Notes From Within The Void
On Producing Work Without Feedback
I’m writing this shortly before my subscriber list email is set to go out—a list of 21 people, most of whom didn’t even open my last dispatch. Each week I publish new work, write the body of the email, format the images, set the links and maybe three people actually click on anything inside the message. I average about 11 unique site visitors a day. I’m followed by 13 people on Medium, 73 on Twitter, 125 on my site’s Facebook page and 185 on Instagram. My followings are minuscule at best.
Seeing these numbers makes me feel pathetic. What’s the point? Why bother? What is any of this even for if no one reads it? Writing is a solitary act I perform in silence and blindness. I have little clue as to what goes through any reader’s mind once they come upon my words or posts. I have even less knowledge of where any of this is going, if anywhere. Each thing I create and release into the world is but a whisper in a crowd.
I don’t persevere because I’m noble or stupid, I persevere because I am stubborn. I am committed and I have faith. Each day that I make something new and send it into the ether, is a day I have renewed this stubborn and faithful commitment. My daily acts are demonstrations of my choices.
But self doubt is with me every step of the way and so I’ve taken to creating tricks to keep myself productive and in service of my choices. I rely on these tricks to continue doing work even when I want to quit and hide and sleep away the doubt. The Daily Words section of the home page for instance; each day I write those few words NO MATTER WHAT. It’s a small thing, but it’s a small thing that helps keep me accountable and actively in denial of things like writer’s block and stagnation. I recently started tweeting those same daily entries, will anything come of it?
The weekly email I send is another trick; at the very least it is a blurb with links to what I’ve published in the last seven days. I have committed to sending this email every week on Thursday NO MATTER WHAT. Even if I’ve only written a single post in the days prior, even if no one opens it, even if no one has any interest in anything I’ve written, even if I don’t manage to finish it until 11:55pm, I made the decision to send an email with something new every week on a particular day and so I do just that. Sometimes my open rate is enormous and a good portion of the openers click the links, but sometimes not. Sometimes nearly 70% of my tiny list ignores the email; an even smaller percentage clicks on anything. Sometimes I change the format, the time of day I schedule the send, the way I write the subject lines… I guess every week at what causes the dramatic differences in response rate. Maybe people no longer care, or perhaps they’re just busy. Maybe my audience can sense my enthusiasm or lack thereof. Maybe when defeat is in my heart it becomes evident in my words.
I didn’t decide to quit my job and begin writing as my primary focus with the goal or intent of generating a vast audience. I started all of this because I felt compelled by my heart and my gut, because I felt like I had things to share and express and I couldn’t wait one day longer to start.
Not being driven by the size of my audience doesn’t mean that I am not affected by the size of my audience. It is exhausting and challenging to continue making the decision to stick with this every single day. Especially the days on which my impact feels smallest. On those days, my effect seems so quiet and so subtle, that I wonder how it will ever measure up against the never-ending, negative opposition in my own head.
Without hordes of supporters, I am the sole source of motivation. I remind myself on a daily basis that this is what I feel I am meant to be doing, that I am writing for me and no one else and that it is a gift. I honor my self-imposed deadlines and I keep going, even if it’s just the bare minimum of what I’ve promised myself.
My commitment is imperfect but it is consistent. I am crippled by fear and insecurity often but I don’t give up. I write the words, I create the posts, I make myself vulnerable and I move through the darkness, deeper into the void, one day at a time.