I received a bit of a jolt yesterday morning when visiting my WordPress dashboard. The vertical blue bars showing daily page views were all but nonexistent. Then I realized it was because the scale had changed. The bar on the far right, showing that day’s views, was climbing right off of my screen.
My latest blog post on a writer’s must-read list had just gone viral. I watched, with a few clicks of the refresh button, as it hit 200, 300, 500. Within an hour it had hit 1,000. At the end of the day it had reached 4,000, and it’s continuing to get hits on its second day as I type this. (Update: While slowing, the clicks continue. As of 8 am ET on Wednesday the 20th we’re approaching 8,000).
This is startling. While I love traffic to my blog (what blogger doesn’t?) my primary motivation isn’t hits. I’m not selling anything with this blog. I don’t run ads. I don’t search-engine optimize posts and headlines. So what was going on?
A quick investigation gave much of the credit to The Huffington Post, which featured the post in their Books section. I believe Huffington Post discovered it as a result of it being tweeted by “Advice to Writers” author Jon Winokur, whose Twitter feed @AdvicetoWriters has 71,136 followers and, perhaps more importantly, is on 4,710 lists (including my WritingInspired list). His tweet was then retweeted like nobody’s business, as was one from the Huffington Post. Later that day it was tweeted by @randomhouse. Yup, they’ve got a few followers.
What has this been like? Exciting. Surprising. Confusing. Embarrassing. (That last one stems from the fact that while pleased enough with it the post to upload it, it’s hardly the one I would have chosen to introduce myself to the universe. I didn’t even bother to include my signature touch, a photo that is only marginally relevant with an unorthodox caption.)
The post had been doing pretty well on its own. It had received just under 500 views from Friday (the day I uploaded it) through Sunday, putting it in my top quartile of my posts to date. But this is an entirely different scale, as the disappearing blue bars for Friday, Saturday and Sunday attest.
The Artist’s Road is less than a year old, but I blogged for six years prior to this on two other blogs, and was blessed to see a handful of posts go viral. A post I wrote for a now-defunct think tank’s blog about my personal experience with inaccuracies on Wikipedia spread once it was promoted by Pulitzer-Prize finalist Nicholas Carr.
In perhaps my proudest moment of blogging, a post I wrote for my previous employer the Copyright Alliance went viral to positive results. I blogged about an online “magazine” titled, cheekily enough, “Pilfered,” consisting solely of photographs stolen online and reprinted without compensation of the photographers, or credit, or permission. My post spread through the photographic community, prompting a barrage of pressure on the magazine, and I believe I played some role in the magazine shutting itself down shortly thereafter.
This latest viral phenomenon comes right at a moment when I was thinking of shutting down this blog.
I absolutely love writing it — I’ve enjoyed using it as an exercise to grow as a writer, to provide resources to creative peers, and to learn how to de-program the journalist in me and put more of myself into my writing.
I’ve particularly valued the virtual friendships I have formed through this blog, and am so grateful to its loyal readers (some of whom I thank by name at the end of this post).
But on Sunday, after spending hours on the first “packet” due to my MFA instructor (30 pages of original creative writing and a 7-page critical essay), I wondered if it was reasonable to continue to indulge myself with this blog. It requires time and creative energy. Perhaps it was best to put it on ice for awhile.
But by Monday morning, when my browser opened to my WordPress dashboard, I had already decided to stick with it awhile longer. My compromise with myself was to blog a little less often, two days a week rather than three. But I realized this blog is now part of my creative path. My life mission right now is reconnecting with my muse, and stepping away from The Artist’s Road would be stepping off of that path.
So seeing that ever-rising vertical blue bar, I believe, was my muse’s way of telling me I’m right to stick with it. After all, I’m not chasing clicks. I receive qualitative value by having an outlet to flex creative muscles and a way to connect with creative and supportive peers. But it still feels nice to get quantitative feedback, especially when it’s positive.
My only regret is that once this bubble bursts, until that tall blue bar rotates off of the little chart through the passage of time, my other bars will remain minuscule by comparison.
Now comes shout-outs to some of my most loyal blog readers and Twitter pals in no particular order; like in an Oscar speech, I must note that I’m sure I’m leaving some folks out, and my sincerest apologies to those individuals. If you’re one of them, call me out in the comment field below.
A huge whoop to Milli (@fearofwriting), Amy (@AmyBuchheit), Charlotte (@wordstrumpet), Kate (@KateArmsRoberts), Sue (@Sue_Mitchell), Tanner (@tannerc), Jessica (@JMcCannWriter), Cheryl (@CherylRWrites), Carrie (@ArtistThink), Bell (@startyournovel), Melanie (@DoseofCre8ivity), Jolina (@Jolina_Joy), Paige (@PCrutcher), Liz (@lizmassey68), Mari (@mischief_mari), Elizabeth (@elizabethscraig) Anita (@anitabondi), Melissa (@CrytzerFry), Callie (Notes From Naptime), David (@DavidBGoldstein), Ollin (@OllinMorales), Ian (@IanAspin), Sion (@parisimperfect), Carolyn (@carolynsolares), and Danielle (@Danielle_Meitiv).