Thursday, February 18, 2010

Break It Down

There seems to be a lot of talk today, floating around Twitter and the Blogging world, about statistics. Basic Blogging statistics about how many people view/visit your page on a daily basis, how many comments you get left on a general post, and, the big one - how many followers you have. It threw my sister for a little bit of a loop a couple of weeks ago when she lost a follower. Heather, at Madaline the Magnificent Mayhem Maker, has 40 followers. The Townsend Bakery, the Blog that we write together (though she puts more effort into it than I do, because she actually cooks and bakes on a regular basis and for me to eat something I walk down the street to my dining hall, but that's mostly because she's in a different phase of her life right now, and I'm in mine, but anyway...) has 10 followers.

The Wandering Sagittarius has a whopping 9 followers - including that rather crazy chick that writes it (her name is Louise, I think, or some form of that), her sister, and her cousin. So, if you take out those 3, some simple math gets you 9 - 3 = 6. Six followers.

I'm okay with this. To an extent.

None of my followers fit the demographic that I currently occupy. I'm a college student, female, drives an Oldsmobile, is a chemistry major, writes in what spare time she has, and Blogs when she's got something to say. I could probably, if thought hard enough and went through it carefully, give you a fairly accurate materialistic list of the things that I have. I can also give you a fairly accurate materialistic list of things that I don't have. There should probably also be a third list in there, titled the accurate materialistic list of things that I want.

If you saw the first two ideas for lists, and automatically assumed that the Don't Have list is the same as the Want List, then you either haven't read very much of me, or don't have a clue as to the type of person that I am.

Do I want people to read what I write? Of course I do. I like to share the things that come out of this thing sitting on top of my neck (some call it a head, but I'm not entirely sure what function it's supposed to serve because it doesn't seem to exist for some people) because some of them are entertaining, designed to make you laugh, and some are designed to make you think. Some of them exist for the purpose that somebody needs to say something about the 800-pound gorilla currently sitting in the room, and everybody's thinkin' it, but nobody'll say a damn word.

I'm that somebody.

Now, statistically speaking, everybody should fit in a box. Let's take, for example, the statistical demographics of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. And thank you, to the Admissions department because you just made my life (and this post) so much easier.

549 of the 2,091 students are First Years (We're politically correct now - because woman can't be Freshmen)

64% come from a Public High School and 45% come from New York.30% drive from New England and 12% come from the Mid-Atlantic. The remaining 12% come from the Far West, Mid-West,Southeast, Southwest, and Internationally.

Okay, so we're a pretty diverse campus, right? On the outside, right?

This up there, doesn't tell you a damn thing about what it means to live here and not be able to be fit into a tiny box. New York does not automatically mean that you are from the city. And when you tell people this, they can take it a few ways - either start smiling, or get that look in their eye that says, Eh...I'm not really sure about you. Tell them you're from Upstate, and you don't mention a big city like Syracuse or Rochester, and the look has a tendency to get a little more derisive. And your self-esteem? Well, in any normal person it would start to sink through the floor.

Let me put things a little more into perspective - let me twist your lens a little. If you look out the window on the parking lot side of the building, and you look at the cars, you'll see newer models. Hell, I think there's even a Hummer out there on the weekends, and there's definitely a Lexus, and some Hondas, a few Audis, BMW's, Volkswagons, and then my floor-mate's white Subaru station wagon. And right beside of that shiny scrap metal, is a beat-to shit Oldsmobile. And the owner of the beat-to shit Oldsmobile is the girl from rural Upstate New York. Her favorite shirt is red plaid, and she's more than happy to wear jeans and a t-shirt and play with the boys than buy a pair of Ugg boots and stuff herself into spandex two sizes too small. And has nothing to do with body image, if you're thinking that, simply because that's not her thing. Her thing is real food (cheeseburgers, chicken, pasta, sandwiches), country and classical music (with the occasional foray into pop), and getting mail in her campus mailbox. Her thing is her family and their eccentricities and quirks, the smile on her niece's face when she walks through the door, and, yes, stomping around out in the mud because it's the thing to do and hot damn is it fun.

But...But what about those things that we all desire? Money? Fame? Fortune?

