So this week has been interesting for me, to say the least. I started a new gig, and I wrote my first post, hoping that things would go well. You never really know, when you start at a new venue. But I was (am) excited about it. I shared it with my readers on my personal blog and hoped I’d get at least a few comments.
The post in question is here, and at the time of this writing, it has over 20,000 Facebook likes, about a hundred “shares” (which I’m able to see; who knows how many I can’t), 80 comments, a whole mess of tweets, etc., etc., yeeha, woohoo, and all of that. I even had a local friend call me this morning to say that she’d seen my piece “all over” her Facebook feed this morning and was delighted to be able to say, “Hey! I know her!”
I don’t know; maybe this sounds like a regular day, to you. But to me, even as someone who’s been writing online for nine years—making a living for most of that time, mind you—this is more attention than any single piece of my writing has ever gotten before.
It’s completely wild. And weird.
There’s no shortage of “how to make your post go viral!” instructional pieces out there. Supposedly that’s the goal, though I’m not sure why. While I want to continue doing what I’m doing for as long as I’m willing and able to do it, I have no dreams of “making it big” or becoming famous or anything like that. My goal when writing is never notoriety; I have something to say, and I hope I’m able to say it to the best of my ability and people will connect with it. I have a modest following on my own blogs and decent traffic wherever clients pay me to write for them. For me, that’s plenty. The idea of trying to make a post become uber-popular is lost on me. I don’t see how one attempts that without completely losing the authenticity that tends to be the thing that makes a piece of writing share-worthy in the first place.
Still, I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t kind of exciting. It’s obviously great to hear so many people saying, “Yes! Exactly!” I wrote that piece intending to reach parents who didn’t really understand the camaraderie and other perks of marching band, and instead (or in addition), I reached a giant audience of former bandies who were delighted to agree that band is simply the best. And that’s cool.
Furthermore, generally speaking, the more people who read your writing, the more people who are going to drop by to tell you that you are the most egregiously wrong dummy-head who ever walked the earth. And so far I have received a handful of very kind email, a ton of encouraging comments, and really only two people who wanted to take me to task for being wrong. Given the exposure the piece has gotten, I like those odds. A couple of dissenters is fine. One might even argue they’re good for keeping the ego in check.
Why did this post get so much attention? My initial answer to that question was “I have absolutely no idea.” (Sorry, this isn’t a how-to post.) Thinking about it now, though, I think it was a lot of luck, a subject that hasn’t already been done to death, and a timing fluke. I know our band program just recently had their big banquet, and I suspect it’s either the same for other programs or people are coming up on it pretty soon, too. Spring is here, seniors are graduating, people who’ve been involved with marching band for years are feeling nostalgic as the end of the school year draws closer. None of that was planned, it just worked out that way.
When the initial elation wore off, I’ll confess that my glass-half-empty brain then went, “… oh crap, what if the next post doesn’t get as much attention??” I worried about that for about thirty seconds before I realized that, you know what? The next post is unlikely to get that much attention. This was a good post—I’m proud of it, don’t get me wrong—but its popularity had a lot more to do with circumstances and timing than anything I did. And that’s okay. If I succumb to the pressure to try to make the next post similarly popular, I can guarantee you it’ll be a stilted, self-conscious mess.
So I won’t. I’ll just do what I do, continue to enjoy my modest but loyal following, and if another fluke like this happens, great! If it doesn’t, that’s okay, too. I’m in it for the storytelling. Some stories are more popular than others, and that’s fine.