Lately I have been writing, intentionally, for educational purposes. Some personal, obviously. Other reasons are directed more towards a professional stance.
I write in order to learn to become a better writer. (It makes perfect sense in my mind.)
Mistakes are the world’s best teachers. Lessons learned. Paths traveled. Surely you understand where I am headed with the analogies.
How can one become a better writer without experimenting with their writing? Practicing their strengths. Building their weaknesses. Finding their voice.
Like any writer, I want to write what my audience wants to read. That isn’t the whole story, naturally, but it pretty much sums up a large portion of it. After all, why else would one have a public online blog? This experimenting of mine explains some of the randomness of my blog posts. Experimenting with topics, ideas, thoughts that appeal to my readers… all while keeping my own voice and passions within my work. A fine line to dance.
That is where my struggle remains. My pride holds me back from asking for help, advice, and encouragement. My ego keeps the posts rolling out, creating a lifeline to my blog, despite its vitals decreasing. And that is where the topic of tonight’s post emerges, how I do judge the quality of my work if I am not directly asking….
I have mentioned before how I do not write for likes, comments, page views, and followers. While this wasn’t a lie, it is not entirely true either. I can’t help but to check my stats page on occasion. For those that aren’t aware how these work; stat pages track the visits to my blog, how many page views per visitor, and which pages were visited. It does not reveal to me WHO visits, of course. Your reading is completely anonymous, I assure you.
As most of you are aware, Google now has quick links of your most common website visits. (Yes, everything is tracking “stats” nowadays.) Google is my homepage. WordPress happens to be near the top of my most visited websites. What can I say, I don’t explore the World Wide Web too much. Long story short, I sometimes check out WordPress for no other reason than it is there to click on. Typically, this brings me to my stat page… as it did today.
But today was not a typically stat page visiting day. There have been no new posts for several days to my blog. I expected no new visitors, as usual. But there, unavoidably on the top of my stat page is a big ol’ line on the bar graph showing that 6 page views had been made. 6 page views by 1 visitor.
The source of my random visitor was listed as Facebook. I assumed it was a random person who happened upon an article link and was reading through my different posts. I closed out of WordPress and went back to my paying work for the day, quickly forgetting about the random visitor digging through the pages of my blog.
After writing an excruciatingly long article for a client, I took a short break, only to get another extremely long assignment sent to me immediately afterwards. While I may be all about rolling in the benjamins, making that paper, cashing in…. one’s brain can only take so much non-stop work that has short deadlines. I declined the assignment and stared at my laptop screen.
My children were napping. My house clean. My husband gone. The house was eerily quiet, yet welcomed in comparison to the normal chaos. I slowly scrolled my mouse to the right, hovering above the WordPress icon beckoning to me from my Google homepage. And then, I clicked.
“If all else fails, write.” I said to myself, figuring I could muster up something to type up on a page, even if dreadfully boring and un-postable. That’s when I noticed it. There in the right hand corner of my screen. Small enough to appear to be an afterthought on my blog page, yet large enough to always draw my attention. There staring at me was my Facebook “like” button, which, for the most part unfortunately, tells me precisely how many likes I have on the Facebook page created for my blog.
It had been the same number for months. A number I hadn’t even realized I had acknowledged until I knew instantly it had changed. While the number never changing didn’t seem to bother me too much. Of course, it caused me to wonder how to improve, on occasion. But not too much more than I was already focused on. I was bothered now. It had decreased by one. Yes, one single reader had disengaged their selves from my online presence.
I know how Facebook page likes work. I accept invitations to like pages and occasionally go through un-liking pages when they begin to crowd my news feed. Liking a page is easy. One single reason; click, a page is liked. You may like the content. You may like the name. You may like nothing more than to not offend the person who sent you the invitation. But to un-like a page, that is an entirely different story. There is rarely ever a split second decision made before un-liking a page.
You research the Facebook page. You dig into the pictures, the posts, the updates. You read into the article links. You explore the online blog that it links you to. Yes, my random visitor was doing their in-depth research before choosing, forever, if they would click that un-like button.
This, bothered me.
I don’t know who this un-liker was. I don’t know what it was that lead them to make the final decision to click that un-like button. But boy, what I wouldn’t give to know, for certain, what the final deciding factor was for that individual.
I don’t keep track of who or who doesn’t read my posts, likes my articles, or follows my Facebook page. Pretty much, unless you frequently comment on my blog (shout out to my aunt and Mom!) I probably don’t even know that you are there. Sure, I know the views are there, but not who the people are behind them.
To be frank, I read into the views. I know that my one post that received over 40 views in less than 6 hours, (compared to all my other posts that receive an average of 6 views… in total, since they were first published) was a successful blog post. I know that within that blog post is something that I need to re-create using other topics in my future writing. I work feverishly at discovering what the key ingredient was that made that post successful in order to improve my overall writing.
So yes, in THAT sense, the likes, comments, views, and followers do matter to me. The “fame” or “popularity”… not so much.
My random visitor/Facebook un-liker truly dampened my enthusiasm for the direction I was heading. They caused me to re-think what I thought was the right path I was following. They made me second guess the improvements I thought I needed to make. They made me self-consciousness of my voice within my writing. They unraveled my self-esteem.
All my other Facebook likes are still there. My small, but slowly growing list of blog followers are still there. My encouraging comments, still there. It was just one random un-liker. Yet the hesitation, the apprehension, the second guessing that was slowly dissipating, has returned.
It’s funny how we do that to ourselves… allow one failure to so easily over-ride all of our success….