Sunday, October 7, 2012

Instant Gratification: Good or Bad?

Just because they don't all have ribbons doesn't mean that they're not all delicious.

I just finished reading Imperfect Birds by Anne Lamott. A wonderfully terrifying book about two parents who don't seem to comprehend how bad their daughter's drug use is getting. If you like books like that, definitely read it. But what I want to focus on today is not that story element, but a subplot and idea that the step-father in the book, a writer for NPR, brings to life.

It is the idea that as bloggers, or in his case, a weekly columnist, our writing and focus changes based on reader comments and instant feedback. If we get lots of comments, we're on top of the world. If we get little response to our writing, we deem it bad, and it often throws us into a downward slump, wondering what was wrong with our piece. I found this thought to be provocative and true. I think those of us who blog do react this way and base our merit largely on "likes" and comments and hits. But I'm wondering if this is helpful, or detrimental?

It used to be that we, as writers, would write our pieces, make our revisions, work with editors and then finally -- finally -- see our work in print. We did not get feedback on our words. We almost never personally connected with our readers. And I wonder whether that wasn't nice in some ways, because we could continue on with the assumption or grand delusion that our words were wonderful and were resonating with thousands, or millions of strangers in ways we might never know.

But now, as we share our thoughts and ideas with millions of others on the blogosphere, we almost instantly know that we haven't. And somehow, that seems to diminish what we've written.

It shouldn't be that way, but I fear it is. I am afraid that we tie our self-worth as writers on feedback now. If we have a popular post, we're on top of the world. If no one leaves a comment, we doubt our writing abilities.

Maybe it should be this way. Or maybe we need to focus on our writing and how it makes us feel as writers, rather than worrying about what the world thinks. I don't know. It's something to think about. I do love the instant gratification that blogging brings, but I also need to remember not to rely on it.


  1. That last sentence? Says it in a nutshell, I think.

    One big thing to remember is that blogging (or even writing columns) is a different kind of writing than stories or novels. Just like sprinting is different from marathon-ing, you know? They're related, but not the same.

    And yeah, metrics can't necessarily measure what really counts in writing. That's one of the hardest lessons to fully accept and truly absorb.

  2. Good points, Kristan. Novel/story writing is much different than shorter blog or newsletter pieces and does require different focus. Though while I was reading "Imperfect Birds," I kept thinking about novelists and performing artists who claim to never read reviews of their work. It intrigues me to think about how much we're influenced by our readers. In good or bad ways.