[Galinda voice] Popular!

I’ve been musing about this lately and today seemed like a good time to bring it out. What do I post? What should I continue to post? If the purpose of posting is to get engagement and eyes on my work, how do I judge what’s worth posting? Maybe my posts seem eclectic and weird and you wonder why.

Maybe when you look at my blog you see my posts about writing and wonder why I keep scattering in the true crime stuff. Sure, someone who writes about true crime would be able to do both, but why keep it up?

I get the most interaction – likes and comments – on my writing posts.

I get the most views on the true crime stuff.

For example, I’m pretty sure there was a school in Britain asking students to search for a specific Ripper suspect last week, because man, the views were up. Interaction, no, but views? My most-viewed pages are all Ripper- and Holmes-related.

Let’s take a step back and ask why I started a website and blog in the first place.

Drumroll, please: to build a platform. (Yes, that’s probably the most common answer.) To give people a place to come if they wanted to talk to me or learn a little more about me (before buying my books, of course). So I want that engagement, and I want those views, and it would be so nice if I found the magic formula that let me get both on the same post, but … we’re all out here doing our best.

And figuring out how to stay true to ourselves, of course. I’ve got books out about the Ripper and Holmes, so this is what I know. I’ve got the background knowledge and still, somehow, after all these years, the interest. So when it comes time to whip up another blog post or two, true crime and writing are easy topics. I care about them, and I think it shows in writing whether or not someone’s actually interested in their own subject.

But you can’t determine your own popularity.

One of my posts got a surge of hits (and still continues to see some action) because it was mentioned in a Smithsonian Magazine article about Holmes. I couldn’t plan for that. And that weird peak on one of the Ripper’s victims from last week? No idea where it came from, either. (For the record, it was Charles Allen Lechmere.) You don’t get to pick your own best work.

Right now I’ve got a thread over on Twitter that’s totally blowing up my notifications.

I posted it on a whim yesterday because I was frogging – ripping out – an old project that just wasn’t wearable. Beautiful, yes, but a shrug that won’t stay on your shoulders and just keeps falling off and hanging from the cuffs around your wrists isn’t useful in keeping your arms and shoulders warm. I knit it three years ago, wore it once, and left it in a pile of things.

So when I started undoing it, I documented the process with photos in a twitter thread. I don’t usually do twitter threads. Maybe I was in a weird mood yesterday. I figured my followers would see it, if the algorithm let them, and that would be that. But instead it’s blowing up my phone with notifications.

Why this? Why not my novel or my true crime or something I’d really love 15,000 people to see within 18 hours?

Because we don’t get to pick the things that blow up. The things that get likes and comments over the things that get over a hundred views in a single day … and no likes or comments.

Look, I’m glad it’s helpful. I’m glad people are seeing a part of knitting they’ve never considered before, or getting the push to frog their own projects, reclaim the yarn, and knit something they’ll love and wear. (I’m less glad at the people who, hours later, are insisting I should’ve kept the original because it’s beautiful. Yes, thank you, it was, but first off it was literally useless, and second, it’s my time we’re talking about. If I want to tear out my own work, that’s my decision. Hmph.)

But the thing is, once you post something, it’s out of your hands. Once you write something and put it out into the world, it’s not just yours anymore. Yes, you have an intention, but the readers can turn it into something else.

Writing is rhetoric. (Did you know I’ve got a PhD in rhetoric?) Rhetoric doesn’t end with the author, and it doesn’t matter if the author cries or laughs or any of that while writing or giving a speech. If you recall your rhetorical triangle, the audience makes up one whole side. Without them, it collapses. If the audience laughs or cries while engaging with the text (and if it’s the reaction the rhetor wanted to elicit), then it’s a successful piece of communication.

So things can fail. You can tell a joke that falls flat, or write what you think is a heart-wrenching scene and get told your beta readers only yawned. The audience can take the text and turn it into something you never anticipated.

So what can you do?

Write what you love. Or, as Chuck Wendig puts it a bit more colorfully:

I wanna read the book that pops out of your goddamn chest like a goddamn baby Xenomorph. No matter how many Tums you have taken. No matter how many guests you have at your dinner table. You cannot contain it. It’s just — oops, splurch, sorry, that book just kicked open my breastbone like a set of saloon doors and oh, shit, here it is, flinging itself into the room.

Yes, you’re probably writing to a schedule at the same time, with due dates and deadlines and all the rest, but … honestly, that authenticity of writing the Xenomorph is what tends to rise to the surface. My twitter thread of just me messing around? Authentic me. I was doing the thing. Something I’ve done multiple times before, but never documented, and I thought maybe it would be interesting to a handful of people.

And it’s nice to get the validation, don’t get me wrong. I totally wonder why all those people reading those posts don’t even click on the like button, but I know I’ve hit on something good when I get almost as many likes as views, even when those numbers are lower. But I like the kinds of things I post, and at least it’s reason enough to keep posting the different things, reaching different people.

And maybe finding even more who also like my Xenomoprh.

If you’ve got a blog, how long did it take you to feel like you got “into the groove” and found your niche? Does anyone ever really feel that way? Is this an imposter syndrome thing again?

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