Title Card

Thoughts on losing your creativity in the blogosphere.

I wanted my own digital sandbox to be wildly creative in. That’s why I started this site. I wanted to unshackle my imagination and make it rain humor filled content all over the place. But I’ll be honest with you. I also wanted as many people as possible to see the things I was making in my sandbox.

Like, just an absurd amount of people, you know?

Look at my blog

Actually, a better way of phrasing that is to say that I wanted as many people as possible to connect with the things I was making. Because I think all of us that create and share creative work on the internet crave that connection. It’s only human.

And since we’re human, we went ahead and conveniently found a way to quantify those connections in a manner that is both addictively gratifying and soul crushingly deflating depending on the day. We gave our blogs stats, Likes, and Followers.

(Side note: I would have included “comments,” but I think they’re an entirely different animal. They’re much more of a qualitative assessment rather than a truly quantitative one. For example, one really good comment or thread probably carries more weight than say 10 Likes. But one really mean or incendiary comment negates all the Likes. It’s just the way it is.)

The analytics tells us we aren’t alone in the blogosphere. Those little icons and graphs tell us we’re connecting. They tell us that someone is actually out there and they’re saying I’m here! I like you! I’m following! Digital high five you sexy beast! They tell us we’re building a readership. And it’s a pretty exciting time when you start performing for an audience when you’ve grown accustomed to an empty house.

But here’s the kicker we almost never see coming.

Ninja Kick!

At some point in trying to build that readership, our creativity inadvertently gets handcuffed to the numbers and the graphs. Our creativity is handcuffed, because a growing readership is the harbinger of economics. The Stats, Likes, Followers, etc. allow us to gauge how we are perceived within the community. So, more eyes looking our way usually means more interactions, which means our work now has “social proof” and we very quickly learn which of our content is being bought and exactly how much of it.

Over ya shoulder

It is incredibly difficult to ignore the numbers, whether they’re good or bad. And so it’s not uncommon to find that our work may be skewing in favor of them. A heavy bias towards the numbers can do wonders for you when you’re just starting out. But later on down the road this approach may make it feel like you’re being boxed in. And being “boxed in” can be a frustrating place for creative types that like to explore; it’s also a position where our work becomes the absolute antithesis of what it was in the beginning. It becomes uninspired. It becomes safe. It becomes boring.

Pretty soon we might even find ourselves resorting to every social media tactic and blog gimmick in the book just to keep a readership afloat.

Tweet away

Social media and blog gimmicks absolutely do have a role to play in constructing a readership. I know this. You know this. We all know this. Social media tactics and blog gimmicks absolutely work in getting your name out there. Sometimes they work really well. But your blog can’t live off of those things. They just get people through the door. And I know you know what gets people to stick around after they’ve come through that door.

Lock em up

Whoa, whoa, hold up. I’m talking about content. That blue-ribbon-homemade-fresh-out-the-oven-content people eat right up. The kind that makes them want to come back for more. You know…willingly.  So don’t go prioritizing the messenger over the message. Just make things that are awesome and people are going to share the shit out of it.

Okay, so I accept that we can’t cook up amazing original work all the time (probably not even a third of the time) and that being able to cleverly recycle ideas is a necessary tool in any blogger’s skill set for sustaining and growing that readership. In fact, I encourage it. After all, your stye is your style. But when numbers, charts, and graphs take too much of a precedence in and over your work, you’re gonna eventually see that you’re no longer the creative director of your own blog; you’re the goddamn accountant.

make that money

At this point you might be wondering just how on earth do we make this awesome likeable content that’s uninfluenced by readers?

While I don’t have the answer I do have an answer: do work.

For the love of god, just keep doing work. Even if what you’re making seems like it’s turning out to be an absolute failure to you. I mean, damn, just do the work even if you never have any intention of ever publishing it. Sometimes you just gotta make things just to make things free of statistical analysis. Just keep churning out work. From the smallest of pieces to the absolute behemoths of projects. Do this and good things tend to happen.

Still need a little more of a push?

Let’s do this; let’s make something free of expectations. Better yet, let’s just make one thing. So let’s call a cease fire on the analytics arms race for a second and remember what it’s like to just make one thing out of pure curiosity and enjoyment. Let’s put our creativity back to work by taking creative risks again. Even if it’s just one measly step outside of our comfort zone. Let’s surprise our current readers and win over some new ones. Hell, let’s surprise ourselves.

