Last night I checked this blog’s “stats” page and saw that it had 999 views. 999!
Before I dive into the “who is counting” part, I would like to thank whoever is reading or eyeballing this blog, even if you don’t comment or “like” the posts (if you don’t wish to comment publicly, you can now write to firstname.lastname@example.org). As much as my purist self likes to think otherwise, this blogger needs readers like a plant needs sun. I’m grateful for the minds and hearts who’ve directed their beams this way.
But, it occurred to me that the “I” who checked the stats (and kept checking, and checking, to see if the 999 would turn into 1,000) is not the same “I” who writes or who appreciates readers. It’s as if my body was taken over by a trained laboratory rat who refreshed the browser ad nauseum, waiting for some new reward…just that final eyeball to reach 1,000. Catching onto my rodent-like behavior, I closed the browser and wondered why 1,000 was better than 999. What if the 1,000th view was someone who was skimming this blog while chatting on the phone? Did that nullify the number? What if 10 obsessive people are supplying all the blog views? Would it matter?
It occurred to me that yet another “I”, some part of me that feels invisible, is eager to see that number go as high as possible, as if that would prove something about the worthiness of my words or of myself. In our culture, with its best-seller lists, blog stats, Facebook “likes” and other publicly available and visible metrics, it’s easy to conflate popularity and reach with worthiness and relevance. The statistics are not the whole story.
A beautiful book I read earlier this year is Descanso for My Father, by Harrison Candelaria Fletcher, one of my instructors. It’s a literary gem, a mosaic of essays rather than a straight narrative. It’s the kind of book that some people will savor, again and again, while others, unfamiliar with the format or unwilling to pause and allow the text and the spaces between to penetrate their consciousness, might not finish. His readership might never reach the millions, or even hundreds of thousands, but does that make his writing lesser than that of a New York Times bestselling author? Of course not. Of the many things I learned from him, one that stands out was his emphasis on authenticity. He reminded us, again and again, to write the book or essay we need to craft, rather than creating something in a format that we think will increase the likelihood of publication. Writing that heals us and has the potential to help others comes from the heart, not the rodent brain. One has to trust that one’s writing will find its way to the people who will benefit from it, whether they number in the single digits or six figures.
Which brings me back to that other “I”, the person who writes because she needs to and wants to. Let’s face it, most of us write to teach ourselves what we need to learn or to remind ourselves of what we already know but might forget, especially if we’re susceptible to being hijacked by bean counting rodents and other sneaky impostors. As if to prove this point to me, when I sat down to write this post, the stat counter had surpassed 1,000. I noticed that I felt no differently about myself than when it registered 999. Maybe it’s time to distract my stats-loving rat with a treadmill.