I just need to post again. Nothing else will do, and my friend Taylor Grace has the perfect thing for me to blog about. A post about what numbers do to the mind. Especially a writer’s mind. Here’s the lede:
I have to admit, I’ve done it. I stared at the blog stats until I knew the numbers by heart, then I would check and recheck. The blog became a live entity I needed to keep happy…and, well, I wasn’t miserable but it was close.
Here’ s the rest. Taylor’s post includes lots of good links – nearly all of her posts do. One of the reasons I love her blog so much is because she turns me on to things I would never see otherwise.
I’ve been right there – looking at those numbers, checking and rechecking, and it wasn’t that long ago. You can measure it in weeks rather than in months. But if the events of the last two weeks have taught me anything, it’s that the numbers don’t really matter from day to day. Your blog is not a living thing. Your blog is a sheet of paper that anyone can read once you write on it, and that is all it is. Somewhere on the internet today, I said “a blog is a hungry beast.” I meant it, but that is only a metaphor.
I’m not looking at the numbers now the way I was even three weeks ago. I keep tabs. If I see a genuine spike, and I have the time to devote, I do everything I can to help it along. But for the most part, I’m happy with whatever I get on a given day. I do think about packaging content, posting when traffic patterns are good, using the right tags, and so forth. But for the most part, I’m just doing what I need to do at this point.
The traffic we’re getting on all three blogs, even if we add it all together and pretend our followings don’t overlap, doesn’t even add up to a drop in the bucket. More like a subatomic particle. (We know they do overlap, but have no idea how much – I could analyze that, but no time, and it isn’t important right now). So I’ve given up the numbers game unless I see a way for us to have the best day ever on our big blogs, and engineer a two-week increase. Because a two-week increase, once it goes away, leaves us with a few more regular readers. And that is really what this post is about. Regular readers.
Regular readers are the only part of this that really matters. Because regular readers, if I’m diligent about responding to comments, and visit their blogs when I have the time, and give back to them as I am able, turn into friends. And friends can become collaborators.
Page views are a means to an end. The reason I need page views is because I need enough of them to get to the point where it’s cost-effective to own my own domain, and control the ad space. Control of the ad space means revenue. Revenue means a marketing budget and the ability to pay contributors. And that is what I’m trying to get to – revenue. If I ever get there, I will pocket very little of it. I’ll put nearly all of it into overhead, promotion, and taking care of contributors. I doubt I’ll even compensate myself for my time.
What I want, honestly, is a big-ass network of creative people who can work together to get books published and movies made and art shown in galleries that would never see the light of day if not for the fact that we built this network. I will always be as generous as I possibly can to my collaborators. Always. Whether we remain a bunch of people with tiny blogs and a dream, or whether it becomes something more. Because this is not something one person can do alone. All I have to give right now is social interaction, but if I ever have money, I’ll be happy to give that, too.
Here’s why this is important, and this goes right to the heart of almost everything I’ve been saying since I started.
As far as cultural and aesthetic value is concerned, I don’t see much difference between Watchmen and A Tale of Two Cities. Gaiman’s Sandman series could be The Illiad. I’m not trying to be an iconoclast here. I just think the world has evolved to the point where we have a system for judging the value of creative work that no longer holds up. If we’re not to the point of a Copernican revolution with this, we will be eventually. The old categories do not hold, and one day, they will collapse.
So, until the paradigm shift comes, I’m inclined to do what I can to band together, just publish as much stuff as we can, and let our grandchildren sort it all out. I’m serious about this, and I do not care how crazy it sounds. I don’t believe in saying one work is better than another because one has more pictures, basically. And I am tired of seeing people do work that verges on genius being treated that way just because the work they’re talking about has a lot of pictures.
We don’t get to deny that a cultural artifact has something to say about the culture that produced it just because it is not to your taste, is another way of putting it. And you especially don’t get to do that without proper evidence. Here is a short and non-exhaustive list of things that do not, ever, count as evidence in the adjudication of either the value of cultural artifacts or the dynamics of social relationships. Not ever.
This list applies equally to literary journals and internet threads, as far as I am concerned. This is a list of things that, when used to support an argument about the value of a cultural artifact – even if they are used surreptitiously and not stated as such, or even used unconsciously to make assumptions, I am happy to smack down without apology:
1. Our credentials.
2. Our feelings.
3. The gender of either the author, or the critic who is arguing that the artifact in question has value.
4. Our life experience, work history, or age.
5. The names of philosophers, unless we clearly relate those philosophers to what we’re discussing.
6. Our perception of the emotional state of anyone involved in the discussion.
7. Our taste, because our taste is neither rational nor empirical. It is subjective, informed by emotions, shaped by culture, and subject to so many other variables that it absolutely does not count as evidence to support any statement presented as fact about a genre, a specific work, an author, or a social relationship.
8. All this is basic empiricsm. People who have lost sight of it need to retire gracefully before some up-and-coming scholar who sees these things clearly cleans their clocks in a big academic journal and discredits them in such a way that the next generation questions their entire body of work AND the school of thought that produced them.
I know that is strident, but it is friendly advice. And I’m right about this stuff.
I feel like I shouldn’t post this. It wanders. I should revise it for a day or two, or maybe turn it into a couple of posts. But screw that. This is a blog, not a journal. I’m posting it. As a compromise, I’m not publicizing or tagging it.
If this is meant for you, I trust you to find it, and to know it when you see it.
Thank you, Taylor, for posting today. If I hadn’t found your post, I never would have written this. And I really needed to write this.