But above all else, remember this one thing: your blog is yours.

So go ahead, color the sky in a chaos of purple.


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76 Responses to “Color the sky in a chaos of purple”

  1. gingermermaid

    I heart your blog and personification of what a blog looks like.

    Don’t do it for the ratings, do it for the little pokey headed bloggy man who represents your creative spirit guide.

    • timmer

      It’s the horn that gives him his mystical creative powers, as well as his voracious appetite for digital consumption!

  2. Lily

    A blog is a platform for our self-expression. Of course we’d like readers and views are nice too – but if anything, the number one person we should be doing it for is ourselves. It’s super important to remember why we started in the first place!

    Thanks for this awesome post :)

  3. The Waiting

    Right before I read your piece (no, really, RIGHT before, as in seconds), I was looking at the analytics on my blog’s Facebook page and feeling all kinds of sads. I was reflecting on the times when I first started blogging and it was such a joyful experience because I could just be me. There were no giveaways, no likeathons, no linkups, no unlikes, no drama. And I miss that. Thank you for writing this. It is exactly what I needed today.

    • timmer

      Thanks! Analytics really are the Siren Song of the blogosphere. They’re so enamoring in the beginning, possibly even more so once you have a regular readership. The spikes in traffic and interactions are an absolute high. But I think you probably know just as well as I do that this high always comes with the crash back to normalcy. I have to remind myself all the time that this is first and foremost MY creative outlet; good stats are just the gravy.

  4. fireflyby

    I like to go gimmick free and suffer the frustrations of being unheard.
    Love your points and cute cartoons.
    Love your conclusion!

  5. allthoughtswork

    Frankly, I only get jazzed when somebody new views my stuff. Head counts aren’t as exciting when it’s all the same heads. One or two new faces are worth fifty hits of the same old, same old.

  6. broadsideblog

    The whole point of having your own little corner — is to own it! Not to suck up to analytics. If you’re consistently good, people will keep showing up, and in growing numbers.

  7. Animockery

    Liked and commented. Dude, this is one the best things I have read today, and one of the best freshly pressed things I have seen in a month (sorry inspirational life lovers, just being honest to what appeals to me). I really need to work on consistent content as I have always known this is the path I need to take. For the record I would take one legitimate, intelligible comment, whether it be positive or negative, over any 20 likes. That is why I am here (the interwebs) after all, real connection.

  8. They Call Me Jane

    Your final statement reminds me very much of what Elizabeth Gilbert says by the very end of her TED talk on “Your elusive creative genious” – keep working. :-) Thanks!

  9. Brieuse Bernhard Piers-Gûdmönd

    Yes – your blog suddenly made me realize that I’m free – I can keep blogging the way I want to blog! I had surreptitiously begun to write so as to get more likes. Now (thanks to you) I’m unshackled! THANK YOU!

  10. gregschina

    Ironic that you get Freshly Pressed on the post where you talk about doing what you like over focusing on pandering to the masses. Haha, just goes to show, being true to your artistic self is the way to go. Congratulations!

  11. missbrogan93

    I am in love with this post! Blogging is supposed to be about letting the writer get their feelings or knowledge out in a way that they want to. I think it is great when people can be so creative! It is important to keep your own voice throughout post and not get so wrapped up in no or all followers that you have.

  12. Eagle-Eyed Editor

    Well said and congrats on being Freshly Pressed! I love your reference to the “analytics arms race”; it is so easy to slip into that gratifying trap — who doesn’t like to have their ego massaged with likes, stats and followers?

    I love when one of my commenters says “Hey, I didn’t know that”. If I can add to even one person’s knowledge or make him/her laugh that day for the few minutes they spend reading my blog post, that’s okay by me. I feel very blessed by the blog family I have and hope you’re experiencing the same..

  13. djmatticus

    I understand what you are saying – we need to be ourselves and be creative despite the perceived demands and pressures of our followers and faithful readers – we need to make sure we don’t stifle our work just to satisfy their wants. That’s a great point. At the same time I’ve also found my followers to be very helpful in prodding me into types of writing I wouldn’t have done otherwise – they suggest prompts and point me towards challenges, they make suggestions and they get me to see things in a different way. So, they help me explore my own creativity and do more than I ever would have otherwise. I think the real key is just be open – do what you want as a blogger on your space, do what makes you happy, but be willing to adapt too…. not for the stats, not for the quota of likes and follows but because change is constant anyway, if we aren’t adapting then eventually we will get left behind. Right?

