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 Hamilton, Kristin 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.