Blog, Toil, Tears, and Sweat

I’ve been blogging for over four years now, and I’ve discovered something curious: there’s essentially no relationship between how much work I put into a post, and how popular it is.

For instance, my most popular post – more popular than all others put together – is this little list of words to use instead of “awesome.” It’s gotten 87 comments (and counting). I probably cranked it out in about half an hour.

Meanwhile, my story “The Witch and the Dragon” took two weeks of feverish work to write, and is 28,000 words long, spread over sixteen posts. It’s the best long fiction I ever wrote in my life – and I’d honestly be surprised if any single person actually read it, much less gave feedback.

I understand why this happened, of course: the “awesome” article is quick, clickable, and (hopefully) useful, whereas the story is long, requires an investment of time and energy, and has a niche audience.

And I’m not complaining. Because, you see, I do the same thing with other people’s work. Robert Frost, for instance, cranked out “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” in a few minutes, as a break from working all night on the long poem “New Hampshire.” And now, “Snowy Evening”? A rock star. That second one? Never heard of it till I looked it up just now.

Of course, it can go the other way. Tolkien spent over a decade on Lord of the Rings, and now it’s sold upward of 150 million copies. I’m not saying that writing effort is useless, or that it’s never rewarded. But the connection between effort and reader acclaim is … tenuous.

But that’s okay. To paraphrase Marcus Cole from Babylon 5:

You know, I used to think it was awful that readers were so unfair. Then I thought, wouldn’t it be much worse if readers were fair, and all the terrible sales of my books were because they actually deserve them? So, now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the public.

Amen, Marcus.

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