An Audience Full of Surprises

by Stella.

I was going to post about something else, but another thought occurred to me while checking my stats at Feedburner and I ended up writing this post instead (which also reminds me that in future I would like to post about attention spans or the lack thereof). According to my lovely assistant, Feedburner, or FeeB, as I call her when we’re alone and can talk without me looking like a lunatic, the days my blog gets the most traffic are those when I post haikus. To put it simply: I find this odd.

Not that I think only few people can appreciate haikus, on the contrary – I think haikus are very approachable as a poetic form. It’s just the feature of my blog which I assumed people wouldn’t get. Why? Well... They’re these strange little things that don’t make much sense. I mean, am I actually trying to be poetic? Why isn’t there punctuation? Why are there words but no syntax? Am I kidding or what? In the beginning I figured the haikus would be virtually ignored, but so far they’ve garnered the most replies.

It’s not the first time I’ve been surprised by a response. We’ve all written things which we were sure would be successful but barely resonated with anyone, only to write something else we were sure would fail and have it go over splendidly. The effort put into both kinds apparently has nothing to do with it. Part of the reason for this is, unavoidably, chance. Maybe you posted/submitted/published at a bad time – people were busy; they recently read about the same topic elsewhere, so your writing doesn’t have the same impact; the universe doesn’t like you; etc. (Don’t take the universe thing too hard – it doesn’t really like anyone.)

When writing, it’s so easy to slip into criticism like, “No one will want to read this. What am I bothering for?” Or, conversely, praise such as, “My, what brilliance! Everyone will love this.” Yet, no matter what you might think, someone else can think differently. It’s why I always try to remember, notwithstanding that crazy variable of chance, no matter how well you think you know an audience, they can still turn around and surprise you. The uncertainty of that can be unsettling, but it’s liberating as well. It means there’s hope for change, that just as your writing evolves, you can expect your audience to evolve as well – maybe not in the same direction, maybe not in your own time. But someday, whether in the near or distant future, you can still count on surprises.


Mike French said...

Great article as ever Stella.

Here's some music to accompany it!

kathleenmaher said...

Chance is the thing, I guess. And other people's attention is even more fickle than mine. But any response, mine to my writing or anyone else's, is mostly subjective.
Style and form count, of course. But often, if I find something tedious to read now, it will keep me awake all night when I peruse it six months hence. Or, vice versa.

Stella said...

Mike - Ahh, the early 90s. Nice! Maybe I'll try to find music for every post? Or would you like to do the honors? That way I'll surprise you (ha ha) and give you a legitimate excuse to wander around YouTube.

Kathleen - Exactly, although I doubt my 400-500 word posts will be the type to keep you up at night. But it certainly poses a challenge ;)

Mike French said...

Stella - I spend to long on Youtube as it is! So I'll leave it to you to decide if you want to add a soundtrack to your posts!

On second thoughts, I'd better check your taste in music! What kind of thing do you like?

Paul Burman said...

You've hit the nail's head:
it's impossible to guess
what works and what won't.

Seriously, you have hit the proverbial nail on the head, Stella. It's difficult to guess which posts will generate the most feedback, although lack of feedback isn't necessarily an indicator of lack of interest. Not everyone wants to comment or to comment all the time. And with that, I'll step back into the silence (and take my haiku with me).

Stella said...

Mike - My taste is pretty eclectic, but it's fun when you show up with videos I wouldn't think of. But I won't give you extra work :)

Paul - I wish I'd written it that way. I'm beginning to think that if I can't condense it into 17 syllables, then I probably shouldn't bother.

Paul Burman said...

Not at all, Stella. That would be too much of a loss. Maybe we should console ourselves with knowing that most writing---almost everything that appears in print---attracts no feedback whatsoever. The occasional letter if lucky, but rarely even a review.