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It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by.  How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment?  For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone.  That is where the writer scores over his fellows:  he catches the changes of his mind on the hop.

-Vita Sackville-West

I’ve managed to do it again, though there was no advertence on my part this time. Managed a link from a much more popular blog and gotten a flurry of traffic.

The first time was with the link to Ali Eteraz’s personal blog, that was contained in the Fundie Muslim Style post. The trackback carried a flurry of readers on its slender wings. The second, combined with the most comments on a post ever, was with the Just Brown post courtesy of the editors of blogbharti.com who linked to that from their front page.

What that has meant is that those two posts have taken gold and silver for the title of my most successful posts ever by reader numbers.

And revealed that I’m uncomfortable with having readers.

What makes this paradox a squared circle is that I read personal sites written by strangers and find them compelling  because of their perspectives or the dramatic quality of the lives. Some of the most interesting ones are From The Archives and Violent Acres as well as the mentioned Ali Eteraz.

I wonder now how they feel about strangers reading their writing. Thousands of people being instantly alerted the moment they feel confident enough to publish. They don’t have the traditional print safeguards of an editor, a proof reader, checking and feedback. They commit, often in the heat of the moment to meet their publishing schedules and chancing that something reads wrong or implies something they do not wish to be associated with. But they’re big; with tens of thousands of hits a month they must have habituated themselves.

I don’t think I could. I don’t want a ‘successful’ blog.

It’s an odd dialectic. Why blog if you don’t want people to read. It’s public, its visible, and the reward for doing it right is to have readers. Thoughts, ideas, concepts benefit from being shared and being discussed. The more we debate and examine an idea, the more we all get out of it. Like compound interest, the meeting of minds is a powerful force.

There’s the obsessive checking of my feed stats and hit count, showing where your visitors are coming from and what they stopped to look at. I’ve checked that multiple times in a day, often to find no change. But that doesn’t stop me checking. One source of hits, the search engine results I’ve already turned off and on a half dozen times, conflicted over whether they should be finding a personal blog only tangentially related to what they’re searching for.

At the same time, I savor knowing my audience. I could probably individually name everyone subscribed to my RSS feed or who reads my blog. That’s how small the list is almost entirely composed of friends. A position that I’m comfortable with. There may be the odd exception [points at Jeff K, vaguely gestures at the people akin to him] but on the whole I know the people who read my blog in the real world.

In the end, I write for myself not for anyone else’s edification. That’s why I don’t have a topic, don’t have a direction, don’t have an angle or a niche. I’ve thought about these things as ways to make a ‘successful’ blog, but the through or writing about one topic or one idea for so long doesn’t do anything for me at all. I’d much prefer to flirt with a range of topics.

It’s why I write. Not Blog.Write. And when you write for yourself, the reader fades away.

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2 Comments

  1. Hey mtalib,

    I like your distinction and second it, from the opposite perspective. I’m not a journaler. If if I weren’t blogging, I wouldn’t be writing.

    How I feel about strangers reading my writing? Like I’m having a conversation with neat people. I imagine readers as a generic bright, funny person that I’m entertaining with a story and hoping s/he’ll tell me a story back. I’m writing to them, so I am not afraid that they’ll read it.

    Chancing something reads wrong or implies something I don’t mean? I trust them to get my jokes (which turns out to be a bad assumption) or to ask me if something I write implies something that doesn’t sound like my usual self. And then, also, I don’t care. I’d rather people understood me, but they are all imaginary, after all. My real friends don’t care what I write on the blog.

    Still, I agree with you in part. I like my regular readers. When I get a link and a whole lot of new people, I sortof wish for a nice quiet day on the blog.

  2. I too find that a paradoxical situation. I might be more extreme than you are in that I kind of hate attention, so I never tried to please anyone with my writing. I’m surprised you kept checking your hits; you didn’t seem that type of person. When Xanga rolled out their new dashboard completed with lots of stats, I promptly turned them off. I don’t need to know how many (or few) people are reading my blog. I don’t care.

    I think we are alike in that we have all these ideas trapped inside our heads that we need to let out. Whether they reach a large audience is of minor concern. This is the reason I kept on posting, even though no one is reading it (not that I bothered to check), and even though I am still unsatisfied with my command of the language.

    Lastly, I actually prefer you not concentrating on a certain direction or even style. That would make the blog seem pretentious, like the so-called reality TV shows that are actually scripted. It’s only normal for a person to ponder upon “serious issues” in one post, then rant about a crappy TV series the next.


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