I had a little crisis of faith yesterday in regards to my writing.
Well, not just my writing. Writing in general. Writing in the age of the internet, in the era of page views.
All my posts on Forbes lists page views. This can be exhilarating, as my amount of my check from them relies on those views. It can also be disheartening. Even if I make a decent amount of money this month, I’ll still look back on yesterday with a heavy heart; a quicke post I made about the MBV album got more hit in an hour than the Fleetwood Mac piece I took three hours to write got in the entire course of a day.
I thought it was a good piece. I was happy with it when it was done. I honestly thought it was my best written column at Forbes. So was the lack of page views the fault of my writing or the fault of writing for the internet?
When I was published in Maura and The Magazine and Boing Boing, I didn’t think about page views. I was thrilled to be in those publications. I was happy with the nice feedback I got. My stories were published and that was the end of it.
Which leads me to ask, when listicles and slideshows are all the rage on the internet, who is reading the writing?
Someone is. Someone is because apps like Maura and The Magazine are flourishing. Someone is because more and more people are talking about magazine apps. Someone is reading the long stuff. The good stuff. The writing that’s full of thought and emotion and power. Personal narratives. Thoughtful essays. Stories of love and loss and being, stories about the intersection of culture and technology and self. Stories like the one Jason Snell wrote in The Magazine or Kevin Fanning’s piece at the Morning News; words that make me suck in my breath or sigh or make my heart dance.
A friend emailed today with some good advice. In that advice, he likened long-form writing to albums, lists and slideshows and short news bursts to singles. Each has had their own place in our culture and each has had a rise and a fall and rose again.
Perhaps people will tire of short attention span writing. Maybe long-form will become the trend. If so, I’ll be right there on top of it, hoping not to cash in on it, but to be a part of it. If the next wave is one where apps are made for people who want to read - giving way to people who want to write - I’ll be out there already waiting for it.
In the meantime, I can’t help but feel just a little disheartened at my page view dilemma. But the more I think about it, the more I realize it’s not a reflection on my writing, but on those reading.
Even if the day comes when no one wants to read long-form anymore, if I’m wrong about the next wave and cat slideshows and sarcastic lists about important news items are what leads us into the next year or two or three, it won’t matter. I’ll still write. Yea, I’ll write the lists and the short bursts of news because bills have to be paid. A freelance writer can’t always afford to be stubborn about their craft. But I will always and forever keep writing the long, thoughtful pieces because it’s what I do.
If 400 people look at an 800 word ode to a Fleetwood Mac album vs. 3,000 people who look at a 100 word album announcement, that’s just the nature of the internet. The nature of people. The point is, 400 people presumably read my piece. I’ll be grateful for that.
But I will be oh so grateful, and happy for all of us who write and appreciate the art of longform storytelling, if I’m right about the wave that’s about to come in.