The week that John Gruber and Merlin Mann linked to my video tribute of their SXSW conversation, I started getting (temporarily) 8,000 hits a day on my website. As opposed to the previous 50 hits a day. I don’t count these things too closely, but it was a shocking change. I’ve had a few other notable spikes in attention. Once for writing about my Twitter code of conduct, once for talking about my failures with the New Yorker magazine, and once for talking about my failure to read Malcolm Gladwell’s book that discusses 10,000 hours.
Why am I telling you this? Well, because numbers are tricky.
It’s an exciting rush getting this attention. But it is also distracting. Partly because it is easy to get caught up in the numbers. But also, attention doesn’t necessarily mean “do that thing again.”
I mean, it’s important to take note when you get attention – I think it’s totally valuable to understand when your voice (in any form) strikes a chord with others. But sometimes you might be getting attention for the wrong reasons. And it’s inaccurate to assume the opposite is true: that when very few people are reading or watching your stuff, you are doing the wrong thing.
I’ve just started this new series, The Creative Turn, and few people are reading and watching my stuff. Not embarrassingly few, but the number is small enough that having my mom listen to the series counts as a notable data point. And to make matters worse, some of the hits are actually because I mistakenly put the words “video” and “sex” in the same blog post – that issue has been (reluctantly) corrected.
There are many possible reasons for the small numbers.
- It’s new. And I’m not big on self-promoting. I start to feel revolted with myself really quickly.
- I’ve shifted my focus a little bit. So I’m still searching for the audience (all six of these adorable audience members).
- It could also be that I haven’t hit my stride yet – I’m learning how to do these things. It’s rough around the edges. And probably rough in the middle. And also in that part between the middle and the edges.
- It could be for other reasons too. Sleep deprivation. Or the attention required for the novel I’m writing. Marriage. Family. The day job. Pornography. Shame showers.
But!… I’m loving the experience of navigating this new realm (both the new content and the new media). I sense that I’m onto something valuable. There is something inside me that longs to talk to people and pluck out an important story or an important truth, and turn that over with them. (Plus, I love apologizing to really smart people.) And it’s so much fun to take the time to edit a discussion to make each minute count. I can’t say I’m great at doing all this yet. But I strive to be great. Or at least to be 17.5% less sucky.
One interesting shift with this project: I feel a greater sense of patience than before to see where this all leads.
It took some time to get to this point. I think the struggles with publishing and promoting my first novel helped crush me into this calmer place… I should clarify that I’m proud of that book. But it was not easy trying (and usually failing) to get it the attention I felt it deserved.
Next week, I’ll publish my conversation with Scott Sparling, a good friend and the author of Wire to Wire published in 2012 by Tin House. We both discuss our struggles trying to write the second book after finishing the first book. This struggle relates, for me, to the struggle of finding my way through this Creative Turn series just the same. Really, I think it relates to any project that is not your first love, but (possibly) your next love. There are some big, scary questions that hang around like an oversized matzo ball:
- How do you find the right voice?
- How do you bring this project into your heart?
Hell if we know. But Scott & I still manage to turn this over in several serious and silly and delusional ways… Plus, you get to hear me giggle like a five-year-old kid for half the conversation because Scott is so damn funny…
The audio conversation will post on Monday, August 26th. And then a video two weeks later. (And the video better be decent because I just blew $12.50 to buy 144 rubber cockroaches and – even worse – I bought a copy of 50 Shades of Grey for the video.)