Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about writing. I have no doubt that it’s because I’ve been writing these posts faithfully every week for nearly an entire year. And I have no doubt that it’s also because I’m teaching Creative Writing this semester. Naturally, I spend lots of my time talking with aspiring writers about writing.
In fact, when I met with my students last week, we did two, one-minute reflections.
For the first, we reflected on the joy of writing. Let me share some of their responses:
● Creating my own world.
● Finding words that describe my own feelings.
● Gaining an understanding of my own life.
● Discovering something about my own identity.
● Letting my thoughts spew out.
● Getting it done–the rhythm, the music, the wish, the dream, and the fear.
For the second reflection, we tackled the challenges of writing. Again, let me share:
● Getting started.
● Finding an interesting topic.
● Putting myself into my writing.
● Encouraging my paragraphs to talk to one another.
● Choosing which idea to explore.
● Connecting the beginning, the middle, and the end.
● Accepting my writing as it is.
I had planned a third reflection, but we ran out of time. Here’s what it would have been: discoveries about writing.
For this one, I’ll take the lead, sharing my own ideas, based largely on what I’ve discovered about writing as I wrote my weekly blog posts this year.
By and large, what I’ve discovered has been by way of reminders. To start, writing isn’t easy. It isn’t spontaneous. And it isn’t magical.
Here’s something else that I have rediscovered. Writing is work. It’s hard work. It’s lots of hard work.
Work. Hard work. Lots of hard work.That’s my mantra these days when I’m working with other aspiring writers. I front-load the conversation: get ready for rich, robust, and heavy mental lifting.
At the same time, over the last year I’ve reminded myself–and others–that even though the hard art of writing isn’t magical, it is filled with magical moments.
Let me share some of mine.
Magical Moment. Getting hooked on an idea that makes my world fade away.
Magical Moment. Letting an idea explode in my mind as magically as Pop Rocks explode in my mouth.
Magical Moment. Focusing on old-soul insights that have come back to me from far, far away and from long, long ago.
Magical Moment. Fooling around with organizing what I’m writing until I get comfy with one structure that pulls me in close and whispers, “Yes. Let’s do it.”
Don’t get too excited by these moments. They are magical. But let me remind you: they are not magic.
And trust me. The next part–the actual writing–has no magic at all. Sometimes, it might not even have magical moments. The actual writing can be grueling, if not downright defeating, especially since first drafts never hit the mark. Never. Mine don’t, at any rate. Sometimes, even my 13th draft doesn’t seem quite right. How’s this for a confession? Sometimes, I’ve gone as high as 22 drafts. Admittedly, the differences between any two drafts are sometimes majorly minor, and the changes will be unknown forever to all except me. Nonetheless, the work of writing–of revising–goes on and on and on.
And writers keep at it. I keep at it, knowing that what I write will never be perfect, but knowing, too, that at some point it’s as good as it’s going to get.
What I have discovered as well is the simple fact that my scholarly writing is in many ways far easier than writing my personal essays like today’s post. My own scholarly work on The Humourist as well as on Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, for example, has singleness of purpose and focus. Easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy.
On the other hand, writing my weekly blog is more challenging, mainly because I don’t focus on the same topic every week. My topics change. As reluctant as I am to admit it, I’ll admit it anyway: I’m never sure from one week to the next exactly what topic will bubble up.
That’s not to say that I don’t have lots of ideas for my posts. I do. I have plenty. In fact, whenever I have an idea for a post, I immediately start a WordPress draft. I give it a working title, and I include as many notes as possible so that when I return, I can glide back into my thinking and writing groove.
Right now, for example, I have 25 drafts in various stages of completion, ranging from “The Power of Showing Up” to “Dating after Twenty-Two” to “Mishaps Make Memories.” I suppose I could also mention “Working Out a Plan” or “A Horrorscopic Week” or “What My Father Saw.” Or I could mention that I might have “My Gardening Attire” finished by next week. I might. But, on the other hand, I might not.
I’m not trying to generate future blog traffic by teasing you with alluring and inviting titles that may or may not morph into posts. Simply put, I have come to the realization that my ideas must germinate in the dark caverns of mindfulness and mindlessness. They must sprout and pop up whenever they are ready for the light of day. No sooner. No later.
All of my tentative topics and all of their accompanying draft notes are simply placeholders. Nothing more.
Yet it occurs to me that maybe they are far more than mere placeholders.
They are talismans. Not to bring me power. Not to bring me luck. But rather to bring me back to the illuminated intensity of the split second when an idea sought refuge within me and pleaded for a some-day home.
