When Your Medium Heroes Become Zeroes
I’d only been writing on Medium a few months. I had published a few articles on P.S. I Love You, but didn’t really know what I was doing.
I stumbled upon one of his stories. Well, he has a gazillion followers so it’s hard not to find one of his stories. It’s probably more accurate to say that his story found me.
In fact, I’m sure those of you reading my story have read something by him.
I was shocked when he said that he would respond to anyone who wrote a response to his story. We live in the same town, so I took a chance.
I wrote a response and asked if we might be able to connect offline. True to his word, he answered me.
We corresponded, texted, and shared stories over the next few days. We complimented each other’s writing. It was such a boost as a new writer to have someone more established enjoy my writing!
He’s truly a fantastic writer in a way that I will never, ever be.
Even now I can respect his talent if I don’t actually respect him.
I ended up inviting him to an amazing concert here in Austin. I had hoped that he might give me some writing tips and overall Medium pointers in exchange for a great seat at a fantastic show.
He suggested that we meet at a bar beforehand, which I agreed to. I also made it clear that I was only interested in being his friend.
I’ll never know if that was the reason why I received this text 5 days later (and 28 hours before the show):
“Whew! Annnnd I’m going to flake! I have to guest host a podcast tomorrow.”
I have never heard another word from him. No apology. No rescheduling.
Not. one. word.
I simply wrote: “I understand.”
I didn’t lay into him or tell him how inconsiderate it was to cancel on me with such short notice.
But for someone who doles out advice on how to be charming and have success with the ladies…for someone who boasts about learning from the error of his youthful ways, he might not be the most qualified.
Eventually, I stopped reading his writing. The hypocrisy rubbed me the wrong way.
When I first started writing on Medium, certain names kept popping up over and over.
They were successful and talented.
I was initially intrigued by their writing style and voice.
I read everything they cranked out. I was happy to be one of their many ardent followers.
Eventually, though, I noticed a pattern: slightly tweaked, recycled stories.
It wasn’t obvious if you only read some of their work, but if you read them regularly, you couldn’t miss it.
One of the writers defaulted to an argumentative approach that felt bold and raw initially, but then stale and predictable over time. Another writer was charming, but made the fatal mistake of writing too often so that her material became monotonous and uninspired.
I understand writing in a niche, but eventually the writing devolved into pandering regurgitation. Which was a pity.
Frankly, I don’t read any of them these days. And I’m not alone.
More recently, there was a fallout between some of my friends here on Medium. I’ve intentionally not written much about it for a lot of reasons.
It’s been painful for me (and many others). And a lot of stories have been written by others about what went down. I’m not really interested in rehashing all of it here.
I will say that the problem is that once you’ve taken the red pill, you can’t unsee these people through the new, less flattering lens.
Someone I really respected here plagiarized. I saw it with my own eyes.
I’ve been cut out of that person’s life without a word. Which is this person’s prerogative. But this person emphatically proclaimed that he/she would never, ever do that to someone.
I know that what transpired was upsetting to this writer and many others.
[In fact, I’m self-aware enough to know that this writer feels betrayed by me. Even though he/she plagiarized, he/she believes I let him/her down by failing to turn a blind eye. I suspect that I’m the zero in this writer’s book.]
Anyway, what I haven’t shared is that I was so disappointed by how everything went down that it impacted my writing here.
Until those events happened, I felt like I was part of a healthy-sized community here on Medium.
That community was torn apart for me and I still haven’t recovered fully. I suspect that I never will. Not 100% anyway.
I’ve been thinking about someone on Medium in the context of longevity, popularity, and backlash.
He’s had a lot of success here, but he’s also had some detractors. I’ve come to the conclusion that I have a lot of respect for how he has handled himself here.
Tom Kuegler owns his missteps and mistakes. He has strong convictions, but isn’t afraid to acknowledge a change of heart or even apologize if called to do so.
I’ve come to realize that not many people will do that so publicly. And I really admire that trait in him.
[To be clear: Tom and I have never had any sort of disagreement or interaction. These are merely my observations from reading him over the past 18 months or so.]
Look, everyone is fallible. No one is perfect. But I’ve seen behind the curtain (at least partially) for some of the most successful writers on Medium and I can’t pretend that I haven’t seen their true colors.
I have no interest in mentioning names (with the exception of Tom, of course — I think he’ll be cool about it). Everyone is entitled to read, support, and embrace whoever they want on this forum.
These are MY experiences and might not be representative of others.
But I do believe that if you are a regular on Medium for long enough, you’ll see some of your favorite writers falter or take actions that you simply can’t support.
This story serves as validation for others out there who have encountered this phenomenon. And to offer a gentle warning to newbies so that they aren’t caught off guard should this happen in the future.
It’s true that these disappointments have impacted me, but mostly?
I just keep doing my own Bonnie thing here in Mediumland.
In the end, there are so many talented writers here, more stories to read and share, and wonderful relationships to forge!
Until her 40’s, Bonnie’s worst nightmare included writing and sharing personal stories publicly. At her friends’ suggestion, she bemusedly started Bonnie’s Mixed Tape on Medium in 2017. She remains shocked that anyone reads her stories and that P.S. I Love You, the Writing Cooperative, and the Ascent have published her work.
She is moving to Mississippi in the coming months and is trying to embrace the fact that she has no idea what she’s getting herself into.
Thank you for reading this story
I know you are busy and have lots of ways you could be spending your time. You using your time to read my work means the world to me — my sincerest thanks!