Revelations from My Stat-High

For the past year or so, the record number of views of my blog stood at 176.  Watching the climbing digits that day was thrilling. And from all over the world! The little flag icons on my stats page looked like 1st Avenue outside the United Nations and included unlikely spots like Turkey, Romania, Saudi Arabia. Initially I was thrilled since my usual readership is an average of 20 or so devoted friends. Alas! These global citizens had only stumbled upon my blog in pursuit of a scantily clad gal by the name of Tierney who is identified as one of the ‘Suicide Girls’.  I wrote about it here, but in short, if you search ‘Tierney’ and ‘suicide’, you also find me because I sometimes write about my husband’s suicide. I suspect none of those 176 visitors stuck around for very long.

So imagine my delight last week when that mockery, that in-search-of-nudie-shot number disappeared into my blogging history. On Sunday night, the hits climbed to over 200 and they were legit. But where were all my new readers coming from? Had my just posted Author Events:  been “Freshly Pressed” – a coveted and seemingly unattainable shout-out from Word Press editors? Nope. This is how it happened: readers shared. The first share came from a Tweet by cyber friend and fellow book fanatic on the West Coast, the lovely and obviously well connected Diane Prokop. Soon other bookish-readers Tweeted. Thus, by the time I went to sleep with a smile here on the East Coast, my numbers had climbed to well over 200 and I was satisfied.

The next morning as I rolled out of bed to get ready for work, I checked again — over a  THOUSAND hits! Cheryl Strayed had shared my post saying she agreed with everything I said! (pinch me still) And later, more hits came in thanks to a share by Nathan Bransford, author and blogger full of wise and generous advice for writers. For 3 days my stats climbed.

Then, a weird thing happened. As the numbers got higher on my stat bar-chart, my perception of success changed. What, only 2,000 hits today? I thought. The baseline shifts, the bar gets raised higher. When does that stop? What number will be enough? Insert many words before ‘what is enough’ – starting with money. Examples of disasters caused by that kind of thinking abound. Of course with writing, as in any of the arts, the bar should be raised higher and higher still. But not as measured by ‘stats’ on a blog or Amazon (ugh) sales of my (future) book, but rather, internally. Over the course of those days of watching the increasing readership, I was beside myself with excitement. But aside from the comments, a real connection with so many great writers and people, it all became a little unreal. I learned to, at least (a little bit) to let go of those numbers. And to appreciate the thrill of a single reader.

I write out of a longing to connect not only with readers but to some kind of magic, bigger than but within myself – a quest I discovered and honed first as an art student. “Great things have no monetary value” my guru-type sculpture teacher once told me. Substitute ‘numerical’ for monetary in this case. Better I check my work against an internal compass and remain in pursuit of that unnameable something that makes a painting, a book, an essay – sing. Numbers can be very distracting.

Another insight I garnered from all this blog-excitement, is to be confident. I hesitated to write my first sentence of last week’s post that says “… I can claim to be an expert…” How dare I?  I suspect many women can relate to this. Journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman have written a soon-to-be-released book The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance addressing just this phenomenon. Why don’t we believe in ourselves?  I regularly downplay my skills and expertise both professionally and personally. But last week my timid declaration was affirmed by so many, including publishing professionals and authors like Masha HamiltonKristin Ohlson and of course my new BFF, Cheryl Strayed that I could not help but feel and believe, I am an expert. And I’ll be reading Katty Kay and Claire Shipman’s book for answers and encouragement on this front.

I loved last week’s ride. Writing is a solitary pursuit but an amazing and accessible community of support exists. And I while I know I just wrote about writing-to-write, art and all that – and do believe it all – ultimately: who doesn’t want readers? Otherwise, what’s the point?  I want my writing to move and inspire and perhaps, to comfort. My recent glimpse of reaching a larger audience, was amazing. Thank you to all my new cyber-friends who helped to get me there. Now back to making the donuts.