What I have discovered, then, is that I need lots and lots of talismans. They are my antidote to the numbness and paralysis that I know fully well will set in if I have no writing options. I don’t write well when my storehouse of options is empty. When that happens, I feel that I have forced myself into the all-too-tight corset of being compelled to write on one topic and one topic only.
On the other hand, when I have many, many topics, one of them might be precisely the one that captures my fancy precisely when my fancy needs to be captured.
It won’t have anything to do with talismanic luck. And it won’t have anything to do with magic.
It will have everything to do with my willingness to let my ideas take their own shape, whatever those shapes might be, without being corseted, without being laced up, and without being forced.
I want my ideas:
● to leave themselves ample space to move around in.
● to do what they want to do.
● to be what they want to be.
It’s really straightforward. My greatest discovery about my own writing is my everlasting need to unlace the corset that constricts my thoughts. It’s my everlasting need to let my ideas breathe and expand freely, whenever and however they wish.
It was characterized as “destined for fame … for greatness … for glory … the most historic and historical blog post ever published.”
It received rave reviews:
“Hysterical. I would have laughed harder if I hadn’t been so horrified at your undertaking.”
“This is one of your most entertaining, funniest posts, and I thank you for … sharing it with the world.”
And it was LIKED by a comedian and a college president–two entirely different people, with two entirely different occupations, although the college president knows that humor is a close ally to successful and dynamic leadership.
All right. In the interest of partial disclosure and full but muddy transparency, I’m the one who characterized my post as “destined for fame … for greatness … for glory … the most historic and historical blog post ever published.”
And it was just one faithful follower who called it hilarious.
And it was just one faithful follower who called it hysterical.
And it was just one faithful follower who said that it was my most entertaining and funniest post.
But I believe in the power of one. If it’s good enough for a bank, I suppose it’s good enough for me, especially cents that bank does not have one cent of my money.
The good thing, however, is that those three rave reviews came from three entirely different followers with three entirely different occupations.
But enough of my noncents. I will, post mortem, return to my serious side instanter.
A stand-up comedian really did LIKE that post. Thank you! Please: feel free to sit down. (And, just as an aside to the stand-up comedian: I’m giving up my 25-year teaching gig at the end of this coming fall season. Do you need a jokester–I mean a writer? You know. Just hinting.)
And a college president really did LIKE that post. Thank you! Please: feel free to preside. (And just as an aside to the college president: I’m giving up my 25-year teaching gig–I mean professorship–at the end of this coming fall season–I mean semester. Do you need a Visiting Professor? A Visiting Scholar. Both? I’m good at wearing two hats at the same time as long as they don’t mess up my hair. You know. Just hinting.)
And again, just as an aside to the comedian and to the prez–who must be reading this post, right? I mean, you just don’t LIKE ’em and then leave ’em, do you?–it’s not like I’m desperate or anything, because, hey, I’ve got this blog, and after today’s unviral post, I’ll have talent scouts unlined up my ungraveled, rutted country road all the way to my no-parking space in the uncleared forest, assuming, of course, the scouts have four-wheel drive. Good talent these days is not easy to get to.
And let me not forget to mention what one other faithful follower advised me to do: “Perhaps you shouldn’t discard the legal pad and #2 pencil. … To help your nightly challenges of writing in this manner, I can offer you … a backlit pen.”
Well, as you know from many previous posts, I listen to my followers. So I immediately ordered myself two backlit pens from Amazon. You can get anything these days from Amazon, yesterday. Someone told me day before yesterday that I could even get a husband from Amazon, as soon as tomorrow or three days before. Dayum! Imagine that. I checked immediately. Unfortunately, Amazonian husbands are backordered. Unfortunately, too, they are not backlit.
My pens, on the other hand, were not back ordered, and they are backlit. They arrived just when I started writing this post, so what you see here was written in bed at night on a yellow legal pad that isn’t legal, using a pen that is legally lit.
Wow! Using this pen to write in bed in the dark is amazing. I am transfixed if not transformed. If I had known about these backlit pens decades ago before they had never been invented, by now I would have written the Great American Novel that has never been written. Or not. I’ll be dealing with that topic in a future post.
But I can’t deal with any of that right now. Right now, I am so enamored of this little backlit pen that all I can think about are little light quotes. Most are from songs, so I’m humming–can you hear me? Let me give you the links (below, in unalphabetical order) in case you want to hum along or sing along. It’s a FREE perk for being a FREEloader–I mean follower! Get someone else to follow, and I’ll let you hum along or sing along forever, for FREE.
Well, good grief. Why on earth did Euterpe muse me up like that? Your guess is as good as mine.
