Two pieces of advice you
should might want to practice regularly. (I’m trying to cut back on telling people what to do….)
A few weeks ago, I was talking with an artist who had just started blogging. Or rather, blogging regularly and with intent. (As opposed to, “Open Studio Today!” stuff.)
She was complaining that she still hadn’t acquired much of an audience. I’m afraid I laughed out loud.
I hastened to assure her I was laughing AT her. I was just thinking of the early days of my own blog.
It was very much like the day I set out my very first bird feeder.
My husband and I had our very first apartment with a backyard–what a luxury! We’re low-level bird nuts, so I decided I would immediately set up a feeding station for the neighborhood birds.
I found a spot where we could sit on the back porch and watch the activity. I bought a bag of generic bird seed from, oh, I can’t remember, KMart? High quality stuff, I’m sure. (NOT.)
I didn’t have a bird feeder, so I took the lid from an extra garbage can and set it on the lawn. I filled it with the bird seed, put out a bowl of water, and took my seat on the porch.
Half an hour later, I wandered into the living room where Jon was reading. “It’s not working,” I said glumly.
“What isn’t working?” he asked cautiously. (Because when your girlfriend says something like this, the ensuing conversation could go anywhere.
“The bird feeder!” I said. “I’ve been watching for thirty minutes, and not a single bird has tried it out!”
After making a funny noise that sounded suspiciously like a smothered guffaw, he patiently explained to me that birds don’t just smell food and come running. They discover feeding stations, slowly and cautiously, building a routine that takes them through a circuit of opportunity. “It could take weeks, even months for them to realize you’ve provided them a new source,” he explained.
Weeks? Months?? Wow. This bird feeding thing was more complicated than I thought.
Eventually a few crows and house sparrows found our lode. Then the raccoons found it, too, and that was the end of our bird feeding ventures. (Until Jon took it up again a few years ago, with much more forethought and dedication.)
My point, I explained to my friend, is this: Be patient.
A website, or a blog, is just a billboard on the information highway. Actually, it’s more like a sign on a back road in a rural area. For awhile, the only people who will really see it are the people who happen to live there. Or people who drive by when they’re looking for something else.
Eventually, your customers and collectors will realize it’s useful for them to check in regularly. And as you find your voice, other people willing–even hungry–to listen to what you’re saying will drop in, too.
Write what is in your heart, write about the things you really care about. The people who also care about those things will find you.
Some will stay, some will move on. But your numbers will grow.
In short, these things take time. That means being patience. Sometimes, perspective helps grow patience.
I told her that, almost ten years later, my total “regular” readership is probably somewhere around a thousand. But my first few years, I was lucky if a hundred people even knew I had a blog. (Okay, I confess. I think seven people have read my very first blog post. (You can read my very first blog article from November 29, 2002 here: Holding Onto “Facts” That Hold You Back
Now for the perspective.
Re: the numbers…..I try not to check my stats. It’s like constantly asking people what they think of your work. It’s tempting, but ultimately not healthy for your creative spirit. I write because I have to write. I have something to say, that I have to put out there.
My art, the same. I have to make it. I can’t stop and worry about who else will like it, I have to simply do the work. You know, the Martha Graham thing….
“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.
As spoken to Agnes De Mille
The two pieces of excellent advice?
1. Read that Martha Graham quote at least once a day.
2. The next time you’re tempted to read your blog stats, if you absolutely can’t resist, then try this: In the “At A Glance” bar graph, switch from the “daily” total to the “monthly” total.
Oh, gosh, the numbers are so much more satisfying!