It’s like getting pissed off that nobody is buying your paintings even though your sole reason for painting is to clear your mind and spend time just by yourself. It’s a passion you’ve cultivated for yourself. And solely you.
It’s like getting frustrated that even though you love baking cakes and I mean love baking cakes. You love the way they smell, the art of getting the flavours just right, the perfection of a sponge that isn’t too dry and melts in the mouth. You love all that. And then getting annoyed that no one’s eating it.
Who cares? No honestly, who does?
The process is the reward and not the outcome
Often you seek external validation that what you are doing is right. It’s born from social norms and made worse by social media. You want to, just, fit in. Better still, you want to seem like you’ve got it all together like you are the one to be watched.
You want people to look at you and say: ‘Wow, they have it together don’t they.’
Consequently, that means you do two things:
- You try but if you don’t get immediate positive feedback you see that as a bad thing. So you stop before anyone can say anything negative.
- The next time an opportunity comes around you are hesitant and even fearful to try because last time you did, it didn't go so well.
But what is well?
How are you determining success? Of course, if this thing is the way you make money it’s fairly important that you have a reputation to uphold and you should care about growth. However, and this is more pertinent to those that aren’t doing this thing as a full-time gig, if no one is reading your stuff, eating your cakes or buying your paintings. Who cares?
The focus should be on you
The truth is, and I’m sorry to sound harsh, no one really cares about you. Now I don’t mean your nearest and dearest, I would hope they care a considerable amount about you. And I don’t mean you aren’t someone to care about. You are probably brilliant — go you. What I mean is everyone, just like you, has a lot to think about.
This life that we all live is fairly complicated. We are often preoccupied with our own thoughts and worries. That leaves little time for everyone to sit thinking about how successful you are. It’s not personal. You do it to us too.
So in which case, now we’ve established it’s not a personal thing and that no one cares about you, it’s just a life thing. Now we can get to the real nuts and bolts of the issue. Or rather the question.
The question, the best, most simple, most brilliant question of all. If it’s something you do for a hobby, the only question that matters is this: Do you enjoy what you are doing?
If the answer is yes. Then carry on making cakes like there is no tomorrow, painting until you fall asleep and writing until your fingers drop off. You don’t need anyone, not me, not your parents, not anyone to validate what you do with your life.
It’s yours. You do you.
The problem when the process isn’t the reward
External validation is a tricky and dangerous game. If you focus on what you get out of this hobby of yours rather than what it gives you, you might find yourself in a little bit of a pickle.
It’s a game that can make you feel on top of the world one day and as low as it gets another day. There are numerous factors at play as to whether someone is reading your writing, those include but are not limited too:
- Time of day
But also include:
There are some things you can do about some of those variables and very little you can do about the others. Accepting the fact that a lot of the reason you’ve just got 500 claps on an article is perhaps luck and it’s likely that on the next article you will regress towards your normal mean of 50 claps is a bitter pill to swallow. It’s an easy pill to swallow if you’re not bothered about swallowing it.
My point here is that there are many variables that you can’t control and sometimes it’s easy to think you can. Let it go. You can’t. If no one is reading your work. If it’s the 17th article you’ve produced in just as many days, who cares?
If you use your enjoyment is your main measure, then you’ve already won.
But let’s go further
What if you never even looked at how many views you got? What if you stopped yourself getting into the habit of that emotional high when you get a comment and the stooping low when you get no views whatsoever? What if you made it a habit to not have any emotions towards any traction you got, ever?
Well, in that case, you’d focus wholeheartedly on the enjoyment. The only reason for doing this hobby would be because of the joy it brings you and nothing else. You might start to then focus on how you can improve because by improving, you enjoy this thing even more.
If you never looked at your numbers and concentrated only on enjoyment, what you’ll probably find is that your numbers will increase as a byproduct. It’s that odd thing that happens when you stop looking for things, they seem to just turn up.
Evaluate your efforts in the categories that count. For writing that’s things like:
- The conviction of the ideas
- The execution of complex ideas made simple
- How the writing feels and how proud you are of it
If you are solely focused on that, I would argue that your writing will get incrementally better. Better writing seems to get more views. But that’s not why you should concentrate on writing.
You should concentrate on writing because it’s the writing that you love. It’s the writing that helps clear your mind, give you mental space and to ease your worries.
Before you hit publish, writing has already given you so much. Everything you need.
What happens when you chase numbers vs. quality
When you chase numbers you will find, as I did, the writing is rushed. It’s half-baked, it’s an attempt, an experiment. The article is a flash in the pan turned out to the dinner table in the hope that the diners like it.
When you chase numbers you’ll find that you churn articles at the rate of knots, the enjoyment goes out the window because all you are worried about is the moment after you press publish, and your rush to get there shines through. However, when you chase quality there is a shift.
You will perhaps sleep on an article (not physically) in order to revisit it in the morning to understand how it sounds with a fresh set of eyes (or ears?). You’ll change the subheadings several times in order to make sure it flows as best it can.
You will brain dump a list of headlines that gets across the article idea better than the original you came up with. You might change it 7 times until you are happy with it. When you press publish, you’ll think you did a good job. You’ll probably think ‘that was my best work so far’
That a good feeling. The idea that we should focus on the process isn’t a new one. I’ve probably witnessed 20 articles with the same version in my 5 months on Medium. What’s different though, from the suggestion here, is the application of time.
I’m suggesting you make a habit of never, ever, caring about how many people read your work. I’m not suggesting you ignore people, don’t appreciate them spending their time on what you’ve written or anything harsh like that.
I’m simply suggesting you appreciate it and not let it bare any reflection of how good you think your writing is. And consequently have no emotion towards it.
Conclusion: Write like nobody is watching
I dare you to make a habit of not caring. Care about how you feel about what you put on the page and that’s it. Worry about the words, how they flow, how you construct your argument and making sure that the white space in front of you is full of all the stuff you want to tell the world.
Do that, do that consistently, for the next 2 months and see how much happier you are. Rewind 2 months ago I would mentally be kicking the wall if I hadn’t gotten any views on an article, the same article I rush through to see how many views I got. I wasn’t putting in the right amount of time to my articles but I expected the results.
Don’t worry about the results, you don’t need them. What you need, well, that happens before you’ve even pressed publish. You’ve already won by filling the page.