So let me hie myself back to the business at hand–sharing with you my ten guaranteed tips to increase blog traffic, top-rated and 100% unproven. Is that a deal or what? But before I do, don’t you just love that word: hie. I do. I love verbs and verbiage. (But I shudder to think about conjugating hie.) Anyway, I love that word. I’m not sure why. Maybe I saw it somewhere once, probably in a romance novel that I never read. Clearly, then, I have no idea who was doing what to whom in the novel that I did not read. I don’t think that anyone in the novel uttered the word either. But I happened to think of it just now, and I thought that it would be an awful lot of fun for me to use it right here. Now I feel funfilled.
Well, gracious me. Now I have to hie myself back once more. I guess all this is going down because my muse likes the fact that my pen is lit. That’s right: my pen.
As I was saying, the initial accolades calling my post historic and historical and the initial reviews hailing it as hysterical and hilarious and entertaining and funny got me all pumped up and gave me great expectations that my viewer stats would jump off the charts.
I had such high hopes, especially since the views on the day that I published the post were 555% higher than the day before. Talk about being pumped. I was beyond pumped. I had such heightened expectations that I set my alarm clock to awaken me hourly throughout the night for the sole purpose of watching my stats skyrocket.
Sadly, nothing skyrocketed. Nothing. Not one thing. Except my blood pressure and my stress from waking up every hour to check on my stats. My blog stats, mind you. I don’t need to check my personal stats. My Fitbit does that for me without even asking. And let me tell you: my personal stats dropped big time, especially my sleep score and my readiness to exercise score.
They were so low that I vowed that I would never do such a wired stunt again. I doubled my vow–Never, Never–when I charted my blog stats over the course of the next few days. It goes without saying that you can’t increase your blog traffic unless you chart it. Right?
So that’s precisely what I did on a flip chart–using royal blue and royal purple magic markers–to capture how the traffic plummeted. Those lines went so low that they fell all the way down to the floor where I continued to chart them all the way across the room.
When I finished the chart, I taped the unfloored part of it to my office wall–I write my blog in bed; I chart it in my office–and since then I have been waiting ever so patiently for my blog traffic to increase. It should. Right? I just charted it, and as I said in the preceding paragraph–or somewhere–you can’t increase your blog traffic if you don’t chart it.
And if you don’t believe me, you surely believe Kevin Costner. Who doesn’t? I know that I sure do, so much so that emblazoned on my chest–not too unlike Hester’s scarlet letter A–is the famous line from his Field of Dreams: “If you chart it, they will come.”
Now, listen up. Without further adieu–you wish, but not yet!–I am proud to share the ten hollow tips that lured you here, just like a moth lured to a flame. Yep. Ten tips. Guaranteed to increase your blog traffic. Top rated. 100% unproven. Trust me. They are unreal doozies.
Tip #1. AERIAL ADVERTISING. I cannot guarantee that this would work for you, but I am fairly uncertain that it would work for me because my mind is always up in the air. Why not skywrite my blog URL up there, too, maybe all up and down the California coastline where folks are more unwired than they are on the East Coast.
Tip #2. BILLBOARDS.Again, this might not give you more blog traffic at all. But, after I float down from my aerial habitation and walk once more upon terra unfirma, I am fairly certain that billboard advertising will be worth the cost. I plan to keep it short and simple, the same way that I keep my weekly blog posts short and simple.
I’m thinking something along the lines of:
Tip #3. DOLLAR BILL PROMOS. This tip would probably work for everybody, but only the bold and courageous should try it. Actually, it’s been around for years. I’ll bet you’ve seen one: a dollar bill with a Biblical reference written on it? Maybe even a phone number–call me? What I’m thinking is simple: Write your blog URL on the edge of a dollar bill. A dollar bill changes hands about 110 times a year. Wow! Write your blog URL on the edge of lots and lots of dollar bills and see how your blog traffic increases. I wonder, though, whether your increased blog traffic will be following you directly to jail. If I am not mistaken, writing on money is considered defacement underTitle 18, Section 333 of the United States Code. Blogger beware!
Tip #4. BUSINESS CARDS. These can’t be just any business cards. They need to be all glamour and glitz and gimmick. Maybe something like: Limited time only.FREE Access to a blog destined to be featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the defunct Saturday Evening Post, True Grit, and the 1931 first edition of The Joy of Cooking. But it won’t be enough to just have those cards printed. You’ll need to find someone to hand them out. In my case, my Linden (VA) and Front Royal (VA) correspondent–Yes. No s. She’s one and the same person–has been given the right of refusal to pass them out at all the unlarge stores in our unmetropolitan area as well as at the five churches located at each corner of a four-cornered crossroads in one of our unknown villages near us both.
