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The Lessons for Me in Narrative Shutdown

Read on Medium.

When a friend of mine invited me to register for the alpha stage of Narrative, I said: “why not.” I was in search of a platform alternative to Medium.

But you couldn’t post there, at the time. So, not much fun, unless you were some way invested in the project.

When the working beta phase was announced, I jumped in, day one. April 2019.

Well, Narrative immediately disappointed me, from the perspective of a blogging platform. All was clearly open to abuses and uncontrolled greedy behaviors. And the cryptocurrency didn’t sound so attracting to me, coming from Medium, where they pay dollars. Despite the glorious presentation, it just sounded stuff for crypto hustlers, not a real blogging platform.

But one thing happened.

Maybe thanks to a mix of nonobvious aspects and potential, it attracted some outstanding early adopters, many of them with special competence in blogging, writing, online communities, economics. Interesting people not just as online connections but as persons.

I soon connected with most of those people. We were on the same line, all searching for the next platform, but not naïve.

I soon got good results, considering the small community. Too small results for contributing to my writing life, but enough to have fun. And, given my activity and connections, I had a minimum of hope to help influence the evolution of the project itself.

I started putting too much time into it.

The platform was blatantly faulty from many angles. Still, the company was relatively present and active. Things were evolving. Members could have an impact on how things would evolve. Or so it seemed at times.

It would never have been my wonder-platform. But there’s not plenty of wonder-platforms around, and you maybe need a great community more than the platform.

So, I stayed. And it’s been an intense and interesting period.

Mostly, the amazing group of people I found there made me impossible to step out. Malkazoid, Garden Gnome Pubs, Blogger Krunal, Christina Gleason, Bashar. What a team. And so many others. Denis Wallez, Natalia Corres, …

It may seem a detail, but it counts, especially for a blogger.

I was – and I still am – in the middle of a reinvent myself period, working at home. A solitary life. Even if you have a life, an online community counts and supports your morale, more than you can imagine.

Also, we shared a lot. It was mutual growth.

But – alas – the flaws of the platform were there.

Not the point here, but the flaws already let factions emerge and quarrels happen. At the same time, without providing a real blogging platform, nor even letting hope to be there that it would happen soon.

When the Narrative company finally seemed to realize that a hard turn was needed, it was not the hard turn we all expected.

The platform shut down. December 2019. More or less, eight months of operativity.

All the posts to be moved. Earned position and visibility lost. All the earned crypto with no more value. All the long-distance connections alive because of a common project suddenly chilled.

You’d say that it’s not wasted time but, for a blogger, eight months spent on a platform without end results, having to restart from scratch, it’s no joke.

I’m not only a blogger, but that’s part of my life. Blogging is a mean for me. So, I need it to work.

And it didn’t, at least on Narrative. And since it didn’t work much more even outside Narrative, it’s big deal.

But you know what?

Narrative shutdown has been liberating.

A few people are considering resurrecting the project. And, while I don’t believe it can successfully happen, I’d be happy to see Narrative working. But I’m not spending words and time on it. Till a few weeks ago, I’d spend hours chatting and plotting around that. But when Narrative decided to close, I suddenly felt released, with no interest in its continuation.

Time to leave that experience. They actually did me a favor, by closing it.

I was wasting my time.

What did remain, of the months there? A lesson, yes, and maybe a few connections but not much more. The sudden closing put in sunlight what I should have done instead, that success on a platform is not only ephemeral, but it was not what I should pursue anyway.

It was already time to focus on what matters most to me. I can’t live of blogging, even if it matters to me. And even if I could, it’s not what I want to accomplish in my life.

The lesson in this shutdown, for me, was not about online businesses, or community dynamics, or relationships, or writing. It was about not getting distracted.

I went to Narrative in search of a blogging platform, and a community. And I’ve been taught that – although they are necessary – it’s not about platforms, nor communities.

It’s about what matters to me, investing in my “product” first, and then promoting it effectively.

Not the way around, for me.

It’s about what writing means for me and what I want to accomplish by mean of it. My growth as a renowned author will be about what I can give to my audience. Some platforms will be a better fit. Some communities will be a better environment. But they can’t change the game for me, even when they are reliable. My success depends on what I have to offer, and the work that I put in my core “product” in the first place.

Defining what’s success for you can be difficult and evolves with time. But it’s key.        

In my case, being popular on a platform is not my definition, and that’s why Narrative has been a distraction, maybe as much as Medium has been.

For what concerns my writing life, I’m now more focused on learning, studying, reading. And writing. Because my writing has deep roots in what I learn and live, and this is a requisite of my purpose.

I’ll return to Medium, in part, but with much less interest in the specific platform. You can’t be everywhere, and you need to start somewhere, of course. But it’s not about the where. It’s about the what and the why.

Writing is not what will pay my bills. Also, time to stop thinking that it can, eventually. It can be for somebody, for a few exceptions or professionals. Not my case.

I learned better what’s the core, what’s the mean, and what’s the distraction.

Nothing will give me back time. But I received one more lesson about making better use of what’s left.

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