Well, let me see. See, this chick, she neither wants nor needs any of the above. Just enough to put gas in the car, buy the occasional cup of Starbucks coffee when the mood really strikes (though not for another how-ever many days, because she gave it up for Lent), the occasional pint of Ben and Jerry's (again, gave it up for Lent), and enough to buy what she needs to keep her screwy digestive system in good working order. Because when that functions well, then she functions well. It's a direct relationship. Fortune kind of goes hand in hand with that, and while sometimes money gets tight, she's rich in other things, like love, good health, and good family and friends.

Fame. I don't want Fame in the sense that everybody is going to know my name, and I'll do anything to get it there. No. By following this line, not only are you setting yourself to fail, pretty much, but you're setting yourself up to fail epically - and probably drag yourself through the mud on the way there, too. No, the fame that I want to have is that I want people to read what I write. I want my book to be published not for the money or the recognition, but because I want to accomplish something that means a significant amount to me on a personal level. It want that satisfaction that comes from doing a hard day's work, and you get rewarded for it. And a reward doesn't have to monetary.

Which, in an add way, brings me all the way back around to the starting point of this monstrosity of a post: Statistics.

Blogging statistics was a big topic in my Twitter feeds today. About followers and about un-followers and writing and numbers. And before the beginning of this week, I was completely clueless as to who was reading, or not reading, my blog. In some ways, I still am, even though, yes, I have a Stat Counter. Seems a little hypocritical at the moment, but the only purpose that it serves for me (other than to confuse me with all the damn categories to choose from to look at) is to show me where my audience - however small or large - is reading from. The U.S., Canada, and even some International viewers. Does that mean they stayed long, went through the archives with a fine-toothed comb and started at the beginning and read every post that I have? No. Probably not. Could I find that out? Probably. Do I want to? Hell no.

I am going to make an assumption that you could probably track your readers by how much you market yourself and your blog - meaning, how much you get out there and spread the word. Basically, you sell yourself. Those in the publishing industry (or trying to crack it) are doing much of the same thing. I send query letters, emails, still workin' on that synopsis that I might need to send, and I shove my hope and my dream into a mailbox periodically and see what comes back.

This, however, is a little uncomfortable for me, believe it or not.

I'm a little Old School. Which probably has some of you wondering how I can be "Old School" when I'm firmly entrenched in the definition of New School. My feeling is that if you need to excessively market yourself - in terms of writing, and I'm talking on the scale of novels and short stories - then you're writing isn't strong enough to withstand scrutiny on its own.

Your writing should be able to speak clearly and definitively by itself. You should only need to supplement how good it is, not market it like it's a the last damn junker on the lot and it's gotta go, regardless of how you have to get it gone.

Inkpop is a prime example of this. (Long story short, those of you clueless to what Inkpop is, it's a site that, at the end of the month, the top five stories are reviewed in full by HarperCollins and, if it's good enough, and they think it'll sell, they'll pick it, and publish it. Either way, you get a lengthy comment about how good it was, what you need to fix, and generally probably nearly have a heart-attack. Then again, to come that close and get nothin' but an Atta Boy is more than a little frustrating.) I've got projects up there (under the name thewanderingsagittarius) and among them is The Sunset Girl (found on here, too, a reprint of my original ENG 309 story, which was also submitted to The New Yorker, which I have yet to hear from, if I ever will), Sage (inspired by the local cemetery, my best friend Em, and probably a healthy dose of Supernatural), Depths of an Illusionist (on here as well, the thing that didn't have a title but was pretty deep), The Crossing (my pride and joy, the thing I been workin' on for six years now and am trying to publish, write a new beginning, and finish at the same time - gotta love multi-tasking), Definition, Murphy and Me (written for my sister, Heather, to make her smile and laugh because she's beautiful when she does both), Tangible Focus (self-explanatory), and some poems. There is also, The Entity Known as Fat Pants.

