When I say ‘this’, I don’t mean this post in particular. It seems I have at least a few readers for Writing Anxieties; I was delighted, and surprised, by the number of likes and reblogs the cross-post of last week’s entry got on Tumblr, and the productivity post generated some great discussion its GoodReads cross-post.
What I am referring to is the general question that, even if you finish a piece you are working on – be that a short story, a novel, a poem, a blog post, a script – one that you love dearly, or even just have a passing fondness for, will you have readers for it? Will people, after you unleash it onto the world – however that may be – take the time sit down and read it?
Without a reader, a writer can feel very bereft. It’s like shouting into a tunnel and only hearing your own voice back. There is something gratifying about hearing the amplification of your words, but the same sound repeated back, over and over, get a little dull, and kind of lonely.
I noticed this from the very first publication. When Filament came out, I held the hard copy in my hands, saw my name in print, and smiled…and silence followed. Granted, I’m not sure if that piece is the best thing I’ve ever written, so I doubt it would compel someone to seek me out for feedback and praise because they loved it so (or hated it – see my post from two weeks, but it was interesting to realise how much I had gotten used to near-instantaneous feedback from my days in fandom.
It was easier to get a sense of readership when I was still doing fanfiction on a regular basis. You post something, and very quickly, you had feedback. What I love about Archive of Our Own is that you see the hit counts for your work, and also, if people don’t want to leave a comment, they can leave ‘kudos’. It’s the closest approximation of a ‘like’ button you can get. That’s the thing I really adore about the like buttons. It’s the internet equivalent of the non-verbal signals you get in real life conversation; the nod, the understanding expression, the smile (or the applause). Because online, no one can see you smiling, or hear you laughing, if you don’t make it known that you are. Sometimes this can be hard to do because of that wonderful shield of anonymity the internet gives you is broken a little when you do that. But it’s also a nifty way of participating without the fears of putting down your thoughts for all to see.
But I digress.
These days, and from here on in, I suspect I’m going to have to prod people into giving me a response for my work (and lest anyone is sitting there thinking this post is intended to guilt-trip them into leaving feedback, that’s not my intention. I understand if you’d rather not or don’t know what to say or are unsure of how to say it, that’s totally fine). The trouble is, there is that fear I might be putting them on the spot. What if they don’t like it and are just being polite when they smile and hand it back to you? What if they aren’t shy about saying they think it was shit and give you a point by point breakdown of why they think it was crap? (Granted, this latter part isn’t a bad thing all the time and would in fact show they cared enough about the piece to have such a strong reaction, but hard to take at the same time). In my case, it’s that I write erotica, and not a lot of people I know in real life are that keen to read erotica (or as far as I know…feel free to disabuse me of that notion folks!) so I don’t really want to be flapping work under their noses that will either make them feel uncomfortable or just plain doesn’t interest them.
In a way, it’s easier with strangers. Or indeed the internet. With erotica, I know the circles I can go and post something in and probably get some response from it, be it criticism or praise. With the blog, I can at least register that people are reading along; I just pop over to Google Analytics and see the hit counts for the day (and yes dearies, there is a correlation between blogging consistently and site visits – who knew! 😉 ) And people have been reading along, and commenting, and taking interest, and that is very assuring to know. I may worry that hordes of people won’t read this, but I figure if I don’t write it, no body ever will. So thank you folks. It’s nice knowing that you’re there. 🙂