Tip #5. FOOD TRUCK. This one seems perfect for me since I like to bake. You might get a rise out of it as well. I’m thinking about renting a food truck for a few weeks and customizing it, using temporary paint. A pale tan, maybe, about the color of lightly browned, crusty bread. With a slight stretch of anyone’s doughy imagination, the food truck might look like a loaf of bread. And for those who don’t have a doughy imagination to stretch, I plan to paint on one side of the truck, Oh, No! Sourdough. And on the other side, Baking Up My Past. On both sides, of course, I’ll paint my blog’s URL. I’ll offer up my full range of sourdough baked goods–regular sourdough bread, multigrain sourdough bread, as well as parmesan and black pepper sourdough bread, along with doughnuts, scones, biscuits, and dinner rolls. I’ll also offer up my full range of cakes including, but not limited to, my Chocolate Weary Willie Cake and my Chocolate Prune Cake. But here’s where the sweet part comes in. On both sides of the truck, FREE will be prominently lettered. Yep! Anyone who stops, gets one of my goodies FREE, with absolutely no wires attached–absolutely none, not one–other than signing up as one of my blog followers right then and right there on the spot while I watch. If this works, I promise to keep the FREE in subscription. (“Say whaaat? Are you lit?” Nope. See Tip #1.)
Tip #6. CHAIN EMAIL. Chain emails go all the way back to ye olden days of 1990. They waned but then returned with a boring resurgence during the pandemic. Their predecessor, of course, was the famed, infamous, and ancient artifact known as the litterae. Chain letters go all the way back to the 1930s when people included a dime in their chain letters. Later, they included recipes. And one of my Virtually (Anywhere) but nonetheless trustworthy correspondents tells me that chain emails these days often focus on sourdough starters and that she is certain that she unraveled the original Egyptian sourdough starter recipe cryptically hieroglyphed in the soon-to-be-famous post Oh, No! Sourdough. Well, to be honest and to be as transparent as the windowpane test that dough must pass, I’m not sure how a chain email could be used to promote blog traffic. I’m told, though, that chain emails are “Unstoppable.” If you figure it out, come back to my blog and send me a reply. Ka-stats, ka-stats, ka-stats!
Tip #7. CHALK WALK. I like this one a lot. It’s so cheap that it’s nearly FREE. Plus, it brings out the kid in me. Chalk my blog’s URL on sidewalks, using glow-in-the-dark chalk. It would bring an unsensational light unto an unliterary world. (I’m just kidding.)
Tip #8. CUSTOM BUMPER STICKERS. I am probably the only one alive who remembers this. But maybe not, so I will ask. Do you remember the streaking craze that struck the nation in the 1970s? I’m reminiscing about one super special, balmy spring evening in 1975. I had a hard time keeping up with the others–1,000 or so, all of us students–streaking our their stuff across the USC campus. It’s a wonder that I didn’t get trampled or worse. The best part came a few days later. It was hilarious to see genteel Southern ladies and gentlemen in their 70s and 80s driving around Columbia, totally unaware that a “I’m a Streak Freak” sticker had been proudly stuck on their rear …
I’ve often wondered how they got there. (I probably still have one of those stickers somewhere in my loft.) Mind you: I’m not suggesting a streaking revival, but bumper stickers promoting a wired blog would certainly stop some traffic. (Hopefully, not the traffic headed to your blog.)
Tip #9. PENCILS PACKAGED WITH YELLOW LEGAL PADS. This is another one that would be perfect for me. I could go to all the bookstores at the colleges and universities where I don’t teach and hand out #2 pencils embossed with my blog’s URL packaged with a yellow legal pad, referencing my Take Four | Living with A Writer: Modern Applications of Ancient Writing Artifacts, destined to go down in the annals of history as the most historic and historical blog post ever published, all because it was written in bed on a yellow legal pad using a #2 pencil.
Tip #10. DO NOT SEARCH FOR GUARANTEED WAYS TO INCREASE BLOG TRAFFIC. This is the most important tip of all. That’s why I saved it for last. Articles claiming to have ten guaranteed, top-rated but 100% unproven tips for increasing blog traffic are nothing more than bogus attempts to increase traffic to their own blog. Such hyped-up, sensational articles seem to be the unnormal norm these days. Don’t look for them, and, for God’s sake, if you do look for them, don’t tell anyone that you looked. Such articles lack the unmuddy transparency needed to be included in Wikipedia.
Please, though, finish reading this post before you wisely decide to follow my advice.
And–please, please–if you enjoyed this post, send the link to seven of your unfriends and ask them to do the same, starting with you at the top.
And–pretty, pretty please–if you enjoyed this post, share it via WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, Email, and Reblog. And, for God’s sake, LIKE it. (I’m Beggin’.)
Go now with heartfelt thanks from the bottom of my blog. May the traffic be with you.