The Lure of Stats

If you are a writer, you practice writing. Even if you write for a living. For me, that’s what my blog is–writing practice. And practice thinking as well. Part of being a good writer is being a good thinker–concepts move to ideas, get analyzed (OK, sometimes over-thought), then explained, resolved, or left open-ended and written. Those steps are a little vague, but you can’t write without thinking. And if there is no emotion involved, feh! who wants to read that?

The Cool Kids Table by Octopus Hat, through Creative Commons

Keeping a blog is more than practice writing, of course. A blog is public. Other people read it. The more we put “social” in Social Media, the more we want people to click the “like” button, friend us, click on links, leave a comment. Drive up our stats. I don’t know a single blogger who doesn’t check their stats several times a day. Sometimes more than several. Sometimes obsessively.

In other words, writing practice can easily push you back to middle school where you desperately want to sit at the cool kids’ table. It doesn’t matter if you never sat at the cool kids’ table in middle school. That yearning to be recognized, accepted by a group of people slightly better than you think you are. . .well, it’s still hard to resist. After all these years.

Several times in the four years I have been blogging, a post’s stats have gone through the roof. Sometimes months after I wrote it. Steel-Cut Oats (notice, no link–I am trying hard not to pander here) was my mainstay top-stat-getter for almost three years. An article I had written in desperation, because that day brought no creative grist to grind in my daily mill, sat at the top of my stat popularity. I’d see it covered with ads if I looked it up  on another computer.

But then it began to nag me–is writing done in desperation, without a lot of thought, is that better than my writing based on research? And steel cut oats? Why not art journaling, or techniques, or creativity, or coaching? Why steel cut oats? Or a fire pit burning for 30 years in Turkmenistan? And then, this week, an article on copyright? Finally. Validation. But that lasted for only one day.

That’s why writers are stat watchers. We aren’t ever sure what will be a hit. We can’t predict it. And writers, who chronicle the world as we find it, want to know when we got it right.

And  still, after all these years, I want to sit at the cool kid’s table. That’s my next project. Being OK with not sitting at the cool kids’ table. Being happy with the table I find myself at. Seeing who else is sitting right here, next to me.

–Quinn McDonald is the author of Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art. Which, at this second, is #20 in Mixed Media on

Image: The Cook Kids’ Table by OctopusHat, through CreativeCommons permission.