My site messaging inbox gets at least three Read my story and comment and tell me how good it was and put it on your Picks to raise its ranking and I might do the same for you if I feel motivated! Stereotyping there on my part? Oh yeah. Do I feel guilty? Hell no. What I've read on there, and I'm no published author myself, but what I've come across and what I've blows my mind. Not because it's great, or good even, in some cases, but...and I have a hard time finding what to say because I don't want to ruin somebody else's parade but it needs a lot of work. And I just don't get where the hell all the comments come from saying how wonderful it is, and I'm still trying to make out how they're in the top 5. And I think what happens is that they cross that line. That fine, fine line between self-advertising your writing for a good cause (a Forum thread saying that you're new and that you've got some things to look at, or you'll do a swap) and then there's the obnoxious, I want as many readers as I can so I can be in the Top 5 and have a good rank and be number one but my writing still isn't as good as other people's on here.

Which can be applied to Blogging.

It's great when someone reads something that you've written, that you've put time and thoughtfulness into, and that you've painstakingly edited to make it the best that you can do because maybe your writing skills aren't what you want them to be. That's when effort outweighs the little mistakes that you have, and you get your overall message across. As long as you write what's important to you, and what you think you need to say, and that somebody had damn well better listen to.

I have six followers, and get less than probably 20 hits a day. I could tell you exactly my numbers, but I would have to look, and, quite frankly, probably none of them are the intended audience. I am the college student, the in-betweener, and of my six followers, none of them are in the same boat as I am. Would I love to be recognized for my Blogging? You bet. I would love to be recognized for any of my writing, and that's because I've been doing it so long and I put effort into, that, occasionally, like anybody else who's poured themselves into something (we're talking novel, in this case, not this Blog, though I am pretty in love with it, otherwise I wouldn't type as consistently as I do) I want some feedback. Some comments. But I have six followers outside of the world that I live in. This is why I don't want to know how many people read me other than an occasional glance, because I do not want to become obsessed with it.

I don't need to obsess because I don't need to change the way that I do things.

And this, my friends, is the confidence that you should have in anything that you write. That what you have written, what you have shared is meaningful to not only yourself, but to someone else. That it makes someone else take a step back and examine something they didn't think to look closer at, to make them feel a certain way, to make them laugh (and, on occasion, to make them cry).

The Wandering Sagittarius (the blog, not the chick) exists because the meandering Sage (the chick, not the site) enjoys writing and thinks that she's got a viewpoint that you should consider. No, actually, she doesn't think she has a viewpoint that you should consider, she believes. She has value in the words that she writes, that she thinks, and that, this coming week, she will speak at Open Mic Night for National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.

To you "biggies" out there in the Publishing and the Blogging world, judge us not for how much we knock on your door and practically beg you to read our things - read us because you are intrigued by who we are as people, the viewpoints we represent, and the way we have with words. Not because we've tried to shove it up your nostrils. Don't put us back into the high school days of popularity contests and whatever you do, have the common courtesy to your less fortunate neighbor and fellow Blogger to not bitch about the approaches you get from PR firms. That's just a wee bit tacky.

Then again, what do I know? I'm just a sophomore in college who hasn't cut her teeth on the "real world" yet, am I right? I don't know what I'm doing with only a basic knowledge of HTML, limited financial resources, and a naive worldview, right? I can't possibly have enough experience to compete in this industry, right? I haven't attended an conventions and conferences about Blogging, so I must be an amateur, right? With limits and limitations? With things that need to be fixed and critiqued, to be patted on the head and told, maybe next time you can sit at the big people table?

Tell ya what. I'll sit on the hood of my Oldsmobile in my favorite pair of jeans and my favorite sweatshirt, listenin' to my favorite song, with my notebook and my pencil and my imagination, and when you're ready for me, you come get me. When you're ready.

I'll sit right here, wait patiently, and smile. And I won't even have to wipe the snot off my notebook.

1 comment:

Erin Reed said...

I love to read your blog for several of the same reasons that you already stated. But most importantly, I read it b/c you're *you* and that's hard to find in this world. People hide behind their name-brand clothes and fancy cars, embellish their backgrounds and accomplishments and/or "follow the flock" to fit into a specific "caliber" of people. You aren't afraid to speak your mind, to tell the world your hopes, fears, dreams and failures. You can see people for who they truly are and you know your ass from your elbow. The quality that I like the most about your blog perhaps is that you can tell a person where to go, how to get there and make sure that they're not late without skipping a beat or taking a blow to your self-esteem. More people need that, whether it's personally or just a reminder to be themselves.

"The difference between life and the movies is that a script has to make sense, and life doesn't."

-Joseph L. Mankiewicz