What my first 500 Medium followers mean to me
“I am I: and I must follow that furrow, not copy another. That is the only justification for my writing, living.”
― Virginia Woolf, A Writer’s Diary
When I first — tentatively — started writing on Medium, I could not believe my good fortune when I saw the first few followers popping up in my notifications. Today, 500 other Medium members are following me. Me! I could not be more pleased. I am especially pleased, because all these followers are complete strangers to me.
I have been using social media for a long time — I believe my Twitter account dates back to 2008 — and, over the years, built quite a following there. But at some point, the people following me on Twitter — often people I met through my work, in networks or other social gatherings — would ‘automatically’ follow me on Facebook too, on LinkedIn and anywhere else I would sign up. It felt more like ‘collecting followers’ rather than following people based on genuine likes or interest, as I believe social media’s intention has always been. When I first discovered Medium, a long time ago, it required I sign up using my Twitter account. And so I did. As a result, all my Twitter followers who had Medium accounts as well, automatically moved with me. At first, I did not quite know what to make of this new Medium, but of course I could tell it required writing — a lot. I simply was not ready for that at the time and let my account just sit there. With all its followers.
When I started actively participating on Medium, I decided two things:
- I wanted to write in English
- I wanted an international following
To my logic, that meant cleaning up my follower list. Much as I recently have done on Facebook and Twitter, I stopped following the accounts who had followed me over the years across other social media and who hadn’t brought me anything. I tend to be loyal to a fault — even to the wrong people. It actually felt as a relief to prune my social media accounts, ‘weeding out’ followers who never actively communicated with me or helped me in any way. As a psychologist once told me, a long time ago, that friends belong to certain periods in your lifetime and it is just natural they come and go. I have entered a new phase in my life. With that, I am hoping to attract a different kind of ‘audience’.
“True friends don’t come with conditions.”
― Aaron Lauritsen, 100 Days Drive: The Great North American Road Trip
Watching my follower numbers slowly increase, I promised myself that when I reached 500, I would start with letters via Medium. New to me, as well. I have been an entrepreneur now for 20 years — with varying degrees of ‘success’ — and I have never taken the time to start sending regular newsletters to my clients, building that ever important e-mail list.
Using Medium, I am finally about to start. Not just because it is something my favourite Medium writers keep insisting on, but because for the first time in almost 20 years, I feel I actually feel I have an audience. I feel I have something worth telling the people following me.
In itself, having followers is a huge compliment to me. Apparently, for some reason, I am writing something they can relate to, or I am writing in a style that appeals to them. I can only guess what could be the reason for following me (and believe me, as my follower numbers hopefully keep growing, I will definitely ask), but whatever the reason, I would like my new followers to know I appreciate them very much.
The only question now is what to put in my newsletter. What do I have to offer?
After receiving some pretty real and unavoidable compliments for the work I have recently been doing for my main client, I have to admit it even to myself: I am a good editor. This looks weird to me now I have written it down, but it is true.
Come to think of it, I am actually quite good at everything I do — as long as I enjoy doing it. I have never had any patience for tedious tasks. Inwardly, I rebel against them, making myself sick. But for as long as I can remember, for whatever reason, self-confidence has eluded me. I have never been able to pat myself on the back or compliment myself, let alone look in the mirror and tell myself I’m OK (something I have been learning how to do only recently). Validation has always been a very real issue for me. Though that may sound problematic, it does have an advantage. For all my insecurities, I do appreciate any compliment in the spirit in which it is given and value it very much indeed — call it my superpower. That is probably why I like to pay compliments myself as well.
Though I like to believe I can spin a good yarn (taking after my father, a born storyteller) I would never go so far as to say I am a good writer. I know I love writing, it is something I want to do for the rest of my life and I am finally in a position where I can choose to spend time honing my craft, becoming the writer I want to be. What I have to offer though, is stories. If they are well written is for the reader to decide, but stories is what I have. Stories from the heart.
As writers, the one thing we [have to] value beyond anything else is a large vocabulary. As English is my second language, I am constantly in the process of building mine. Doing so, I often stumble upon interesting, strange, funny or weird words I like to investigate. Fortunately, I have the biggest library in the world at my fingertips and as an information junkie I generally know where to find the information I need. I like to share my findings — with my writing husband, but with my faithful followers as well, adding to their vocabulary as well. At least, that is the idea. Words are fun. As writers, we can never have enough of them.
What else do I have to offer? Well. The work I used to do as an information professional helped me develop my researching skills and made me quite a good — and fast — researcher. There is hardly any information out there I cannot find. That is a rather valuable skill for any writer, including myself. Husband frequently makes use of this ‘gift’, telling me he does know how to find something on the internet, but since I do it so much faster, would I please? (and of course, I would.) I am like a dog with a bone. I am convinced everything is to be found out there, and if it isn’t, it must mean I am asking the wrong question. Even if it takes me days instead of minutes, I will find what I am looking for — either for me or someone else.
In addition to the above, perhaps the most valuable thing I have to offer is… help. I like to help. I have been put on this earth to help [my mother] and I suppose I always will — even though I have gotten a little more discriminate about who I help. That’s experience. My help has often been taken for granted, undervalued or misused altogether. Nowadays, I particularly enjoy helping writers find the right words to get their voices heard and their message across.
So stick with me, my dear 500 followers, as there is (much) more to come. Thank you so much for reading me and deciding I am worth your time. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you.
This post was originally published on Medium in my publication Hearts in the Write Place on December 8, 2019.