Write like nobody’s reading
I love writing. I always have. I have ideas for books, article, stories, spewing out of my head practically 24/7. But something happened when I started posting stories online. When I started my first blog I had access to some rudimentary analytics that showed me how many people were reading my articles and from where. It was so cool! There were the predictable places, where I lived, where I had friends and family who knew about my fledgling blog. But there were other places, remote and exotic. People I had no connection to were reading what I wrote.
It’s addictive. You know it is. How often do you check for Likes or Shares or thumbs up on your social media accounts? It’s a warm fuzzy feeling of appreciation. As a writer, that’s important, though you swear to yourself that it’s not.
It gets worse when you have a “hit” article. Whether through luck or sheer perseverance, you have that article or that day when your views go through the roof. It’s like a shot of pure adrenaline coursing through your veins. You thought you were hooked before, but this is something entirely different, a whole new “high” that is intoxicating.
I remember the day that my website suddenly had like 18K hits on one day. I couldn’t believe the numbers. After all, I was on vacation when it happened. After doing a little research, I discovered that it had been featured on Robert Ambrogi’s LawSites blog. A single, less than 200 word informational article about my website had sent my website hits through the stratosphere.
As exciting as that was, however, I started realizing that I would modify my writing, to include high ranked SEO phrases, reference high impact personalities, cater to what I thought readers wanted to read, writing that would be virtually applauded and make me feel a temporary high.
With highs come lows, however. For every piece of writing that did well, another tanked and I would surrender to that self-loathing that every writer knows so well, sure my writing career was finished. Eventually I would pull myself out of my wallow and write again.
Medium puts a new spin on the vicious cycle. For every article I post, I spread links around on my various social media profiles, send out emails to my friends, then nervously, obsessively, watch the stats. How many views, reads, fans, internal reads that earn me money, external reads that just give me more visibility? How many fans who just follow me in the hopes I will follow back and, if I don’t, they promptly unfollow me? Did my story get picked up in topics? In a publication? How about on the other platforms? Lots of likes, shares, comments, retweets? …
Take a deep breath. Take 20 deep breaths, I tell myself in vain. And stop looking at the stats. Have I contributed something to the universe? Yes. Is its value dependent on little key clicks tracked by computers? No. No, it isn’t. Some of the best read books didn’t become popular until long after they were published. Some of the most treasured works of art weren’t appreciated until after the artist was dead. Instant gratification isn’t everything.
So, what to do now if I don’t obsess (which I am very, very good at)?
I posted a new article on Medium today and entered into a pact with a fellow writer that we would wait 24 hours before checking our stats. I’m not even at hour #4 and I’m feeling like a drug addict needing to score a hit. But I’m holding firm. I’m distracting myself with writing this article. And I’m thinking.
Years ago a friend had a plaque on her wall that seems particularly applicable today. It read –
“Dance like no one is watching, Love like you’ve never been hurt, Sing like no one is listening, and live like it’s heaven on earth.”
Those words frequently go through my brain, every time I’m faced with the decision to boldly step out into the unknown and do daring and exciting things in life. It gives me courage to go on, without fear of rejection or criticism. That philosophy has paid off with amazing dividends over the years.
I’m thinking I need to do that with my writing, and maybe you should too.
Write like nobody’s reading.
You never know what genius you may have unless you do.