I know we’re not supposed to care about how many clicks/likes/Internet Numbers our content gets, but I’m a human and I like bigger numbers more than smaller numbers.
I don’t have the luxury to not at least peek at the numbers. They help me get better as a writer by letting me know what’s working for people, and what isn’t.
Or at least, they should.
Trouble is, I’m often at a loss for words when I look at them.
I’m not a data scientist, but my online numbers don’t always tell me what I want them to. But that doesn’t make them wrong or unimportant.
Frequently, articles I put a ton of time in to get no reads at all, and articles I bash out while deciding whether or not a cup of coffee tastes good go on to be loved and cherished.
Sooner or later, I have to look this problem in the eye instead of just casually alluding to it in various blogs.
Does this say something about my writing style? Do I create better content when I’m not stressed out about how it’ll do? Am I stuck in a feedback loop that stretches all the way to being branded an overachiever in high school almost 20 years ago?
Probably. Probably Yes.
There’s that old maxim from the first paragraph rearing its ugly head again, but with a bit more wisdom behind it. Don’t care about the numbers Alex, when you do… the content sucks. Or at least, it might be great, but it’s great in a way that no one else cares about.
And having an audience is a vital part of art/creativity/being in the world…at least in the theories of art I subscribe to.
Audiences are how artwork thrives, instead of being forgotten.
Also, small numbers don’t put food on the proverbial table. I can only nourish myself with content that’s written “for me” so many times before I need to buy another cup of coffee to review.
Maybe it also says something about my particular audience. I am truly blessed to have an audience that comes from all walks of life and all sorts of interests. I’ve got people interested in marketing, writing, technology, video games, art criticism, humor…
Of course, most of them showed up at my page for the first time because they wanted to learn something about a pair of headphones. In a Google Sea of text-based headphone reviews that’s increasingly shrinking in the wake of the Pivot To Video, I’m one of the only remaining fish.
I’m really happy I got the word “wake” into that last sentence.
Now, I’m not advocating that creators should fully engage with all of the vitriol that often springs up in comments sections. Nor am I saying that living a life obsessed with online clicks, numbers, and attention is healthy. It’s quite unhealthy. We’ve all read a hundred think-pieces and studies about that.
But there’s some True Knowledge in here too. I’d liken it to the experience of playing improvised jazz solos or doing an improvised scene in theater, but then you’d know how weird I am and many of you might run away.
So instead, I’ll ditch the metaphors and pretend I wasn’t a theater/band geek.
Sometimes the brain gets in the way of your work too much, and you can see it reflected in hard data.
Sometimes, in my quest to do a deep dive on a new gaming headset no one has ever heard of…I forget I’m writing about something no one has ever heard of.
The oldest piece of knowledge in the Writing Book is that you have to be prepared to deal with a lot of rejection. You have to learn to listen to an editor. You have to be prepared for submissions to get turned down. And you have to be ready for the numbers to suck sometimes.
No one ever told me that there’s a secret chapter in that book where you also might have to reject yourself. It’s the only thing I like about the otherwise-flawed NaNoWriMo.
You have to cultivate your writing brain, and then let it actually go and write. And adapt over time.And don’t get in your own way when the numbers show you that maybe you’re on the wrong path, and you’re considering a content pivot. Even if they don’t make any sense. That feeling of them not making sense is the universe nudging you in a different direction, and you resisting.
Speaking of which…
I drank the above-pictured Starbucks Blonde Flat White while writing this. I like their blonde roast a lot. When they first launched it, they walked around with raw samples of both their regular espresso and the blonde roast. I mean, they weren’t raw beans, they were tiny cups of coffee. Anyway, I found the regular espresso mildly unpleasant without any sugar or milk to cover it up…and found the blonde roast quite tasty.
The same holds true for the flat white version. It’s a smooth creamy beverage that doesn’t need any additional sugar not already contained in the milk. It has a pleasant, fruity coffee taste, without any harsh bitterness, and I quite like it.