Maybe just another peek again. I know it’s only been a few minutes since I last checked the stats on my blog; they probably haven’t changed. Still, they might have. I may have gained a few more views. Some “likes.” A comment or two.
During the past few months, partly by design and partly because I have more time, I’ve waded more deeply into the turbulent, sometimes murky, and highly compelling world of blogging and Twitter. I started blogging six or seven years ago. Most of the time, I’ve written in a feast or famine fashion: a month posting every few days followed by several months or even half a year with virtually no new posts at all. Of course, my traffic ebbed and flowed correspondingly.
Only lately have I produced a steady two to four posts a week, generating a more consistent readership: more views, more likes, more comments, and even some followers. My deeper foray into Twitter is even more recent, reaching back perhaps a month. In both cases, the interaction with readers has been exciting. But I’ve found something about it unsatisfying.
That isn’t the fault of the readers. Responses have been at least kind and encouraging, and sometimes very complimentary. But I’ve also felt a sense of spiraling expectation. The more readers I get, the more I want to have. If I average 20 views one week, I feel disappointed if I don’t have more the next. Increasingly, phrases such as “critical mass,” “next level,” and “breakthrough” run around in my head. I spend more of my day with my computer open on my lap, browsing news sites, reading and clicking on the links to tweets, and checking my stats again and again. I’ve begun hunting for catchy tricks or topics or titles to hook my readers, ways to generate buzz and boost my numbers.
I named this blog Romance Language because I believe in love—a love of language with all its strengths and limitations, and a love of using words to deepen my interaction with the world—as the essence of my writing. But even love can be eclipsed by desire. I don’t mean a desire for the beloved, or even a desire for connection and pleasure. I mean a desire to be filled with, well, something. A desire to win in some way, to get It, whatever that may be.
And I should note here that I’m talking about only myself. If success or fame or more readers drives some writers on to better or more fulfilling writing, so much the better for them. If they can achieve what they want to achieve through that incentive, I see absolutely nothing wrong with that, nor does that diminish art in and of itself. But too much seeking and tabulating destroys what fragile equilibrium. It distracts me from a focus on the experience and connection with language that makes this worth doing.
In the end, I think it comes down to knowing and accepting who you are. When I start to feel myself on the treadmill, counting the numbers incessantly, I lose touch with why I write, which is another way of saying I replace seeking after what I need with what I might temporarily desire. Because here’s something I also believe: If you no longer understand—and I mean really understand—who you are and what you need, then even the people and things you love can destroy you, because at that point they can all become things to be used rather experiences to be lived. Every moment—of writing, of living—becomes about grasping rather than being.
A younger version of me might have responded by fleeing: reducing or abandoning blogging. But that’s no answer because the tension does exist in the blogosphere; it exists in me. And I still believe in writing as the way to work it through. I’m still determined to romance language.