When Your Favorite Topic to Write About Doesn’t Lead to the Most Success
Today marks three months since I published my first piece on Medium. During that time, I’ve published more than 30 stories — not a ton by any means, but enough to get a sense for the platform and to see what works and what doesn’t.
Most of my stories have been about sports. If you know me, that won’t come as the least bit of a surprise. Before Medium, I had my own website at toplevelsports.net for nearly five years, and writing or talking about sports remains my dream job.
I’ve done pretty well as a sportswriter on Medium as well. I’m listed as a top writer in both sports and the NBA, and I’ve been curated in sports a dozen times. But guess what?
The stuff I’ve written that wasn’t about sports has done better.
There’s only been a handful of these pieces (seven by my count), but they include my top two earners and four of my top five articles in terms of fans.
And that’s without any of those posts being curated. Even when the views aren’t there, the engagement is.
It’s not that hard to understand why. Sports is a relatively small niche on Medium. Many people on this platform are writers, which is why content on things like writing, creativity, and productivity do so well. Readers want to hear your voice and know your story.
While I’m grateful for the success on these other articles, it’s also somewhat disheartening. Should I stop writing about sports and focus on other topics I think will do better?
Absolutely not. After all, sports are my number one passion. I should (and will) keep writing in that area, improving my craft and seeking out professional opportunities. Even if other stories are performing better, I’m only making around five dollars a week on this site, so there’s not a huge incentive to switch things up.
But what happens if I become more successful? What if Medium or other freelance writing turns into a legitimate part or even full-time job? The more successful you are, the stronger you are pulled towards what makes money, rather than what you love. Even within sports, there may be certain types of articles or topics that do better than others.
The lucky ones will see what they enjoy and what makes them successful converge. But for the rest of us, there are choices to be made.
This article is not about sports. It’s impossible to predict the future, but I think it will do better than most of my sports pieces.
Last week, I conducted a test. I published an article titled “Fellow Medium Writers, You Rock.” I want to clarify that I sincerely mean everything I said in that article. The people who write on this platform are great, and I find them incredibly inspiring.
But I also knew the article would appeal to people. So I wrote it and anxiously waited to see how it would perform. The piece has my highest total of fans and claps, and is second in read ratio.
This is the nature of the beast. Write things people want to read.
For most people on Medium, that might not be sports. However, I’m going to try my hardest to create original and engaging sports content, while also experimenting with other subjects.
My advice? Try to find a balance, but never give up on what you love.