If like me you are a blogger who does not blog for a living, then you know that statistically speaking, you live for feedback and followers, when it comes to your blog posts, rather than for clicks and advertisements. This particular blog has been online since 2008 and, while my readership is not gigantic, it is certainly regular, and has been steadily increasing as the years go on. So when WordPress selected my blog post on collecting secondhand books to appear on their “Freshly Pressed” page on Saturday morning, I thought – well that’s nice. I might get a few more readers.
Now, after about 1,200 reads, 130 “likes”, and 50-0dd comments on that one post, and despite having blogged for some time and more recently become involved in podcasting, it still astounds me how powerful new media can be. It brings a diverse group of people to your message, whatever that message may be, in ways which basic word of mouth among friends can rarely hope to do. And some of these people who may not normally choose to read a blog like yours might actually want to stick around, and see what you are going to write next.
This creates both an opportunity for the author and a sense of responsibility he must bear to his reader. For if you are reading these pages, it means you are not reading others, with the time you have available for reading such things. There is, as economists would say, an opportunity cost in giving up some of your time to consider my thoughts, rather than someone else’s or indeed your own.
More to the point Count Castiglione, the patron of this blog, would have commented that it is not the popularity of a blog in and of itself which necessarily assures us of good content, but rather the continued effort of the writer to try to get better at it. We can all think of bloggers whom we have read in online publications, and wonder who on earth encouraged them to start writing – let alone paid them to do so. Yet as Castiglione observes in The Book of the Courtier that “those who are not thus perfectly endowed by nature, with study and toil can in great part polish and amend their natural defects.”
There is nothing whatsoever to be lost in admitting that one has a great deal to learn about something, for this is in fact the way by which we can begin to try to improve ourselves. If I walk out into a football game having never actually played football, I am probably going to end up carried off on a stretcher, unless I admit that I need coaching and training. Or if I want to try to cook a paella having never actually made one before, by simply using a recipe book, something is almost certainly not going to come out quite right – the rice will be underdone or the seafood will have been overcooked into pieces of rubber and so on.
WordPress has certainly sent a large number of new readers my way over the past 48 hours, for which I am deeply grateful. Yet at the same time I admit that I am by no means an author who has perfected his craft. There is still a great deal to learn, and when you are both writer and editor of your own material, sometimes the results are decidedly uneven. Thus, while my opinions on certain subjects may remain strong, and at times even be viewed at as outspoken, as a scrivener I remain deeply convinced that while my writing talents have improved, there is still much to improve upon. Fortunately with feedback and interaction, such improvements are not only possible, but likely.