‘Hey, Look at Me’

Honesty among online writers is scarce nowadays. You don’t want to screw with your chances of becoming one of the big boys by upsetting any of them.

This is why I take my hat off to Sid O’Neill. His latest post, Hey, Look At Me, Bigtime Bloggers, starkly details the hardships aspiring writers face, and points a sober finger at the elephant (or one of them) in the room:

There’s another flavor of half-truth that I’ve heard, which comes from those who have reached some modicum of success with good quality work. Just do good work, and the readers will come. This sounds like the wise path, and heartening for the 100-pageviews-a-day writer. Keep plugging away.

Thing is, a lot of the big names you hear about were either lucky, became known first for something other than writing, or happened to have friends in high places who shared their stuff repetitively. How many genuinely great pieces do you see from the big names? No, seriously. There’s an awful lot of backslapping from the lower ranks, but it seems to be for the tritest of nonsense sometimes.

That’s not to say, I hasten to add, that there aren’t genuinely excellent writers at the top. There really are. But there’s more to it than just excellent writing.

This reminded me of a little anecdote:

Nine years ago, at 15, my dream was to make it in the blogosphere (context). Back then, the big guns in my niche — bloggers themselves — would exchange links between their sites on a weekly basis. It was a win-win proposition: You get some of my traffic and I get some of yours. In the end it all stays in this closed, ever growing circle.

At one point I gave up on trying to become “one of the gang” or email them links, no matter how good I thought my posts were1. I was irrelevant. If you didn’t have traffic to send, you weren’t worthy of being discovered or shared. Outside this small, hermetic circle, you were stuck in a rat race.

Then, a Google search my blog ranked first for suddenly became popular. My monthly traffic shot up to over 1 million page views. Do I need to recount how one-by-one, members of the circle unsolicitedly started sending their visitors my way? Apparently your content is of special quality when you also have page views to trade.

Think about this, and about Sid’s piece. Think if today is any different. Think about your part in all of this. People who have made it rarely admit the role randomness played in their journeys.

It’s not them I’m looking at though. It’s you.

  1. They were not. ↩︎
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