How A YouTube Video Snapped Me Out of A Downward Spiral

After a very unprofitable summer on Medium, I made the decision that it was time to look elsewhere for paid opportunities. The company is going through turbulent growing pains, and it’s obvious that many writers are unhappy with the lack of communication about a problematic algorithm.

The evidence is damning, the denial is irritating, and the tension is palpable. This alone makes it difficult to find the motivation to keep writing for the platform.

A few weeks ago, I connected with the editor of the well-known online publication and started pitching some of my ideas to her. For many writers, this action is commonplace and an obvious next step. But for me, it is a totally new experience! It felt like a monumental step forward.

I’ve been writing for Medium and WordPress for almost two years, but I’ve never ventured into media pitching until now. The writing courses I’ve been taking at The New School prepared me for this moment, but for two years I’d been telling myself that this area of freelance writing was just not for me.

Because I’m just a blogger.

I wasn’t taking myself seriously, and I was limiting my potential. Why? Probably because change is scary and success is intimidating!

But also because freelance writing is not for the faint of heart. There is constant change and adaptation. Above all, there are absolutely zero certainties. So, it is crucial for creators to have a knack for emotional management.

Because it stings when you don’t get the anticipated results after working harder than you’ve ever worked —and there’s no explanation as to why.

Well, the editor decided she wanted to re-publish two of my pieces originally written for Medium.

I Can’t Stop Perceiving Myself Through The Male Gaze

What Men Really Mean When They Say They Prefer “The Natural Look”

This publication has thousands upon thousands of readers. It’s a huge deal! But I was getting hung up on the fact that the editor had passed on all of the new ideas I pitched. I’ve been so up and down about the fickle writing market which has triggered some serious self-doubt.

I used to have such great ideas. I must have lost my talent.
-Me to Me

I didn’t allow myself to properly enjoy this win.

While it’s easy for me to acknowledge the leaps and bounds of progress I’ve made while I’m in a healthy mindset, my inner criticisms often creep in and ruin moments of necessary self-celebrations.

Why aren’t you further along? Why aren’t you forcing yourself to do more? Do you even want this?
-Me, again.

Honestly, I’ve been in a severely rocky mental space since Roe v. Wade was overturned. It didn’t help that my Medium earnings happened to plummet in May and never came back up. They’ve actually been dropping substantially ever since. Ouch!

Because working on my art requires me to be emotionally and creatively energized, I can’t exactly fake it until I make it.

Whenever these melancholy meditations form, it’s hard to find the motivation to do anything at all. Many advise those with depression to take a walk outside in the fresh air to get the blood flowing, but what usually works for me is to begin reading, listening, or watching anything published by another artist.

Today I was in one of my moods. Confusion, doubt, and lack of drive plagued me. I was lying on the couch in my pajamas and snuggled under a fluffy throw I purchased at TJ Maxx. Moving a muscle was clearly off the table.

Whenever I’m horizontal in the middle of the day, my brain can’t help but generate self-deprecative thoughts.

I’m a college drop-out. I’m not an expert in anything. What can I possibly contribute to the writing world?

I felt too overwhelmed to read a book, so I started to browse YouTube for video essays hoping one would inspire some scribblings. I came across Zulie Rane‘s latest.

Usually, when I’m under a cloud of self-pity, Zulie’s content is not what I gravitate toward. But this video was specifically about media pitching, and I obviously needed some practice.

In the video, she speaks with Stephanie Lee from Clout Monster about how to write an intriguing email pitch to an Editor.

While I don’t want to give away spoilers — because I recommend you watch it for yourself — I want to highlight a few important messages from the interview that completely turned my sour mood sugar-sweet.

As the video began, Zulie immediately disarmed my anxiety by revealing how she — one of the more successful writers on Medium — is also uncertain about the idea of pitching her stories to reputable publications. She, too, questions whether she is an expert in anything.

Stephanie then challenges Zulie’s apprehensions born of imposter syndrome.

I always tell people, no matter who they are, I say, if you know 2% more than the other person on any kind of specific topic, and they could use that help, you are an expert, and you have enough expertise to provide that insight.”

-Stephanie Lee

Zulie goes on to observe that Stephanie’s wisdom sounds familiar. She admits that it is very similar to what she tells her readers/viewers when she is encouraging them to write their stories.

She explains that many writers who reach out to her often doubt that they have anything interesting to say because their topic has already been written on by countless others. Considering the new direction that Medium seems to be taking in terms of gatekeeping, qualifying, and promoting “experts” specifically, it’s no wonder these insecurities are coming out so frequently.

I’m troubled by those exact thoughts several times a month. How many times do you think I’ve scrapped an idea just because I saw a fellow writer publish something similar first? Too many.

And I always regret it. Why? As the video goes on, the women discuss the answer to this question: we all have something unique to offer.

“Expert” or not.

Everything has been done before, but never by you.”

-Zulie Rane

Sometimes, we give wonderful advice to others, but our inner monologues don’t grant us the same compassion. Sometimes we know the truth, and we believe in our abilities, but we need to be reminded.

This YouTube video had such relevant affirmations for me, and I wasn’t initially very excited to watch it. I could have easily clicked on whatever movie critic’s review of a 2000s rom-com I’ve watched 5 zillion times.

But behold! This video inhabited the exact messages I needed to receive just to pick myself up from the sulky sad sack I’d earlier woven together with my detrimental self-talk.

After the video was finished, I picked up my computer and started typing away. And voila! This article was born. It never ceases to amaze me how the wisdom I need has a way of finding me when and where I least expect it.

The hardworking writers on Medium are the lifeblood of the very platform. The recent trend of disappointment in corporate does not surprise or offend me at all. These concerns are completely valid and it’s important for us all to openly discuss them.

But I’m sure these changes happen everywhere in the writing world. The ups and downs can make it feel exhausting. As I said before, we must adapt and deal with the emotional repercussions. It’s not easy, but it’s the only way.

And it must be worth it if it’s our passion.

I write to heal, to learn, to inform, and to stir the pot. This is my purpose in life. There is no standard I have to live up to as long as I am doing what I love. I’m good at it, too! And I will only get better if I keep feeding my mind and my soul with the art created by other brilliant minds.

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