Shannon Ashley, I Don’t Know You

Image for post
Image for post
Photo by Allan Bueno on Unsplash

But I think I know something about you

This is not really about Shannon, who has been an influential and inspirational Medium writer for many who are new here. It’s more about the evolution from first testing the waters, having some success, and then working at it to make a living. That evolution is a kind of Holy Grail for many writers here, in spite of it being about as elusive as that golden cup.

Shannon, who I feel I can refer to on a first name basis, has reverberated with may readers who feel they are on the outskirts of society, whether by choice or circumstance. In her case, circumstance (single mom needing to make a living and to have a voice) has really resonated with many readers who may feel similar alienation.

She has chronicled many things, including being approached for a publishing deal, only to get rejected. I suspect that this may have occurred in part because writing a book requires a very different perspective thematically than writing daily articles. The themes that drive shorter pieces may not be sustainable for longer form writing.

Beside the recognition of another human with relatable feelings that her writing brings, her success story is also and attraction. Everyone wants to know how to vault into the top tier of writers making real money here. By real money, I mean ‘pays the bills and more’ money. Enough to change a lifestyle from survival to one that thrives and has a future. She is selling a dream based on her story and her hard work.

One potential downside of this in the longer run is sustainability. Her writing has inspired many others to emulate her voice and approach, intensely personal and emotional. Many of those who write similar articles may have watered down the market, so to speak, as we are inundated with confessional writing. I realize that many are Shannon’s peers, agewise (I am not) and experience-wise (at least when she was starting out- she is now quite experienced). This constitutes a danger from a creative perspective.

Perhaps because of my age, creative longevity and perspective looks different to me. I try, with my writing and my novels, to explore interrelated themes. In my case they are change when we have become too comfortable, and the malleability of memory and experience. These have become sustainable themes for me, so long as my actual life is dealing with them, rather than simply speculating on abstractions.

The point here is that to succeed as a writer and a creative, your themes need to expand. The metaphor I often think of is the concept of a body of work that builds thematically but does not imitate itself. Consider rock bands like the Beatles or Radiohead, where every album-length project was a departure from the previous, a departure that builds upon their themes in new ways.

I suspect that Shannon, like many of us, has a list of the subjects we have written about and studies the analytics Medium provides to give us insights into what resonates and what falls flat. These analytics (stats and payments) are something unique to writing online. In the pre digital age the only indicators I’d have of readership for my books and articles were sales (and royalties, alas!) and the occasional letter or email from a reader. Today we can see in real time what people read and like.

This is a double-edged sword, especially when we get too granular and start using this information to try and predict what we should write about next. That is fine but once you’ve built a body of work large enough, you should be able to discern some of your strengths, and those subjects you are most passionate about. These give us a basis for a longerå arc of expertise and a more loyal readership. Shannon and others here have found this. Have you?

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store