This blog has never had a huge following. It’s both by design and accident.
Design, in the sense that, the blog author has resolutely resisted any suggestions or instincts to increase the reach of the blog, or its influence. The kind of things the new media lives by, for mostly the right reasons.
Accident, because the blog author wasn’t born a particularly talented writer. He just loved to write from the time he remembers. And to read what he writes. Yeah, that’s kind of conceited. But what the hell.
Now the blog has reached an existential fork where there are two alternatives: to continue writing without much of a readership, or to take active steps to increase readership.
There is of course a third-fork — to stop writing, but given how vain and conceited the blog writer is that’s not even an option.
WordPress is an excellent blogging platform. One of the reasons, is that it tells you a lot about what is resonating with whom. The stats are quite thorough that way. I know people who publish posts only in specific time windows because that’s when they (know they) get maximum hits. It’s funny how this new media has made writing just like Bollywood music/movie. If you miss your window, you’ve missed the bus.
It does raise questions about the intrinsic worth of your produce (or creation if that sounds too marketplace). If your writing can’t survive being presented to the world at the wrong hour, or minute, why exactly should it be considered of value (and for those friends I’ve no doubt about the value of their content)? [The concept of] value, said Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged, presupposes an answer to the question: of value to whom and for what?
There is a parallel, but related, unending discussion that I’ve been having with multiple people, like a low intensity war fought with different people at different times, but logically the same one, where I’ve been told: “If what you are writing is good, more people should see it, which means, it’s upon you to make sure that happens”.
The problem is, everyone in the web 2.0 world thinks that what they’re writing is good, and that more people should see it. And that it’s their duty to make sure it happens.
And so are born repeated plugs, you scratch my back I scratch your back (reciprocat-ry follows), hash tag overloads, invitations to “like” at one end, and conscious efforts to increasing klout, tailoring content to suit your readership, following and engaging the ‘right’ people (not because you like what they share, but because you want to increase your influence/reach), etc at the other end.
My most loved piece on this blog, by far, going by the stats, is a parody/rebuttal of a post in India Ink, NYT, “Why I left India (Again)”. That happened because a couple of influential twitterati shared the link. You should write more of this, said a well meaning friend. But seriously, that was hardly a piece that could satisfy one as a writer. On the other hand I have written a few posts on this very blog which have made me feel satisfied, at least in the sense that they have made me feel I’m on the right path, the write path. Many/most of those haven’t registered any heartbeat on the stats-o-meter.
Take the road less taken, says the pseudo-Frostian advice by consensus. In all probability, the road less traveled is a lonely road. It goes to nowhere. Those who take it rarely get to tell their stories. And maybe that’s why, most don’t take it.
So what will I do? Will I take the sane advice by infinitely saner-than-me friends and change course, or continue on the road to nowhere? Join the highway, follow the rules, and wait for a roadkill, or be the roadkill in a godforsaken part of godforsaken woods?
Does writing have value outside of its readership? But more importantly, in the current context, does a writer need readers to write? Do they matter? Will I write if I’m the only person reading? Does it feel good when your writing reach more people? Hell, yes, right? Not any people, but the kind of “imaginary audience” you had in mind when you wrote? Isn’t writing also a way of touching upon other people in some way? But if the road to that changes the very journey, is it worth it?
Here is what I will change. Over the next few weeks (not sure how many), I will do one thing differently. I will control the inner-critic (starting today, with this piece). I will post more often, more regularly (I’ve been told this is important to increase readership!). It won’t be pretty. But survival is rarely pretty. And for this blog, it’s come to that. For this blogger, it’s come to that, or so all the leading indicators say. And in that process of staying afloat, maybe I will prove to myself, that I am on the write path. Or, maybe I’ll see you in the woods someday?