Pressing Words in the Blogosphere
I’ve said it before and I will say it again: blogging can be a real pain in the ass.
Any writer can tell you how hard inspiration can be to come by, but that’s only half the battle. The other half comes in the very act of sitting down to punch the keys, push the pencil or… actually, that’s probably it. Nevertheless, writing in any medium is not an easy task. Sure, some people will tell you it’s an art—and in some ways, it probably is (or at least used to be)—but writing is also work, and damn hard work at that.
Is it as tough as controlling air traffic, roofing a house in the middle of summer or serving aboard a commercial fishing vessel? Of course not, but it’s in the same ball park.
And pain is pain no matter how you slice it.
What makes blogging so challenging—and yes, blogging is writing, despite what its critics might say—is also what makes it so rewarding. The moment you press that “publish” button to send your latest post into cyberspace, you are out there. Within seconds, the piece you just spent hours, days or even months toiling over, struggling with and cursing—if you’re anything like me, that is—could be resting comfortably on the computer monitor of some unknown reader halfway around the world. And if that person is so inclined, you may even receive a comment—almost instantaneous feedback from someone you never met, but who you immediately respect because—face it—they were intelligent enough to read your work.
And the opinions of readers with such impeccable taste are always welcomed and valued.
It also helps that, in my experience, people who take the time to comment are generally worthy of respect. There are exceptions, of course—spammers, would-be politicians, holier-than-thou hypocrites and other colorful characters, all of whom I have inherent skill in pissing off—but most commenting readers state their case, share their thoughts and return that respect without being unfair, unreasonable or… to be perfectly honest… mean.
A couple of mean comments hurt my feelings, but then I realized I was a grown man with functioning testicles and cursed myself for being so hypersensitive.
The truth is that even the worst comments—the ones that strike deep, point out a flaw or accuse me of something I never intended or imagined—have value. Imagine if a writer’s work received nothing but glowing compliments and kudos despite its shortcomings or—put mildly—its general suckiness. Would they ever improve or learn the true nature of their talent, or lack thereof? Hell no. Personally, I would rather someone lay into me so long as they identify problems with my writing I can correct, ideas I haven’t thought through enough or information I ignored or overlooked.
Constructive criticism is good, after all. And it’s what makes blogging and writing so similar, but also so different.
Long before computers—back when all I could write on was paper or a piece of shit Brother word processor with a tiny, discolored screen—I could expose my innermost thoughts because at the end of the day, I knew no one else was ever likely to read my work. Sure, I would share a little here and there with family and close friends—usually those rare stories or articles I deemed worthy of being shared (and I am and have always been my own worst critic)—but that was the extent of it. And since that Brother died long ago in a storage unit flooded during a hurricane—along with my old journals and other assorted scribblings—it turned out that I was right. No one would ever see them; Mother Nature made sure of that.
These days—and thanks to the wonderful people at WordPress, who offer free blogs with tons of great features to writers like me—I create something and no longer hide it in some dresser drawer or personal storage facility. I hit “publish” and set it loose on the world. I know this because of one of those great WP features I just mentioned: statistics.
Providing statistical data for customers is nothing new—and I have never been one for the numbers anyway—but tracking my WP blog statistics for the past year has been both interesting and enlightening. Information like the number of visitors to my blog, their total views of my posts and the number of people following my blog is nice, but my favorite data is the less conventional stuff—specifically the search engine terms that led readers to my site and the views of my work by country.
Take yesterday, for instance.
On July 24, 2013, I published an article entitled “Eat Fresh? Yeah, Right” about a jackass Subway employee in Ohio who rolled his penis across some bread dough and posted pictures of it online. It went live in the late morning and by day’s end had accumulated some 50 or 60 views. Granted, it wasn’t at the top of the list—some older posts continue to interest readers more, for some reason—but it was a respectable performance. Since it could have been better, though, I decided to investigate further. And I started with search engine terms.
What were readers Googling and Binging to bring them to Gnostic Bent? Was there some pattern or discernible “method to their madness,” maybe something I could use later for my own blog benefit?
Sadly, the answer to that second question might be no. You be the judge, though. Here are the top search engine terms that led readers to me yesterday: jennifer lawrence nipple, conjoined twins nude, kim kardashian sex, free sex videos and jodi arias ass.
There is a discernible pattern, to be sure, but it would only be helpful if I intended to write a sex blog rather than a simple personal one. Since that isn’t likely to happen any time soon—or ever—I prefer to read through some of the zanier search terms just for shits-and-giggles. Here is a sampling of yesterday’s more humorous selections: boys wiener hanging out of pants, do all women suck it in, sucks being female, kate middleton boob, sunbathing birthday cake, teens skinny dipping, childbirth, acid cow camel, penis size does matter, sexy star trek, princess of mars nude, anal examination and bigfoot dead.
In retrospect, those search terms don’t seem very flattering and give a weird impression of my blog. “Anal examination” will lead you here? It simply isn’t possible! Nevertheless, I included only the handful of search terms interesting enough to share. The majority of them were tame, run-of-the-mill and, honestly, quite boring. Believe me.
Regardless of what brings readers to my blog—even if it’s the royal, milk-filled boobs of Catherine, new mom and the Duchess of Cambridge—I am more fascinated by the places from which they come. And thanks once again to WordPress—they aren’t paying me to write this, I assure you—I can track the total views of my posts in every country around the globe. If what their colorful map shows is accurate, then at least one person in almost every country on Earth has viewed my work. Maybe they mistakenly found it and immediately surfed away. Maybe a child accidentally discovered it and hit the “follow this blog” button repeatedly as if it were a game. Who knows? The fact that it is even possible astounds me.
Consider yesterday’s statistics in the “views by country” category, if you will.
I’m obviously an American. So naturally, most of my views come from the United States. And yesterday was no exception—the U.S. pulled in nearly three times as many views as the number two country, New Zealand. Following the leaders were Latvia, the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, Slovakia, France, Indonesia, Australia, Sweden, Hungary and Greece.
Greece! It blows my mind to think that someone there read something I wrote. And since I had two views from there, it’s easier to convince myself at least one of them was valid. The opposite could also be true, I suppose—that two different people in that beautiful country read my work—but I’m kind of jaded and pessimistic where my writing is concerned. It’s a defense mechanism to protect against negativity, rejection and harsh criticism. I’m pretty sure most writers employ it at one time or another.
As if this wasn’t enough, a quick look at my all-time summaries showed hundreds of countries where views were logged, some of which I never heard of before—and I apologize in advance if this offends anyone from the mysterious nations I mention: St. Kitts and Nevis? Lesotho? Guernsey? Jersey? Brunel Darussalam? I have no idea where any of these places are—a few of them sound vaguely familiar—but I salute them nonetheless. And the thought of readers being there—wherever there is—blows my mind even more.
That seems to happen a lot since I first set up my WordPress blog. And despite all its challenges, its pain and its blood, sweat and tears, blogging is awesome and is definitely worth it. Granted, I don’t have a monetized blog raking in advertising revenue or peddling e-books or Amway products, but that’s fine by me. I see blogging more for the writing and less for the business anyway.
There’s time for monetizing later, but first you need a product worth selling. A product people want or, better yet, need.
I’m not ready for that because right now, blogging is a pleasure. And you know what they say about mixing business with pleasure, right? I can’t remember exactly how it goes. I just know that it’s never a good idea.
So thank you WordPress and, most importantly, thank you READERS for making my first year or so of blogging such a delight. I appreciate your time, comments and friendships—yes, I have made some pretty good friends this way—so here’s to another great year of pressing words in the blogosphere!
I hope to see you there!