A more relaxed update schedule might give me more time to find good header images instead of shit like this.
When I was in high school, my technologically-inclined friend Michael started a blog, which was a fairly novel concept at the time. It wasn’t about any one thing in particular – he posted science and technology stuff, funny pictures, anecdotes about marching band, a cell phone video of Saddam Hussein’s execution, cats, humorous notes on the college application process – but over time, his blog started getting some attention, eventually pulling in thousands of hits per month by our senior year.
At the time we were a few months from graduation and I was giving some thought to starting a blog of my own, trying to weigh the amount of work I’d have to do against how much attention I could get for doing it, which was a calculation I made a lot back then. I decided that it wouldn’t be worth the effort to write blogs unless a lot of people would read them, so in our College Writing class I asked Michael what he did to get so much web traffic. I’ll never forget what he told me:
“It’s really simple: The secret to getting lots of hits on your blog is to just keep putting stuff up there regularly. If you do it for long enough you’ll start picking up tons of readers. That’s all it is.”
That made sense to me – it was 2007 and thanks to MySpace it seemed like everybody was posting shit on the Internet. You didn’t necessarily need higher quality shit to stand out from the crowd – you just needed the assurance that your shit would arrive on a regular basis instead of petering out after a month or two the way 95% of blogs do.
So when I started writing this blog as a college freshman a few months later, I went into it grimly determined not to be one of the 95% by setting an ironclad update schedule and sticking to it religiously: Two updates a week, every week, whether I had anything to write about or not. It was pretty grueling a lot of the time – I mean, as grueling as sitting down and looking at a glowing rectangle can be – but fortunately I had virtually no social life as a freshman so I had plenty of time to write.
As I’d labor through updates about residence hall food or football games that Blogspot’s web traffic monitor told me basically nobody was reading, I would think to myself, “Hang in there, Truman – a year or two of this and thousands of people are going to be reading your blog every day!”
What Michael neglected to mention to me, I think, is that while posting regularly is a good way to grow traffic to your blog, it doesn’t work quite as well when what you’re posting is just long blocks of text. People didn’t like reading in 2007, and thanks to Upworthy, Buzzfeed, and a litany of phone apps that allow you to endlessly swipe through pictures of potential sexual partners, they’re even less enthusiastic about it now.
This past Christmas, one of my friends in Salem asked me how many people read my blog, and I estimated it was about 200. Then, when I got back to LA, I actually looked at the data and it turns out I was vastly overestimating – it’s probably closer to 100 readers. That’s about the same number I had in college when I was posting two updates a week like clockwork, and it’s held steady over the past two years when I’ve been blowing deadlines left and right.
Clearly, the frequency of my updates has nothing to do with my readership. And maybe it’s the journalism major in me, but every time I miss one of my arbitrary, self-imposed deadlines to post a blog update that roughly 100 people will eventually read, I still feel this sickly, clawing panic inside me that I’m a failure as a writer. I’m not exactly crazy about that feeling, and I’d like to stop feeling it.
“If at first you don’t succeed, lower your expectations.” That’s what the tagline on the DVD case for Tommy Boy says, and it’s in that spirit that I’ve decided to reduce my output to one blog update per week.
Churning out two updates a week for several years was instrumental in making me the writer that I am today. But now that I’m writing for a living and trying to work on three or four other passion projects at once, it’s locked me into an arrangement where I have to choose between pulling myself away from writing something else to write an update or blowing it off and feeling shitty about it all week.
Writing one update, bit by bit, over the course of the week, is a much more realistic target for me right now. And it’s also a much more enjoyable experience than pacing around my sweltering bedroom in my underwear trying to churn out 1000 words in the course of one afternoon, which for whatever reason was the way I’d been operating up until recently.
That initial calculation I made – that doing this would only be worth it if loads of people read it – is bullshit, and I’ve known that for some time. I like having 100 readers. Honestly, that’s all the attention I really need right now. One day I’d like to be writing for a larger audience. But at this point, writing for all 100 of you makes me feel like a success.
So thanks for that. I’ll see you sometime next week.
Truman Capps really needs all that extra time to spend staring at blank FinalDraft documents and trying to will scripts into existence.