    • timmer

      Right on. It’s a balancing act between making the things you want to make, but also being able to see and utilize the insights of your readership. Often times they can picking things out in our work that we didn’t notice because we were too immersed in it to see it with fresh eyes. And the feedback, good or bad, informs us. The hard part is to not letting our creative work live and die by it.

    • timmer

      Hi. Thanks. I make the illustrations with a program called Sketchbook Pro. It’s like Paint, just a couple more bells and whistles.

  14. thirdworldcountrygirl

    I’m so inlove with this. I did start my blog because I wanted to inspire people, and I didn’t even share it with my friends because I wanted to gain followers and views just just due to the fact that people who got to read my blog would share and recommend it. But now I find myself worried about statistics and I try not to look at them, but now something in me wants to increase the numbers- but then I go back and tell myself “I started this because I wanted people to relate to me and I wanted to inspire them”. It’s so beautifully complicated!

  15. mairzeebp

    Been there, am there, live there, visit there and beat the crap out of myself over the numbers. I related to this and I loved how the illustrations that went along with it. The creativity is the key. The rest will come and if it doesn’t the great thing is that you’re still left with your creativity which is sometimes, most times, one of the best things you can have. Thank you for sharing. Loved it.

  16. susie962013

    This is a great post, especially for someone like me who has a grand total of 2 followers. It’s nice to be reminded that the stats aren’t all there is in blogging. Keep up the good work, and (shameless plug here) check out my blog if you’d like.

    • Breezy

      Is there anything specifically that you talk about on your blog? Is it DC or comics? Who do you want to read your blog?

      • Susannah Ailene Martin

        I pretty much write about whatever is irritating me most at the moment. My latest post is about my favorite super hero cartoon shows and how they’ve changed in the last few years, but I don’t really write about a particular subject. I freestyle, I guess you could say. Personally, I want everyone to read my blog, but that’s just my ego getting in the way.

  17. Breezy

    For me personally, I write what I know and what moves me. I hope it helps others and / or inspires them. I ask myself, who is my target audience. Really it is me. What do you want to see in your sandbox? What projects are important to you?

  18. nrhatch

    “Artists can color the sky red because they know it’s blue. Those of us who aren’t artists must color things the way they really are or people might think we’re stupid.” ~ Jules Feiffer

    • nrhatch

      That quote from my post today seemed too perfect not too share.

      It’s not just WHAT we do that matters . . . it’s understanding WHY we are doing IT. If we are doing IT just to go along with the crowd, or to gain accolades and applause from our peers, we are generally wasting our time.

      Reclaiming our freedom to live life fully requires that we tune out societal messages urging conformity to listen to our own inner wisdom. Once we learn to rely on inner motivation to set and define our priorities, we become less inclined to jump on the next-best-bandwagon that rolls down the street.

  19. Bryan Hemming

    Great post! I run three blogs, not necessarily to inflate my ego, but to cover subjects in different ways. But it’s still disappointing to see one labour on week after week with declining, as opposed to growing, interest. Nevertheless, I ain’t letting it go, as the initial project isn’t finished. Boo-hoo! It’s my baby! Nothing’s going to make me kill it!

  20. Lanie

    Love this post! I’m new to the blogosphere, and I’m doing it for me- because I enjoy writing and sharing. But I can totally see how one could become hooked on the numbers. I went into this not caring how many reads I get, and hopefully I can stick to it so that my content is always 100% me.

  21. Valerie Chapman

    I’ve been discussing these kinds of dynamics, the balance between real interaction and binary validation. So far my blog is a bit of a tree falling in the woods but I hope to create a readership and not obsess (though I’m extremely obsessive) over the numbers. Spent some time looking at the charts today I confess. Thanks for the inspiration and reminder! This should be fun.

  22. Aussa Lorens

    Where have you been all my life? I truly loved this and relate to it more than I care to admit. I always have a little surge of fear after I hit “publish” where I worry that today is the day that no one will want to read my stuff anymore. That’s what the stats page does to you I suppose. This was a fun but super legit reminder of why we do what we do and how to keep doing it.


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