One of the best things about publishing on a site like Medium is the relationship you form with fellow writers. You might never meet in person, but you see the same people commenting on your work. You recognize their profile photos and exchange pleasantries through comments and private notes.
And soon, you consider this person a friend of sorts. You don’t know them in the real world, but you respect and admire their work and opinions, and seek out their writing, knowing you’ll enjoy the article before you’ve even opened it.
Occasionally, these e-friendships trickle into other parts of your life. Say there’s an editor who runs a couple Medium publications, and you begin to write for him. He comments positively on every piece you submit. He sends you emails with book recommendations and podcast suggestions, because he knows, based on your writing, that you’ll enjoy them.
Soon, he asks you to write for his off-Medium site, welcomes you to be a guest on his podcast, and suggests you join in the weekly Zoom calls he facilitates for his publications’ writers.
You call in one day and it’s great! You’re connecting with like-minded people and commiserating over writing life and laughing with many of the writers who you’ve grown to know and respect on Medium. It feels like you’re part of something — a burgeoning community of wordsmiths who speak the same language and understand writing woes.
But then, it abruptly ends.
The editor informs his writers one morning that he’s cut off all communication with a well-known, popular Medium scribe. Although they’ve had a long, public, professional relationship, he’s informed this writer he can no longer work with her because she’s written a post he doesn’t agree with. Her article felt too much like a slap in the face, as though she was responding to one of his recent pieces with one of her own and was “clapping back” at him. (Though it was obvious to anyone who read her article that it had nothing to do with him.)
In fact, he says, he hasn’t agreed with a lot of her recent posts. And in an email he’s sent to her (which he proudly shares with you and his other writers), he tells her he thinks it’s just a matter of time before she runs out of material. And although he respects her and wishes her the best, he’s cutting her off from submitting to his publications going forward.
You’re stunned. You can’t believe an editor would attempt to censor a writer in this way. We all have opinions and may not agree with one another, but to cut off a writer simply because you don’t like her point of view? And then to tell her she’s going to run out of ideas, fans, and followers if she continues on her current path? That’s low.
You spend hours and hours struggling with this. You don’t want to quit writing for him. You don’t want to leave this great community and lose out on the calls and the podcast invitation and the opportunity to publish for him off Medium and all the other carrots he’s held before you.
You’ve grown to appreciate his comments on your posts. You’ve come to think of him as one of those online friends, one of those people whose work you seek out and read. You don’t want this friendship to end.
But, you can’t stomach what he’s done. What right do any of us have to tell another writer that they’re running out of material? How dare an editor tell a writer, essentially, “you cannot respond negatively to me in any way, shape, or form, lest you want to be removed from my publications”? And to do so when the writer clearly hadn’t responded to him at all, but was writing about a larger issue? What kind of Trumpian publication is this?
So, late at night, you write a polite but firm resignation letter of sorts. You post it to the Slack channel for his publications’ writers, and you say that while you’ve loved working with him, you can’t continue to work together. You’re worried you might write something someday that could inadvertently insult him, and may cause him to boot you off his site. You also think it was low of him to tell a fellow writer that she’s running out of material. Writing is difficult enough without such drama.
You hit send, and go to bed. You have a few hours of fitful sleep, waking repeatedly, stressed over what reaction you’ll find in the morning. Will he send you an angry email? Will he curse you out on his Slack channel?
When you’re up for the day, you take a deep breath and open your personal email account. Nothing. You log into the Slack app; you no longer have access to his channel. You soon learn that he’s blocked you. You can’t read or see his Tweets, you can’t access any of his Medium posts.
You realize, slowly, you were duped.
This was never a friendship. This wasn’t even a professional relationship. All the kindness, the comments, the invitations were smoke and mirrors.
This was a narcissist pulling you into his web. He built a community of writers around himself to boost his own ego. It was only a matter of time before his arrogance would hinder your work; he would always and only support you as long as you didn’t disagree with his opinions — especially his distaste for Medium. (A platform he openly loathes, while ironically using every day to publish his work and cultivate writers.)
It takes you a couple days to wrap your head around all that has happened. You’re angry that an editor would treat his writers so callously. You’re hurt that this person you respected cut you off with no further conversation. You’re glad you finally learned what type of person he really is.
Most importantly, you’re grateful for the new community you’ve joined — a group of writers…
…who have also left his web.
…who he blocked and banned from reading his work.
…who spent the weekend pulling their writing from his publications out of fear of retaliation (or, in some cases, a desire to cut off all association).
…who feel stung, but know for a fact that this entire debacle was his loss, not theirs.
And though you want to learn from the experience, have more distance, accept that kind comments + personal emails do not = real friendship, you don’t put up too much of a wall. Because despite this anomaly, you know deep down writers are pretty awesome people.
(If you’re looking to read more on this subject, check out Shannon Ashley’s My Latest Story About Medium Got Me Kicked Off A Publication I Love and Darcy Reeder’s Why I Abandoned A Publication I Struggled to Join)
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