New Writing, New Measurements

I‘ve been writing a lot lately – at work, at clinical. I’ve been forcing myself to submit things, too. I’ve long known that my biggest barrier has been my lack of effort. It’s odd — the rejection letters encourage me, because it just feels good to get myself out there. The experiences have been valuable.

Last month, I had a piece published with Pulse, an e-literary journal out of the Department of Family and Social Medicine at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Working with the editors was fantastic. The piece, which stemmed from a post-ICU-shift draft, blossomed under their guidance, and with it, my understanding of my own voice, and the mind of the reader.

When the piece finally went live, I was sincerely touched by the beautiful response I received on the site. Readers crafted careful and insightful comments, erasing my doubt. Pulse shows no altmetrics – I could not count how many people passed my story on, or how many likes it received. My only measurement came in short, intentional statements of support. As I read them, I felt enriched and supported in my work.

What a contrast, when the story ran again this week on KevinMD, a popular medical social media site. While the story currently has five thousand Facebook shares after just two days on the site, and has bolstered my Twitter following faster than a year’s worth of writing, this success feels different. Distant.

Pulse is a pretty pared down operation. It doesn’t charge for subscriptions, which come in your inbox once a week. It has a very small social media presence – the editor runs a public Facebook group, but posts only seem to come with the Friday evening release of pieces. The site itself isn’t anything exceptional to look at.

And yet, their influence is powerful. It wasn’t via social media that I initially found out about them, after all. The simple line, “This story was first published in Pulse,” caught my eye, at the end of a beautiful, simple, physician narrative in the Washington Post last year.

It’s an interesting comparison, this less-is-more thing. I’m new to being conventionally published, but I do a lot of social media work. It’s thrilling, to watch likes and shares tick upward, and I know I’m not alone when I admit to loving those small, circular notifications that pop up, silently affirming. “Applause,” whether written or clicked, feels great.

Seeing my story on a site as big as KevinMD is an honor, truly. But somehow, the quieter, more intentional audience at Pulse holds a new draw for me, amidst my oft-instantaneous world of e-work. Perhaps it’s because the feedback there infers actual comprehension. Time spent. Care and thought taken, in response to my own care and thought. Other people, reading my story as simply that – my story, not just something their friends will like.

While likes don’t necessarily mean careless reading, and comments don’t necessarily mean the opposite, the successful simplicity that I found in this new audience is refreshing. It makes me want to keep on sending stories out there, just to see who will stumble upon them, and who will sit with them for awhile.