I’ve been a little obsessed with stats lately. Not the proper, respectable discipline of mathematical statistics, but stats, the slick, abbreviated internet version that we all equally love and loathe. There’s nothing more important to someone who’s trying to break into the public consciousness via social media, but there’s also nothing quite as frustrating.
For example: all day, before I wrote this post, at least, I’ve been flirting with 1000 all-time views on my blog. As it stands at this very moment, I’ve had 999 for about three hours. It’s driving me nuts. Not that something amazing and spectacular is going to happen when I hit 1000. That 1000th person isn’t going to be anyone special (no offense – you’re all special in your own way). But for someone who feels a profound sense of joy, relief, and completeness when such numbers tick over in such a satisfying, rounded way, it’s like, kind of a big deal.
I think it’s mostly because I have very little else to focus on in my life, right now. Yeah, that’s about as depressing as it sounds. Twitter followers, blog views, Webook votes, book sales…even though they’re small things, and maybe they don’t really matter in the long run, it’s some sort of affirmation every time they climb slowly upward. They’re concrete evidence that something I said or did was worth looking at, even briefly. And when you’ve been out of work for nearly six months, constantly sending out the one-page summary of all your life’s achievements thus far without getting so much as an interview, those little silly affirmations can be important.
I say this as someone who laughed at the concept of self-esteem until one day I realized that not having any was stopping me from becoming the person I wanted to be. I’m not really an attention whore: I don’t flaunt myself in ridiculous ways; I don’t usually try to stand out from the crowd that much. And we’re not exactly talking blockbuster numbers here, so please don’t think I’m being immodest. I really am genuinely shocked and flattered every time someone says something nice about my work, or even bothers to leave a comment. Liking me on Facebook keeps me up at night with a sense of quiet joy, even though pretty much all I do there is post links to my blog (that just kind of ruined it for you, didn’t it).
Ostensibly, all this stuff – Twitter, Facebook, even this blog, although I do it because it’s its own reward – is supposed to sell books. And selling books is supposed to mean that someday, I might have a semi-sustainable literary career that will allow me time and leisure to be creative and write more awesome stories. But the goal really isn’t fame. I just like watching the numbers. If those numbers happen to eventually make their way into my bank account, so much the better.
It feels weird to talk about wanting to make money. I think a lot of budding authors tend to shy away from mentioning it. It does kind of make me feel a little greedy and mercantile. But writing is something I do because I love it. I’m passionate about it, and it makes me feel alive. Clearly that’s why I do it, because I’m not raking in the dough. There’s nothing wrong with wanting your passion to also be lucrative. Some of us are just luckier than others that the two coincide.
The harsh reality is, of course, that I’m not going to retire next year on my book funds. Probably not even in fifty years. I know that. I may get better; I may produce some good stories, but you don’t write to make money. You write because you have something burning a hole in you, and you need to say it. Which is why I truly do take my satisfaction from the stats, and the comments, and knowing that somewhere, someone might be smirking a little when they read a line that came out of my head. And if I refresh my sales report every five minutes? Well, who’s going to know? Okay, now you know. Just don’t tell anyone.
Wait, no. Go tell everyone. Tick, tick, tick.
Speaking of driving site engagement, I’ll be hosting a giveaway on my blog, starting tomorrow. You can win a free signed paperback copy of my book. Check back Wednesday morning!