I had a humbling experience lately. When I log in to my blog, I am presented with a few facts, such as recent posts, update news, and a quick stats preview. However, when I opened up last Friday, I realized that my viewing figures had plummeted. In fact, most of the days I was doing my recent “Music I Listen To” series had 0 views.
Now, I’ll admit that I try not to pay much attention to the viewership numbers. They have been steadily decreasing, but I’ve chalked that up to the novelty wearing off. Plus, I’m not so egotistical to think that everyone is going to be interested in what I have to say all the time. But this was different. It was the first time since I started publicly blogging that no one had read my words. And that hit me a lot harder than I thought it would.
I started asking myself questions: Was it something I said? Or had my readers finally caught on to the fact that I’m a fake, responding in the only logical fashion? Maybe I didn’t have anything worthwhile to say after all. Maybe I was just deluding myself after all…
But after a while, I was able to step away from these voices. I decided to try something else: rather than consider them gospel truth, what if I treated them as a not-unbiased source of internal monologue? You know, that same voice that is always whispering “you’re not good enough” no matter what you do.
I mean, you have one of those voices, right?
So I made an effort to not take the numbers personally and think about events critically. After all, it was inevitable that something like this was going to happen eventually. None of us can hold the interest of all people all of the time. And all things considered, the way it happened was fairly mild, and I’m kind of glad that the posts that flew under the radar weren’t ones I was really passionate about anyway.
So I made some measure of peace with the fact that I shouted into the darkness and nothing returned. So it goes. But obviously I didn’t want this to happen again. So, what had I done differently compared to my other “Nouns I Verb” posts?
Well, the biggest difference I noticed is my music posts ended up being much more about the “what” instead of the “why.” I listed artists and genres I listened to, but largely without much commentary as to why they were important or special to me. My webcomics list, however, had a small blurb for each webcomic past and present. In other words, I didn’t go very far in adding my unique voice and perspective to things.
I also posted the entire series over the course of a week, one after another. The webcomics one, to use that example again, was posted at the end of each week as filler. Perhaps this gave people a break from huge blocks of similar content, making the concept more palatable.
Lastly, looking back at the intro paragraphs to my music posts, I was very self-deprecating, almost bordering on defensive. “These are my musical tastes,” I seemed to be saying. “A lot of it is either crap or derivative, and I’m kind of ashamed by it. Sorry to put you through this.” Basically, I was starting out by apologizing for my opinions. And that is no way to endear yourself to any audience.
Speaking of audiences: dear readers, please don’t take these musings as an attack on you. You have no responsibility to read my writing, and I have no right to expect it of you. If you read my words, it should be because you want to, because I’ve in some way been deemed worthy of your attention and temporal investment. Do I resent that I had a week of practically zero traffic? No, I don’t. It is not your responsibility to validate my feelings. I need to write for me.
And that’s the real lesson I got from this: I need to write for me. I need to have written. If what I write is read, then great! But I should write because I want (or need) to, for myself. It’s the difference between wanting to be a Published Author, and wanting to be a Writer. The former is a result of craving the validation of seeing your name on a cover, of seeing your words in print. The corollary to that being that if you don’t get published, you are a failure. For the latter, however, all you have to do is write. And I guess that’s what I am trying to be. I won’t deny I like some sort of outside validation; I’m only human, after all. But that’s not why I started this blog.
I started this blog because I wanted to be a Writer. And I’d like to think that I am.
May also just be your audience. I read webcomics. I pretty much don’t intentionally listen to specific music. I listen to whatever is on the radio, and don’t really pay attention to what it is or who it’s by. A post about music you listen to is pretty much not going to be something I can relate to. Don’t recognize artists, don’t recognize songs, and have few to any genre preferences.
Further, there have been several happenings around lately that fill up facebook. I know for point of fact that I don’t see everything you post, although you are a close friend. Even if Facebook shows it to us, it might be buried in other content.
Dude. Write about what interests you. If you like it, that’s fabulous. If people don’t respond to it, it is often (usually?) safe to assume it was just presented to the wrong audience at the wrong time, not that there is anything wrong with the content.
Very true, and pretty much what I was trying to say. I was a little surprised by the low numbers, but honestly more surprised by how little it did bother me. Last week was an experiment, and it didn’t pan out. So it goes. And you’re right: I’m effectively competing with EVERYTHING ELSE out there for people’s limited attention and free time. Stuff like this is going to happen, most likely through no fault of my own. But I’m not going to let that deter me from continuing to try.