Quit Feeling Bad About Stories That Don’t “Do Well” on Medium

It’s more complicated than you think

By Shannon Ashley

Here’s something I’ve wanted to address for a while. Do you know how to deal with the disappointment and frustration of stories that don’t get a lot of fans or claps?

One thing that really troubles me in our writing community is when people make snide comments about how a certain story hasn’t reached a set number of claps.

Everybody has their level that they think suggests a well-received story. A lot of folks aim for 1,000 claps. Others judge stories for failing to reach a lower number.

Last spring, there was a very disgruntled Medium writer who sent me an email to warn me that I was a soon-to-be wash up on the platform. They said that before I knew it I would wind up like another famous female blogger on the site and would stop getting more than 400 claps per story.

At the time, although the whole incident was disturbing, I couldn’t help but think, “He’s been on Medium six months longer than me, but he still doesn’t understand how the platform works.”

No wonder he was unhappy.

Here’s the thing. There’s no shame in a story that doesn’t garner a ton of claps. Furthermore, success on Medium isn’t won through heavy-clapping on a single piece.

You earn your success on Medium by continuously showing up to tell stories that resonate with other users.

Quit Feeling So Damn Humiliated Over Claps and Fans

Is it nice to have a streak of stories with more than 2K claps and hundreds of fans? Of course. It’s a perfectly human and measurable source of validation.

But a lack of fans or claps doesn’t mean that your story sucked. There’s a whole psychology of clapping or not clapping that’s complicated. Plus, some folks clap once while others clap all the way up to 50 times.

I personally avoid tracking fans and claps per story because it can be unnecessarily distressing. It doesn’t even give you the whole picture.

Some Readers Don’t Clap

Every top writer on Medium knows this. They get all the way to the end of your piece, and for some reason, they don’t touch that clap icon even once. It’s a lot like voting. Some people are never going to do it and the reasons are varied.

Recently, I blocked a user after discovering he had been spamming my stories with nasty comments. When I went over to his profile, I saw that he was making a whole lifestyle of leaving awful comments for Medium writers.

Sometimes, he mentioned me in his comments for other writers. He claimed it didn’t matter what I wrote, that he would never clap on my stories because I’m such a raging, gloating narcissist who doesn’t deserve to earn a cent from him.

A lot of people on Medium write about their incomes. Why he wasn’t making the same sort of comments on male writers who talk about money is beyond me, but it was a reminder that some readers don’t clap.

And it’s not about you. It’s really not. That dude I blocked kept reading my stories — in fact, he couldn’t seem to quit reading my stories and making some sort of comment in the hopes that I would doubt myself. It wasn’t about me. It was all about him and his own unhappiness.

Obviously, it’s not all negative. Sure, some readers don’t clap because they don’t like me or my work. Others are simply ignorant and don’t know why clapping matters. Others are oblivious and don’t really care.

It Doesn’t Always Matter Who You Are

Every writer is on their own journey, and every writer on Medium has to follow their own path.

We like to think that it’s all a popularity contest or that the big names are taking money and views away from us indie folks, but I don’t think that’s true.

Katie Couric is a big name who’s been writing on Medium for a while. Longer than me, but not as often as me.

She’s got twice the followers I have, plus the luxury of frequently being an “editor’s pick” in the app and homepage.

Yet, if it were all about the claps, you could say I’m doing better than Katie Couric on Medium. That’s silly, isn’t it? Apples and oranges.

I write opinion pieces, personal narratives, and essays. Katie Couric is an established journalist. She sure doesn’t need to be embarrassed by her stories.

You don’t need to be embarrassed by your stories either.

Success Isn’t Everything

One of my earliest stories on the platform discussed Kate Spade’s death.

“Our society has such a bizarre relationship with mental health. We regard the outward, mere appearance of success as the be-all and end-all of life, despite the fact that any one of us can achieve such standing yet still lead a truly miserable and mentally ill life.”

Sometimes, people suck. I wrote that above passage long before I knew how successful I would be on Medium. And I have written very openly about my struggles with my mental health, suicidal ideation, and other traumatic experiences.

Yet, because I make money here, there has been no shortage of people telling me that I’m a monster. That my writing is terrible. Or that I’m basically the worst thing to happen to Medium.

Of course, most of those people would have never crawled out of the woodwork to criticize me if I hadn’t had the audacity to succeed on Medium and discuss it. Women discussing money and their careers isn’t always taken kindly, and I feel committed to do it to help pave the way for the women after me.

But you have to make peace with the fact that there are at least 100 different ways to consider yourself successful on Medium. And it helps to quit worrying so much about what other people think.

My hope is that by being honest with you, you’ll feel more confident to pursue your own writing goals. Believe me, even though we get paid for engagement here, you can’t worry and fret about the reception to your work.

You’ve really just got to do the work, focus on getting better, and keep showing up. At some point, the timing is going to line up just right.

Keep at it.