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From the Top, From the Heart

August 5, 2011

Blogging is hard sometimes.  You invest a lot of  yourself into the words you put up on the screen.  You release those words into the wild, hoping they’ll come back to you with the new friends they’ve made – comments from other readers.  Sometimes they do.  Sometimes they don’t.  Some words seem to make more friends than others.

It’s a lot like being a parent, I guess.

Except, you invest more of yourself into some of those words than into others.  As a parent, it’s kind of not cool to favor one child over another – at least that’s my philosophy; though I don’t have experience to back it up since B.T. is as-yet an only child.  But as an author, you can totally afford to play favorites among your wordlings.  Some of those wordlings come straight from the head.  Some come straight from the heart.  You want them all to be wonderfully successful.  But you want the ones from the heart, most especially, to be the most successful of all.

Of course, you try to stay realistic about which words are most likely to succeed.  But that doesn’t mean you still don’t have a lot of hope for the little blog post that could.

Man.  I’m really digging a hole with this extended metaphor thing.  Maybe beating around the bush a little, too.

The thing is, I don’t always know when what I blog is going to be a popular post.  I don’t know who’s going to comment on what.  I hope every blog post is great.  But at the end of the day, it’s like throwing darts at a board and hoping something sticks.  (I mean that literally.  Half the time when I throw darts at a board the darts bounce off.)

My most popular post over the past month, for instance, was my post about the gender balance of the speculative fiction audience.  It had the most hits, and ten different comments (not counting my own replies) from five different readers.  I consider a post successful if at least two different people comment on it – at least that’s my metric at this stage of my career.  (I’m realistic about the my clout and web presence.  Two different readers commenting is a big deal for me.  I can get anywhere from 10 to 100 hits in a day, with a median somewhere around 40, but the majority of those hits are for old posts and who knows what kinds of crazy drive-by google searches and spider-crawls make that up.)

On the other end of that spectrum, my post earlier this week about Catherynne Valente’s story “The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland – For a Little While” has had only one comment (as I write this), and relatively few hits.  That post is 3 days old, though.  It’s young yet, and may have a chance to make more friends.

Or there’s this post, into which I poured a lot of heart and soul.  While my first “Interrogating the Text” post hasn’t done particularly well, yet, it’s young and has a decent future ahead of it.  But “Where the Writing Things Are” is now a few weeks old.  It’s had almost as many hits as its going to get.  It got two comments – successful by the two-reader metric, but compared to some of it’s more gregarious siblings, it’s a relative loner.  I felt a lot of emotions in writing that post – emotions I don’t often feel when writing most other posts.  I  had a lot of hope for that little blog.  But it just didn’t have something that the world thinks it needed.  That made me sad, but thems the breaks.  You live, you love, you learn, I suppose.

One of the most popular posts EVAR! on this blog was a little bit of travelogue from when Dear Wife and I were romping about in Ireland a while back.  I posted it on St. Patty’s day last year, and in it I had a few pronunciations for some Irish words and phrases – based on what I heard while on the emerald isle – including a pronunciation of a traditional Irish blessing.  I never got any comments on that one – my blog was still very very young in those days – but Google still sends a lot of hits my way for it.  Apparently there’s a steady supply of people who are curious to know how to pronounce that old Irish blessing.

But the most popular post of all has to be my pictorial review of a certain fantasy-novel-series fan convention which I attended – my first such convention, despite my long sojourn as a citizen in the halls of fantasy fandom.  In the days soon after the convention wrapped for the year, a lot of the attendees were understandably interested in seeing pictures from the weekend’s festivities. My humble cell-phone camera was ill-equippped to deliver, but I was one of the first to the punch.  That’s probably because I live near to where the convention was held, so I was able to go home and upload everything within a very short time.  That post got 17 different comments by 8 different readers (including newcomers who were attendees of the con) and more hits by a loooooooong shot than any other post on my blog.  Unlike the St. Patty’s post, though, it doesn’t get a steady stream of search engine referrals.  After the initial excitement died down, the event receded into memories. But it has such a lead that it will still take Irish Lessons a good long while to catch up.  And nothing else will unless I somehow transmogrify into an Instant Internet Celebrity.  Which I do not predict occurring.

As I said at the outset: sometimes blogging is hard.  Sometimes you don’t know what you’re going to write about.  Sometimes, you’re worried that nobody will care about what you have to say.  And sometimes, you just have to say it and then push the little wordling out of the nest.  You have to let them fly on their own wings.  After that, those words aren’t just your own words, anymore (I mean, sure, you own the copyright, but that’s all legal and technical and not at all amenable to metaphor).  Whether they fly or fall, your words now belong to the world, to your readers, and you have to leave whatever happens after that up to your readers, such as they are, to decide.  That’s what being a writer is.

Happy writing.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. August 5, 2011 1:21 pm

    It is all very random! It’s probably impossible to decide what will be popular, and it’s rarely what I expect. I get a lot of hits from people searching for fantasy artwork because of the genre posts. I think all you can do is keep writing about whatever interests you. That’s hard enough, I think 😉

    • August 5, 2011 1:35 pm

      Yes, it is hard enough. And this was the topic on my mind. I’d watched several posts about which I felt very strongly sort of slip away with barely a splash, which made me wonder “why didn’t more people find that interesting?” To which, I suppose, there can be no real answer.

      • August 5, 2011 6:22 pm

        I think the same goes for fiction. No one really knows what makes a bestseller…

      • August 8, 2011 8:20 am

        That, of course, is very true. I’m pretty sure if I knew what did that I could do it. 😉

  2. August 5, 2011 7:03 pm

    Hmm..I’m absurdly behind on your posts, and I think you know why. But quite often, after reading what others have commented on your posts, I don’t have much to add. I do, however, often find your articles thought-provoking and well-written.
    I agree with you that you took the metaphor a little too far. 🙂
    Anywho. I think that the hit-and-miss had to do alot with the tags, and what people are searching for, and if someone links to your blog from theirs. It’s a good deal of luck and careful wording, imho.

    • August 8, 2011 8:24 am

      Of course, I understand, yes. And I’m glad you like what I write so far. But yes, I there’s a lot of chance going on here, and it’s hard to make it hit every time.

  3. August 5, 2011 9:23 pm

    I agree: blogging is> hard. And so is predicting the popularity of certain posts. Though, a lot of times the more edgy and/or unusual a post topic is, the more hits it seems to generate overtime–at least for me. (I mean I talk about a writing scam once, and everyone from everywhere is all over that. I talk about another thing…well, there’s little else on my blog quite as exciting as a scam or scandal, apparently.)

    Some people are just sensation-seekers like that, I guess.

    And I agree we should try to write from the heart no matter what. Just comes across as more genuine and less…well, attention-seeking, gimmicky and a host of other things, lol.

    • August 8, 2011 8:28 am

      Yes, I’m afraid I think you’re right. At least in the short-term, I get a lot more hits, more quickly, when I post on some ongoing scandal. That’s kind of sad, I think – especially when I consider that I’m a fairly small backwater blog and most of the time when there’s some scandal bigger sites are more likely to have something interesting to say than I…

      • August 8, 2011 12:03 pm

        Haha, I love that: “backwater blog.” I would totally start a writing blog with that name if I hadn’t already begun one.

      • August 8, 2011 12:08 pm

        Heh… it is what it is. And the title does have that nice alliterative element of which I’m so fond.

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