Why I Burned One House Down To Build a New One
Everything has an expiration date. Sometimes it takes us by surprise. Sometimes it comes in due time. Often times we don’t expect it, but it shows up. It’s that milk in the fridge that we swear is only four days old. It’s the gym membership that we clutched last December 31st, but forgot about. That expiration date is always coming. It’s just a matter of when.
Some people can handle the status quo. They are fine just going along with what everyone else thinks. But I’ve never been like that. It makes me uncomfortable to feel like we are all doing the same thing. It’s boring. I don’t feel special. And because of that, sometimes I usurp the expiration date with a proactive move. Like burning the house down to build a new one.
Sure, that house was fine, but it looked just like everyone else’s house. When it was first built it was unique, but now it’s just another shade of taupe in a planned community with perfect hydrangeas. Boring. And that’s what my writing journey had become. That taupe house. The nondescript one where I sat in the driveway for five minutes pressing my garage door opener only to realize that I was in the wrong driveway and my house was three driveways down. The one with the open garage.
I was writing on Medium. I had been since October 2017. And I had built up a decent following of 4.2k. Since Medium has a paywall, I was actually getting paid for my writing. But it always nagged at me that the formula wasn’t disclosed, but whatever, it was free money for my words. Fair trade. But at some point, I thought about my goals again. And my goal wasn’t to be relatively unknown, but followed, on a writing website.
So I burned that house down to build a new one.
This is my new house. A site I created for this express reason months ago, before I fell back into the online trap of instant gratification, feedback loops and a following. And it’s hard to pull away from that. Because it made me feel special. But how special could I be in a sea of unique writers? I was in a constant battle against my own friends and colleagues for views, claps, and a very meager payout. And I got tired of it.
I also got tired of giving up control. Although Medium has countless benefits for the new writer, their direction has changed. And even in the face of that I continued to put my words on their site. A site that could shut down or stop paying me at any time. Because I gave over control. And there were benefits to it for sure. People found me. People liked me. And it made me feel good.
But as with all online endeavors, the tide shifted. Even within a small minority. And when that happened, I had to take a look in the mirror and ask myself, “Why are you here?” Not on Earth, on Medium. And my answer was, “Because I thought someone would notice me here. I thought it would take me to a next step.”
In that moment, I realized I wasn’t giving myself enough credit. Not enough credit to find readers on my own. Not enough credit to know a site doesn’t make my writing better or worse. Not enough credit to know, I got this. I liked the boost, but it only boosted me up to hop through a little window.
And once you hop through the window and sit in that room for a while, you realize it’s smaller than you thought. It gets crowded real quick. And then people start bumping into each other and getting anxious. Which is not the environment for me.
It took me many years to adopt a Zen lifestyle and lately I had found myself agitated, aggravated, and sublimated on the platform that I came to in order to become a writer. And that was my fault. My expectations were ludicrous. And my performance, at times, was that of someone trying to make it instead of someone who is a writer. I did it to myself.
So I burned it down in a 6,000+ word manifesto, a 25-minute read about why I was lighting it on fire. And the second I hit publish the only thing I felt was freedom. Freedom from myself and the insanity around checking my statistics every five minutes. And trying to figure out the Medium algorithm. I was now free to come here and build a new house.
This is really something I did on purpose. I didn’t do it because I was mad or angry at anyone, even though the declaration could read like that. I got to a point where I knew I needed to do something drastic so that I had to pursue my projects off that site and on my site. I had to trust myself.
And here I am, scribbling on my own site. A site with 22 people signed up for the mailing list as opposed to the 4.2k followers I have on Medium. And all I feel is calm. Like a cool breeze on 72-degree day. Like the best ten seconds of my morning meditation. This is why I burned that house down.
Those ashes mean something. They were part of my journey and always will be. But it was like I was living in someone else’s house. I decided what I wanted for dinner, but I was still sitting at their table. Sometimes they would buy me dinner, but I knew that tomorrow that program might just stop without warning. I tried sounding alarms to help others, but everyone has their own vision of why they are there. And that’s fine.
So I just took myself outside and lit the match. And right now, I am still watching it burn. And it’s beautiful. Because once it’s gone, I know the next step is my new house. It’s time to welcome myself home.