Everyone is addicted to something – from the destructive to the sublime, we’re all hooked. You may dabble in the dark arts of alcohol or drugs, or the frivolous such as shoes or cupcakes. But many new addictions are internet based; just think of all those stupid game requests you get on Facebook. They must be popular, or would cease to exist. (Don’t ask me to name any, the ‘block’ function and I are tight).
Words – they can hurt, there’s no doubt. But now, so do numbers, because when used on the internet, they can hold far more validation than ever thought possible. Sure, your bank balance has had the power to inflate or deflate your ego since your first account opened, but numbers have taken on new meaning.
It’s an easy game to play. It can start simple; be part of a forum or FB group. Make comment/post and watch the numbers. How many people saw it? How many people commented? Sure, it may not matter. But sometimes, it can. Who is commenting, what are they saying, why are they saying it? How many people read what I had to say? But then, the important question – why does it suddenly matter?
For some people, it really matters. How many people are clicking on your website can be the difference between interacting with clients and making meaningful connections and income, or being out in Internet Siberia. For those who need those interactions as part of business, it’s a job to maintain contact and keep the numbers growing.
What if you don’t have that relationship with numbers? What if you write on your blogs/forum/group purely for the interaction with others, or purely so you have an outlet for your voice? Does it really matter how many people read what you wanted to share? No, it doesn’t. And yet, it’s so easy to become infatuated with the numbers, just like you did when you worried how many people would come to your birthday party as a kid. Writers (whether they admit it or not) are going to check their Amazon rating sometimes. Where are they ranked? How many books have been sold? And, in a hurtful turn, what the numbers of their ‘friends’ are.
I released a new book this week. Did I check the numbers? Hell yes, I did! In an unpleasant twist, something in my personal life arose and my opportunity to play the numbers game has been stripped back, along with my ability to promote the book. I consider this a good thing. Why? Apart from the vanity aspect of checking my own sales, the numbers game has no happy ending. What is the ‘desirable’ number of sales? And in what amount of time? I don’t have a set number of books I want to sell, a certain amount of money I need to make. This is my love, not my income. I learned from my previous two releases that there is no magic number of sales – at 100, 1000, 10000+ sales, the feeling of success did not increase. Also, no number of sales will ever impress anyone (because the reality is, unless you write and sell books, you won’t understand the whole process and reality of the industry. I’m not saying you are thick, it’s just one of those ‘learn as you experience it’ situations).
Then there is another number – book reviews. Be it Amazon, Goodreads, whatever, the number holds far more power than it should. In a day, a writer could receive five glowing reviews, which raises a smile, an ego stroke. They can then also receive a bad review, and that ONE will reduce them to a mess. Don’t say it doesn’t. Sure, it gets easier over time, but the initiation of receiving that solitary number can hold power. Why? Validation, or lack thereof, I suppose. After working your ass off for a year, not just with a storyline, but with the shitty ‘rules’ of the English language, having someone tell you that you suck dog’s balls isn’t pleasant. (That hasn’t actually happened to me, but the fear constantly looms.) That’s another reality of writing – you bleed your soul onto pages and let people take shots at you. Naked marathon running would be more private. A constant reply for this pain is – ‘you can’t please everyone’. It’s true, but doesn’t help at all. It just doesn’t.
I’m tired of the numbers game. I refused to give numbers power at the beginning of the writing process, and refuse to let others hurt me with their games. It is entirely possible to avoid the numbers game, and many people do. I gave up forum posting years ago, when ‘why does your stuff gets more views/comments than mine’ mind-games with users wore me down. My blogging and online fiction websites manage to hold their own, and their numbers are private. Judge me not! The fact the content is entirely written by me, and/or about my work brings tremendous happiness, regardless of the numbers. There is no pressure (other than to blog more, sorry about being useless recently). I noticed a friend published her blog stats not long ago, it was about 30 individual hits a day, and she was pleased. I said – congrats! Why? Her post spoke of happiness, and a lack of expecting 300, 3000 or 30000 hits a day. But will it stay that way? It’s easy to get addicted to popularity; humans have been doing it since one caveman had more artistic flair on the cave walls than the rest of the clan.
What’s the point here? I’ll tell you. If you are feeling empowered by the numbers that your work generates, it can be dangerous. If the game is hurting you, then you have the exact same problem. Too much emphasis is being put on numbers, and if your happiness is dependent/conditional on anything, then it will never be real happiness. It will be finite, given to you by people who are essentially strangers, and it could all disappear in a flash. If it’s hurting you, then run. I have just released a book where I threw out the ‘rules’ and made myself happy. The numbers can’t tell me I was wrong to do that, because this time, I’m actually happy with my work, and proud of that fact. Numbers can’t take that away. But, of course, I am appreciative to everyone who has been purchasing lately.
I shall now go back to writing about digging up historical graves in Valencia, and enjoy it, regardless of how many people eventually read it.
READ MY BOOK
READ MY BOOK
READ MY BOOK
(I’m kidding, I couldn’t resist)
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