If you wanted to be someone on Medium, you needed to write for his publications. That’s the idea I got when I started here on Medium.
I began publishing on Medium in July 2018, not too long after Shannon Ashley. Everywhere I looked, I saw the advice to brand yourself, to find a niche — “You can write about parenting or sex, but not both” — so I loved that Shannon, like me, put all that aside and wrote her messy, beautiful truth. And she was successful doing it! That was my model: stay true to myself, write what I feel passionate about, and hopefully find a way to be successful doing it.
His publications caught my eye because I looked at what publications she wrote for. I checked out his Medium publications because of her, and I found that other writers I’d already grown to love on Medium were also writing for his publications. That’s where I wanted to be. The submission guidelines said invite-only, but I emailed him anyway, asking to be let in.
I submitted this piece to him. He rejected it, so I submitted it to P. S. I Love You, and they featured it:
That’s fine. I was still pretty new to Medium then. And no editor owes us anything. He told me to send him more work in the future, which I considered as a partial win, and I went on writing on Medium, concentrating on publishing work I was proud of.
Then he found me.
I didn’t get around to sending him more work, but in February he emailed me, told me he’d read some more of my writing recently and liked it, especially My Rapist Wrote Me an Apology. He invited me into his world of collaborators. I found that it didn’t just mean the ability to submit to his publications. There was a Slack community, weekly video chats (which I couldn’t find time for, because of my 4-year-old and all the rest of life), an invitation to write for his website off of Medium, and an invitation to be on his podcast. There was even talk of a yearly in-person get-together.
It felt good to be asked, to be seen, to be wanted, to be worthy.
It felt good to be in the in-crowd, among people who were successful at something I was trying so, so hard everyday to be successful at. I already had plenty of motivation to create good work — most of my drive is internal — but honestly, to have worked to a point where someone who had rejected me now sought me out felt crazy-good.
Why I walked away from it
I wrote just two pieces for his publication before I told him I was out.
This story is better told through the people it concerned the most: him and Shannon. Honestly, it’s probably just better told through her. But here is my perspective:
Negativity from him about how the Medium Partner Program might disappear was nothing new. And it’s probably great advice to diversify. Almost all my eggs are in the Medium basket, and time will tell if that’s a good career call.
Before any of this, I worried about being counter-culture in the culture he created.
When he posted about preparing for the possibility of the MPP dissolving, I didn’t find it shocking; it’s just how he talks. I clapped it 25 times, because I disagreed with the sentiment, but I wanted to support my friend.
I recently joined a great Facebook group, Medium Mastery, where we all were able to freak out together when this month’s Week Three earnings were late. (When the earnings were released, it was my best week ever, by the way. Woo hoo!) Everyone was freaking, then Shannon posted a screenshot of the reply when, instead of freaking, she just emailed Medium and asked what was up. It was pretty awesome of her: Rather than panicking, she just asked.
So that’s what I thought of — not him and his usual worrying about Medium cutting out us regulars — when I read her piece What Your Complaints about Medium Might Say About You.
I’d read his piece. I’d read her piece. I made no connection in my mind.
But then I read one of his that was so mean-spirited. The headline was something about a Medium writer getting too big for her britches. It was shockingly mean, and I was pretty sure who it was aimed at.
I was confused. I knew they were writer friends, had a friendly working relationship. I had only found his publications because her great writing brought me there.
So I went to the Slack to say, “Hey, what’s up with the mean post?”
But I didn’t even have to ask, because he’d laid it all out there, including pasting the text of the email he’d sent to her. Because, it turned out, he hadn’t just posted a mean Medium piece; he had emailed her a mean email as well. Please read Shannon’s piece, My Latest Story About Medium Got Me Kicked Off a Publication I Love, for that story. I love how, even with the things he wrote, she channels Michelle Obama: When they go low, we go high.
So he explained his reasoning, and he insisted that her earlier piece was a response to his (which, it wasn’t, but even if it was, I still fail to see how his reaction was warranted). And he told all of us writers — us writers he’d selected to be in his in-crowd — we had a choice: Were we in or out?
So, like many others, I chose out.
I took my work out of his publication (and let him know why). And I told him, that from my side anyway, no hard feelings.
No hard feelings. Hmm…
I wanted that to be true, but a few days have passed, and honestly, I do have feelings about it. And they’re hard.
Even before any of this, I vented almost every day to my husband about this guy and the things he said, about how I was afraid I wouldn’t remain in his good graces. He wrote pieces about culling the list of people you follow on Medium, about culling who you followed on Twitter. There was an obsession with culling. And this meant that the in-crowd I had so recently joined was elite, in a way, but it also meant a constant fear that any misstep and you were out. And missteps were determined by him.
I don’t like the feeling of a man having power over me.
It was confusing to have these feelings about writing for his publications. I don’t feel that way when I submit to the other publications I write for: P. S. I Love You, The Writing Cooperative, The Ascent, Writing Heals. Why was I having all these emotions about him and his publications?
“No hard feelings”? Honestly, I do have feelings about it. And they’re hard.
The discussion on his Slack was all anti-Medium. He was asking me to write for his unpaid site off of Medium, which on one hand, felt like an honor, but it was also confusing. Because Medium allows you to post things elsewhere and still put them on Medium. So why not put it all on Medium too? Why not have a chance at earning money to support our families, on each and every thing we write?
That was my model: stay true to myself, write what I feel passionate about, and hopefully find a way to be successful doing it.
Before any of this, I worried about being counter-culture in the culture he created, simply because I I mentioned pro-Medium things, like sharing my accomplishment of being curated 6 times in a row (what a rush!!), while his narrative was that Medium was randomly curating at this point, and it had nothing to do with the quality of the writing. It was an emotional roller coaster, and I’m glad to be off it — to write out my feelings about it, then walk away.
I left his publication, and he blocked me.
Not just from Slack, but on Medium. As far as I know, this is the first time anyone’s blocked me. I’ve never blocked anyone. I don’t even really understand what blocking means yet.
When they go low, we go high.
He’s blocked a lot of us. We are talented, we are strong, and we will keep writing — because we love it, and because we’re good at it.
I’m off the roller coaster. I’m glad I gave it a try, but I’m still shaking, and I don’t ever need to ride it again.
Here is a piece I removed from his publication: