpected benefit is that I’m learning a little about how to market my writing online with zero budget thanks to you and Rasheed and others. I’m inching my way up the learning curve, which is about all this old brain can handle.

    All this because of Rasheed. Your right, Holly, he’s the Pied Piper.

    Bob Jasper recently posted…TOWARD A BETTER WORLDMy Profile

    Reply
  5. Mitch Mitchell

    “It” probably didn’t happen because the actual quote from the movie was ”If you build it, he will come”, the “he” being the father of the person hearing the message about building the ball field. Just thought I’d let you know that. lol

    As for the other… I didn’t really know what Medium was until maybe just under 2 years ago, and it reminded me of HuffPo, only less newsy. This is probably an incorrect take, possibly business biased, but I’d rather be paid for writing something up front if I’m putting it somewhere I don’t own rather than writing something for another platform and hoping to earn pennies. Also, the paywall thing bothers me, though I didn’t know about that until I tried reading something Rasheed posted and I got a message disallowing me from its perusal. Whenever I run into mess like that on Flipboard I remove that particular magazine from ever showing me anything again and move on with life; so much for the NY Times!

    Still, I hope it serves all of y’all well in the future, so that one day you can come find me and say “I told you so”… if I’m still alive by that time. lol
    Mitch Mitchell recently posted…You’re Worth What You Get PaidMy Profile

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  6. Corinne Rodrigues

    Ah! So I missed this and many other things in the excitement (not) of the ‘great pause’! I followed your advice and just re-posted something. I had done this before, but didn’t really see much engagement.

    I think the trick is to mix it up – some original content and some republished stuff. What do you say?

    Also let me try and contribute to some publications, if they’ll have me.

    Thank you for always being so logical and practical in your explanations. Love ya!
    Corinne Rodrigues recently posted…8 Fast Fixes for a Quick Energy BoostMy Profile

    Reply
    • Holly Jahangiri

      I thought you had done it before; I think I left you a comment, or maybe just sent you a message asking if you were still active on Medium? I think that whether you do it or not, your intentions and hopes – what you hope to get out of it – should be clear. But it does seem more like blogging back in the “olden days” when people were more thoughtful readers and conversed with one another in the comments, didn’t just leave a drive-by link and run. I’m enjoying it.

      That said, I need to not neglect my own “home” on the web, here. This is what I mean by having a clear purpose. It’s easy to become distracted by the pretty, shiny things – but remember that we are decorating someone else’s home.

      Reply
  7. Christian Steinsworth

    It’s always wonderful to be able to connect with others who have a passion for writing. I too am trying to come out of my writing “shell” and write alongside others more often – as I find I am too often stuck within my own mold and mentality.
    Christian Steinsworth recently posted…How To Care for Guppies: The Ultimate Guppy Care SheetMy Profile

    Reply

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