Walter Mencken 10:15 a.m., Dec. 13
The sun’s risen, coffee’s been brewed and my Mini, booted. James and Dash are very aptly singing, “Summer breeze, makes me feel fine, blowing through the jasmine in my mind,” in the background. It’s another mild midmorning in August and I’m at the keyboard once again, knuckles cracked, hopeful to earn yet another day’s dollar.
I read recently a publisher's quote on what makes a successful writer. It read something like, "Ass in chair!" So, I dutifully put in the hours, expecting that they will pay off in the end. Telecommuting isn’t new to me nor is writing for a living. It’s not even the first time I’ve been crazy enough to follow through on one of my wacky entrepreneurial ideas. What is new is earning money through creative freelance writing, which depending on who you speak to is probably the wackiest notion I’ve pursued to date. Imagine being paid for superimposed emotion infused dribble or cerebral ramblings. Pretty nuts, right?
Only, it’s not, because we are all searching for reason and are reaching out to others in hopes of finding it. We as a human race are doing this all around the world. Here’s how I know.
At the recommendation of fellow road warriors who mostly were just interested in being able to follow my wanderings, I finally created a writer’s blog. My main purpose in doing so though was to post examples of my writing and photographs in a single accessible place for publishers who might be interested in reviewing my work. In less than four months, with no additional advertising and very minimal social networking, my site’s had hits from almost two thousand viewers from almost every state in the U.S. and from more than twenty countries. Today’s new country was Indonesia. Last week’s were Russia, Brazil, Slovakia and Azerbaijan.
By marketing standards, these numbers are laughable. If I were trying to sell a product those numbers would need to be significantly increased in order to ensure lucrative sales volume. Yet, low as they comparatively are my blog stats tell me something.
If a stranger who happened upon my site by chance reads the Google translations of my essays only to become a subscribed member of my blog, a “follower”, then I must be saying something worthwhile, or at least saying the mundane with a new twist. Although the content of my material is hardly novel, it seems to be interesting enough to those who stumble upon it. I’ve been told by many a reader that they live vicariously through my writing. The comment that interested me most though was from an anonymous reader who said that reading my work was like reading their best friend’s diary.
Why? Why would anyone want to read anyone else’s deepest most private thoughts and emotional impressions of their daily struggles, I wondered? Why?
My meager guess is that we are drawn to seek validation that we aren’t alone in our struggle to live the lives we’ve been granted, that we are drawn to seek affirmation that others have a hard time of it as we do. That others may have found answers to living more freely or happily I think is only a small part of what draws us to read each other’s personal diatribes, whether in books or virtually online. But, read we do, everyday, everywhere.
According to BlogPulse, there are an estimated 168,059,462 public blogs on the World Wide Web today, 98,181 of which were created in the last 24 hours. According to renown user interface engineer Jakob Nielsen, five percent of all Internet users create these blogs. Although blog subject matter varies greatly, the number one topic that draws readers is, you’ve got it, diaries! People read them three times more than postings in political or entertainment categories. In fact, the blogging phenomena has spawned more than 40 statistical companies that specialize in tracking blog stats and documenting infographic and data visualization information for corporate clients. Presumably, these eMetrics are then used for marketing purposes.
It’s not that we’re all nosey; it’s that we’re basically empathetic tribal beings who now live largely virtual existences from within “the box”. It’s also that we have an unquenchable desire to understand. Nothing new with that as we humans have been asking How, Why, When, What and Where for eons. In fact, I think it’s more than obvious that we want to comprehend more than we want good ol’ fashioned human connection, if not authentic out of the box interaction. Case in point, Nielsen indicates that only one in a hundred viewers actually comments on the blog posts they read. In geek terms, this one percent is referred to as ‘contributors’ whereas the remaining 90 percent has earned the leery term, ‘lurkers’.
Lurking--schmirking; from a writer's perspective, a reader's a reader regardless. I'll watch the view counter go up as the day progresses and hope that a portion of those viewers are publishers, having received my query letters, logged on to assess the quality and style of my writing as much as the content. I, too, will read the posts of others looking for the affirmation I need in making this career transition, confirmation that my writing is, indeed, marketable. I’ll check my inbox for acceptance notifications and direct payment transaction reports. But, I have all day to do so and for now, there’s a humus, spinach, and cucumber whole wheat roll-up waiting and a sultry palm lined pool calling my name.