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16 Responses to Revelations from My Stat-High

  1. dianeprokop says:

    Tricia, so glad I could get you some more reader love! All your posts are great, but I especially loved this one. It was beautifully stated, and I hope will be immensely helpful to authors around the world. Yes, I tweeted it out, shared it on Facebook, and emailed it to publishers. It’s a subject I’ve written about on my own blog. Maybe together we can make the event world a better place. :-) Thanks for the shout-out and mentioning me in the same breath as my friend Cheryl. She’ll get the word out for sure. Awesome job, my dear! Now, I just need to put up a post on my own languishing blog… Just a little itty-bitty request…It’s Prokop, not Prokup.

  2. Tricia says:

    Well, you’re terrific! Forgive misspelling – fixed. xx

  3. Christina Baker Kline, bestselling author of Orphan Train also shared your essay. That’s how I found what you wrote. Congratulations on all those hits. Sounds like a good time. But I also hear you on being thrilled with one reader. That’s how it’s been for me since I first started my blog. It feels like a big barn door opening, to let the wind blow through, cooling hay. You also met our comment with a lovely warmth. At any rate, good, good for you.

    Katie
    http://www.katieandraski.com

  4. I’m excited to know about you now, Tricia, thanks to Diane–and she and I have since talked about your post in relation to specific author events (I’m a small press publisher). And congrats on the great stats! Cheryl tweeted one of my books a few months ago, and I saw a similar sudden and wonderful rush of visitors.

  5. I think you are the real deal. I stumbled over you when trying to find more about a not-at-all-nice male Tierney who appears on the Food52 blog. What a find. I love your writing, musings. I like many others agree with your opinions. Please keep going. You have many important things to say.

  6. Tricia says:

    Thanks Katie, I had no idea. Her book sells like hotcakes at the store and has been on my overwhelming to-read list forever. It’ll now go on top!
    Really, it has been the comments that have thrilled me the most – and the genuine connections made that way. AND the introduction to writers like yourself that I may not ever have known.
    Your last blog post of the neighbor’s grief about her dog (oh, I dread the day) left me breathless. Thank you.
    Tricia

  7. Jennifer blankfein says:

    Tricia, I received an email from tish Patrick about jane green event at WCP and it had a link to your blog. I wish I had known about it – would have been reading it all along – glad to be in the know now and enjoying!

  8. Tricia says:

    Same here, Laura. What a wealth of info AND inspiration on your site. It certainly looks like Portland is where it’s really happening for writers and books. You have some real gems on your list. Glad to have connected and look forward to staying that way. (Bless Diane!)

  9. Tricia says:

    Aw, thanks so much for that. It can often feel like you’re writing into a vacuum so hearing that I am not quite, is so gratifying. I LOVE food blogs – I count them as my greatest distraction when it’s time to write my own stuff. I look forward to yours. Sorry about that male-mean Tierney. No relation, I’m sure!

  10. Oh thanks, Tricia! My small press grew out of that blog, and also out of being here in Portland’s literature-saturated DIY culture. I’m not sure I would have had the courage to go for it someplace else, and I’m so grateful for people like Diane who have been cheering me on!

  11. Tricia says:

    Glad you’re here! (my secret life is out!) Thanks for reading and letting me know you are. Always a pleasure to see you.

  12. Lea Sylvestro says:

    Wow Tricia! What a boost! I still don’t understand how the leap is made from dear friends checking in to readers-who-know-us-not, but I can imagine your glee in watching the stat-counter climb. Yippeeeeee! Xo

  13. Tricia, so exciting for you to see your wonderful post go viral! Now here’s a funny author event story: the author I was hosting last Wednesday night had a delayed flight. Texts, phone calls, emails all day with his publicist and driver . . . the final word was that his flight was landing 40 minutes before the event. The airport is about 40 minutes from the event site, under the best of circumstances. So what does he do? Insists that the driver take him to his hotel to “freshen up” while 100 people are waiting for him in a forest preserve building in the middle of nowhere. He finally arrives 45 minutes late. Do I blog about this?!

  14. Tricia says:

    Oh dear. That’s a bad one. Ego anyone? And whether to blog about this or not… hmm. We walk a fine line, we who work with certain authors (I qualify that since so many are gems and get ‘it’) – agents, publishers, events and bookstore people, don’t we? Yet, how tempting to call them out. I’ll be watching your space!

  15. I would say 99% of the authors I work with are delightful and gracious — this one was a rare exception!

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