Writing for an Audience of None

What I learned not writing for over a week

Photo by Luismi Sánchez on Unsplash

About a week ago, I got very sick. I was going about my own business riding public transit when the whole Corona virus thing hit. I was one of those guys poo-pooing the people who were panicking.

Until I got sick.

I didn’t go to the hospital, but I spent a lot of time in bed. I am grateful that I could shelter in place and survive without healthcare.

There are many who are not as lucky as I.

All of that aside, my writing went dark. When the writing isn’t paying the bills and you feel like crud, it’s one of the first things to go.

I went from publishing once per day to publishing none per day. For over a week.

As the days past, I realized a couple things and made a couple decisions:

I don’t have any real fans

I have always written for an audience. At least, I always picture them in my head. I always project a message out from myself. For over a month, I have used a megaphone to send my message out into the town square of Internet.

This is article #52.

Every day I would climb to the top step. Every day I would raise my megaphone high and shout my carefully prepared message to the crowded square.

And then I got sick. One day I didn’t climb the steps.

I stopped shouting my messages.

After a few days, I noticed the silence. No one asked when I would be back. No one asked where I had been. For days. Eleven, to be exact.

There were two possibilities.

  • There was no crowd in the city square
  • None of the crowd was listening to me.

I recently heard a great quote from Dan Brown.

Write like nobody’s watching because, guess what? Nobody’s watching.—Dan Brown

It doesn’t affect my earnings as a writer

Some people rely on being curated to gain traction and earn money. I have never been curated. I don’t plan on ever being curated.

How did my time off affect my earnings?

In the days previous, I was averaging about $2.30 per day. I winced when I looked at my earnings during my sick days. It dropped to $2.10 per day.

While I did nothing.

Zilch.

Nada.

What was causing my income? I believe it is sheer momentum. The content I have already written is showing up every once and a while in search results. A few people are reading the articles. I’m getting paid a few pennies every day.

So here’s my reasoning: If I can write nothing and make basically the same amount of money, I can write whatever I want and make the same amount of money.

At least the type of people who will become my fans will like me for me.

Update 3/28: I checked my earnings again yesterday. They dipped to $1.99 (average daily earnings). I assume there is a time-delay, but momentum is already starting to slow. That means that I might have an overall “dip.” I’m back to writing. It should right itself.

I also looked into putting some advertisements on the site (Google Adsense). From the online calculators I have found online, it looks like I’ll get at least $2 more per day. I’ll take it!

Every drip counts!

But I have over 700 “fans”…

I think the main problem was my most popular article. It is a lengthy story about how my son was murdered. It is heartbreaking and raw.

And I hope nothing like that ever happens again.

Anybody who reads the story gives me a “thumbs up” and a “you can do it!” That person might follow me or sign up for my newsletter, but they are not a “true fan.” I doubt they will ever seek me out and read another article from me.

At the same time, I won’t be writing in this niche ever again. I was venting it from my soul. I got it out and I won’t be writing about painful things any more (I hope). If someone found me through that article, they won’t be finding more of the same on my articles page. No one would expect to.

I will put something else in my profile that showcases what I really want to say. If they were to look at the rest of my profile, they would find more of the same.

If people like it, maybe I’ll get some better fans (or any fans).

Then why do I write?

It’s certainly not about the money.

That is the existential question that has been warding me from the keyboard.

I was trying to figure out what I wanted from this.

Yes, I would like to make money, but that might take years, or it might not happen at all.

I like to write. I’m good at writing. I would like to get better.

I enjoy writing movie reviews, but the theater is closed. I know it will be open in the future, but why am I writing right now?

What is my purpose right now?

I can’t say that I am writing for an audience, because there isn’t one. I am writing for myself. And it’s not the money. We covered that. It doesn’t matter what I write. It doesn’t matter terribly if I write. I’m sure that if I continued not to write, I would lose daily income. But as long as I’m writing, does the topic matter?

That’s my current assumption. I’ll let you know what I find out. There I go again. I’m assuming that some one out there is listening. I will make note of it for my own future information.

The only thing I am getting out of writing is the experience of writing. I am practicing and getting better. I have to have faith that it will turn into something. What?

I haven’t the foggiest idea.

I like to sit down and pound out words. I will continue to do that until God shows me something else to do.

Write like nobody’s watching because, guess what? Nobody’s watching.—Dan Brown

3 thoughts on “Writing for an Audience of None

  1. This strikes such a chord for me on so many levels. I suppose it would be more fitting to say it struck many chords within me. Like the chord that thinks of me as a big fan of you, and the one that only reads your posts because they show up in my feed, but would read everyone if they all showed up every time. There’s the chord that is so sad that I wasn’t aware that your absence was actually an absence and not just evidence that I can’t control the algorithms that determine when you will show up and when you won’t. The dark chord of sadness to know you were so sick.

    Your experience in discovering that there really are no fans isn’t an entirely bad one, as you seem to have observed. It is the discovery I made when, after gaining a following on blipfoto, where I took a special photo per day, and found a bit of inspiration to write about, I came to realize the same exact thing…no one noticed when I didn’t show up. No one went out of their way to find me. Well, no one except my mom, sister and husband. They don’t count as fans. At least not in that sense. And the only difference is that the amount of money I made when I posted was $0 and when I didn’t, was still $0. So, yeah, I get you. Write for you. Re-define fan to include your family, because we’re big fans, even when we don’t realize you didn’t write that day. But then you probably didn’t notice when I didn’t post to blip either. It’s a funny world that way.

    1. Yeah, I get that too. Even though Annie was right beside me, even asked me how to spell “algorithms’, had it not shown up in my “feed” I might’ve missed it entirely. God knows. But sometimes I write on paper – sometimes I text myself – rarely do I write on a blog, even my own – but somehow it all helps to convince me I’m here and not just a figment of my own imagination. Hang in there. You are Heard.

    2. Thanks for leaving a comments, Annie and Paul! I didn’t write to make anybody feel guilty. It just is what it is.

      I got a facebook message from Brenda Swank. She said, “You may have seen my Facebook post…”

      No, I didn’t. Facebook chooses what to show me. I care about my friends and family very much, but I don’t go out of my way to check their page (gulp, even Mom). If I see it, I click it. If I don’t, I don’t.

      At the end of the day, I decided to write for me. It should be something that you enjoy enough to do for free. If not, don’t do it.

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