I've been meaning to write this post for a while now - not just during the two month hiatus, but really ever since I got back to somewhat regularly writing for the blog. I wanted to give an idea as to what brought me back regularly, taking time out of my day (some more than others, thanks to my need to research things that don't need to be researched) to do something that wasn't making me any money, wasn't making me famous, wasn't helping with my job (hell, probably hurting my job more than anything, but not really), and really had no apparent benefit. It's a question you could ask of a lot of bloggers, I'm sure, and they're bound to give you a variety of answers ranging from providing a service, honing their skill, or out of pure enjoyment.
There is that, I guess, but I think most bloggers deep down want what I wanted - an audience.
There are going to be writers who write and don't care if anyone reads them. That's great for them, but I think those people are few and far between. But I think that most bloggers are putting their words online because they want people to see them and react. For some, it doesn't really matter the reaction as long as they're being seen and something is happening as a result of it. It doesn't necessarily need to be a "blog-to-riches" story like a Bill Simmons or Craig Calcaterra - most people who post something online would be happy with a few "attaboys" (as my real-life boss would say) in the form of page hits, post comments, or Twitter/Facebook mentions. To say bloggers are a dime a dozen insults the dime - there is a LOT of internet access out there, and a lot of you use it to post your ideas and thoughts and all of that. There is no skill requirement to write on the internet (otherwise YouTube would have no comments). Standing out in that crowd is going to be damn near impossible, and the quicker you know that, the better off your mindset is going to be. Chances are, your work will never be seen by some person who's going to hire you for it, so with that in mind, write naturally and not like you're auditioning, and if lightning strikes and someone who wants to hire you for your writing does actually see it, you're all the more likely to be able to replicate what you were writing in the first place instead of your unnatural "audition" posts.
Sounds simple, right? Of course, nothing is that simple, and telling people what kind of mindset to have is a hell of a lot easier than actually having it yourself.
A few months back, inspired by many of the great (and not-so-great) baseball writers I follow on Twitter, I started writing more baseball-related content. I have a love for snark, but I also have a love for baseball statistics, and the two of them do not mix well at all. I find that the "snark" posts are best written on the fly, just sitting down and punching something out, while if I get into any kind of analytic analysis, I end up double and triple-checking myself, doing extra research, going down Wikipedia and Baseball-Reference tunnels, and losing focus on the original article which either becomes too long, all over the place, or worse of all unfinished and sitting in my "drafts" area until I end up deleting it when it becomes irrelevant. Still, I had a article idea that was going to have some length to it and some research required, and I was determined to see this one though. I did the initial research, started writing up the article in Word (instead of WordPress where I normally wrote shorter posts), found places to break it up (since it was long, I wanted to break it up into parts so that people didn't tune out), and made a whole plan as to how I was going to tackle it. Even though I had written 90% of it I would hold off until a Monday since it was in five pieces, and I could release one a day.
I posted part one that Monday. Titled "The Yankee Pitcher Curse - Part 1: The Dawn Of Steinbrenner (1975-1981)", it came in at 2610 words, which was still pretty huge and kind of gives you an idea of what this was going to encompass. I was proud of it, so I plugged it on Facebook and Twitter in an effort to get some views and get some feedback. I figured it was an interesting topic and it would get some people talking.
It got five hits. Five. Assuming one was me (I know the stats try to cancel that out but it doesn't always work) and one was my wife (she always tries to support me with a click even if she doesn't find the topic interesting), that's three people who saw the post and thought about reading it. I still wrote up "part two" thinking that maybe I'd release it on Wednesday instead of Tuesday - give people time to see the first part, and to be honest also see if there was really any demand for part two. I gave it another day.
Tuesday saw zero hits.
So did Wednesday.
So did Thursday.
So did Friday.
In fact, part one didn't see another hit until the following Thursday, some ten days later. By that time, the idea was already scrapped and I just didn't really feel like writing anymore. The research still sits in a Word document on my laptop, but the concept is already outdated. Jeff Passan's article that mine was referencing (and trying to disprove) was posted the last day of February. It's now the middle of May.
I'll be trying to write some more in the future now that I've had my pity party and have gotten over it. I'm still going to write my unrequested "Hall of Very Good" post on Jay Buhner in the near future, and I'll write as I'm inspired. But as I do, I need to remember my own advice earlier in this post - to write not as an "audition" but as I feel comfortable and enjoy it. If the stuff is good enough, people will eventually read it, and when they do, they'll tell friends, and maybe then the audience will come.