Forget About the Numbers
What’s the one thing you want every creative to forget about now (while they’re actively creating).
All my love,
If you were to ask me what’s the one thing I regret about my creative journey, it would be caring too much about the numbers.
You see, the reason I started writing was because I wanted to put more encouragement out into the world. I wanted to sit with people while they were in the thick of their mess and let them know they were doing ok. Many years ago, reading someone else’s encouragement gave me the strength I needed to keep pushing forward, so now I strive to do the same for others.
It was easy at the start.
After years of repressing my creativity, the words burst out like a flood and filled the blank white pages on my screen. Writer’s block didn’t exist; I was overflowing with stories and lessons I wished I’d known when I was an angsty and hormonal teenager.
Back then, I was grateful if even one person showed up to read my words. When two people popped up, I did a celebratory dance around my living room. When twenty people clicked through to my website, I broke out all the confetti.
I wasn’t focused on growing my readership – I just wanted to overcome my fear of pressing publish. In fact, for a long time, I was afraid to tell anyone my website existed. I didn’t want anyone from my “real life” to cross over to my online space. The more people who knew about my writing, the more I’d feel obligated to censor myself out of fear of what they would think.
But of course, I was driven to help people, and to help people, I needed readers. As in, plural. I wanted more people to be impacted by my words. I wanted more people to know I was a writer. I wanted to reach the people who needed what I had to say.
Apart from that, I also wanted to be known for my words. Deep down, I didn’t want my writing to be a hobby; I wanted to spend my days playing with words and making a decent living from it. Many of my loved ones were sceptical; the only writers they knew were the starving ones, and they hassled me regularly about finding a “real” job. I believed to make it as a writer, I needed to prove there were hundreds and thousands of people who wanted to read my work.
From there, my focus shifted towards promoting my words. How could I get my work in front of more eyes? How could I attract more subscribers? How could I grow my reach? I spent hours and hours of my days falling down the rabbit hole of Instagram hacks, algorithms, and marketing tactics. Soon, I could feel myself drifting away from the actual craft.
Despite attracting a small, but loyal, readership filled with beautiful humans like yourself, I was itching for more, more, more. How can I be bigger? How can I grow? How can I double the results I got yesterday?
Don’t get me wrong – there’s nothing wrong with looking at your metrics. In fact, as the marketer of your own work, it’s important to look at the numbers to see what content is resonating with your audience and what isn’t.
The problem was I had tied my self-worth to the numbers. I took every metric as a measure of whether I was ‘good enough.’ I constantly refreshed my stats to see if my blog had gotten more views. I tracked my subscriber count religiously. Whenever I saw the figures soaring, I’d be ecstatic. But when it didn’t hit the number I wanted, I would chuck my phone under the pillow and wallow in despair.
It reached the point where I stopped promoting my writing altogether. I didn’t want to endure the emotional rollercoaster that came with pressing Share and waiting for likes and views to roll in. I never knew how I was going to feel when I checked my stats: deliriously high or miserably low.
The joy I once felt decided to pack its bags and flee the building the moment it sensed I was craving the numbers more than I was craving the craft. My creativity also handed in his resignation when he felt overworked and pressured to perform for validation.
When I was busy obsessing over the statistics, I failed to recognise that every number represented an actual, real-life person who was choosing to spend time reading my stories. A real, breathing human was taking valuable time out of their day to scroll on my page and read about feelings and life.
So, sweet AP, in answer to your question, here’s what I’ll say: Worry less about the metrics and more on your craft. If you do look at your stats, remind yourself it isn’t a reflection of your worth. Recognise that each number represents a real, breathing human who is taking time out of their precious day to spend with you. One person showing up is a big deal. 100 people showing up is a big deal. That’s 100 humans who are choosing to spend time with you. If 100 people showed up to your house to hang out with you, would you treasure your time with them or would you ditch the party to hunt for more?
It took a long, long time before I could sit back at my desk and write for pleasure, not performance.
But now that I’m back, I try my best not to look at the figures. I don’t track who’s reading, subscribing or even unfollowing me. If someone joins my bandwagon, I send out a little prayer that they’ll find whatever they need. If someone unsubscribes or unfollows me, I let them go peacefully knowing that my stories about sitting in my feelings aren’t for everybody. And that’s ok.
If you can’t be faithful with the ‘little’, how can you be entrusted with more?