I’m pretty lucky in the fact that there are usually at least a couple dozen people who check out each post, and oftentimes more (maybe as many as 4 DOZEN! or MORE – like 5 dozen. So crazy). But not always.
Sometimes it gets me down. I’ve read a fair amount about blogging. The ins and outs, and the way you need to divide your time among many different tasks, the hard work of building, engaging, and maintaining an audience, etc etc etc… it’s actually a ton of work, and a lot of it is promotion stuff that I, frankly, am not very good at.
One of the pieces of advice I see repeated regularly is that the ratio of content creation to promotion is much more lopsided than I previously assumed. In my incredibly naive brain, it went something like “IF YOU WRITE IT… THEY WILL COME.”
Humph. Not good enough, apparently. There’s this thing called ‘social media’ of which blogging is an intrinsic part, and you simply can’t do one without the other. In fact, many self-described blogging ‘experts’ say the actual ratio of your workload should be about 20% content creation, and 80 DAMN PERCENT promotion. I hate self-promotion (although one of my new year’s resolutions is to tackle it head on this year).
So every so often I’ll see that I’ve been particularly prolific, turning out what I consider to be a series of high-quality posts that address a wide variety of subjects, but they get no views. In fact, several of the pieces that I feel are my best, thematically, content-wise, and in structure and form, get very few views.
Trip to Bummertown? Maybe a temporary layover…
It gets me down. I tell myself, now is the time to stop. Stop embarrassing yourself. No one (note to self: demonstrably false) is reading this anyway, so stop putting yourself out there. Why are you doing this? Why do you spend time on it?
And it works, for a bit. I look at my vast folder of half-written drafts, pregnant with notes and relevant photos, and despair. It’s not like I’m changing anyone’s life. I tell myself to face reality: I’m probably not providing anyone any vital help or assistance. If anything, I’m just exposing myself for the uncultured, directionless 32-year-old small-town midwestern hick that I truly am, and that’s pretty embarrassing. I tell myself that I’m just wasting my time when I could be doing things like re-learning to draw, or doing more yoga, or being social with my roommates, instead of sitting for hours in a cafe with a class of passion fruit juice and my hot computer, banging away at the keyboard like people are hanging on my every word. Turning a particular metaphor over and over until it turns out just right. Fixing all my typos and editing with a machete. I convince myself it’s pointless.
And, as so many of us know, it’s really easy to convince yourself you’re failing at something.
Nothing is inspiring. Nothing is flowing. The constant mental riffing that happens in my head stops and the real world, dry and practical, intrudes. The well of inspiration has dried up, and, when you’re in the middle of an inspiration-drought, you can’t predict when the nourishing rains of creativity will return. The idea of having no audience seems akin to throwing an elaborate party and having no one show up. Why bother producing content, when no one is consuming?
…But, of course, I can’t stay away.
Eventually I’ll be putt-putting along on my moto and a halfway witty blog title will pop into my head, unbidden. Something that makes me laugh out loud and I’m suddenly compelled to get to a cafe post-haste and spill it onto the page, before I forget. I log into blogger and find that I actually have some posts ready to go, with a little bit of last-minute edits, and Hey! They’re not bad. I would read this, I think. Maybe others will, too. And if they don’t, that’s ok. I realize I never posted about that amazing tailor shop in Hoi An, or my favorite rice dish that I’ve got some glamorous beauty shots that really ought to be writ large on the interwebs.
Before I know it, I’ve tucked myself away in one of my half-dozen favorite cafes, and it just flows, like turning back on the tap I feared I had broken forever. And I end up remembering one extraordinarily vital thing:
We don’t create because someone is consuming it – we create because we have to. The alternative is the slow, restless process of going insane.
[CHECK THIS SONG… It’s a musical reminder that you just gotta head down and power through the inner voices sometimes! Thanks for the introduction to this show all those years ago, Kate…!]
I’m writing because I want to, and have to. I’m writing because I love the written word, and it is deeply satisfying to my soul to construct things, whether it’s theatre sets, intricate recipes, or an essay that I’m sure I can turn into liquid fire. I’m writing because it fills me with joy, and keeps me out of trouble.
So what happens when no one reads your blog?
You become a better writer, that’s what. You might be a discouraged artist right now, but you’re creating. You’re honing your craft.
What happens if no one comes to hear your sing? Or attends your art show? Or neglects your athletic tournament? It’s not like you stop doing these things… in many cases, you can’t stop (if these people could stop, I’d have way fewer friends active in the arts). Creation is a drug that makes the world a better place. As much as social media has created a Pavlovian response to the ‘like’ and the facebook comment in us, it’s ultimately much more important to continue to do these things for yourself, for your own personal edification and exploration. Quitting is like putting a muzzle on your soul.
So go on. As an old acting teacher (it’s a great week for recalling acting mentors, apparently!), Susan, used to say… “Dare to Fail Gloriously.” Do your best, and, next time, do even better, collecting your mistakes and pressing them in your diary for posterity like so many dried flowers. Who cares if anyone sees them?
I don’t think I’m failing, by any means, but if I fail to attract an audience, by god, I’ll be doing it with style and a sense of personal purpose. Of course, one of my resolutions is to really tackle this self-promotion thing, which is unfathomably scary to me. I guess I’ll do my best… and keep you updated.
Love you guys. Thanks for reading, and keep on doing what makes you happy!
(BTW Can we all agree that asking “What do you do for a living?” is a silly question? Work doesn’t always define us. It should be “What do you do that makes you happy?” Sometimes – most of the time? – work is simply a means to an end, which should be living your life.)