Believe it or not, I have absolutely no idea which of my works will become popular on the web and which will be basically ignored. And if you’re honest with yourself, you don’t either.
Sure, some people invest lots of money in investigating which keywords they might rank best for. And sometimes this might even help them crank out an article or two that does really well. But when creative work is approached with search engines in mind first and people second, it too often becomes a short, soulless piece of work that you won’t be proud of. What’s worse, such work is only a temporary delight and doesn’t help you grow your audience or your credibility.
This applies to written work, videos, and even songs. Do you think an artist has any idea which song will be a hit on their album? Sometimes they get a good idea of this when they share the unpublished album with their social circle first. But often, they have no way of predicting. I’ve experienced this time and again, one good example being when my article on how to use Yelp to explore a city got retweeted over 70 times in one day. I couldn’t have predicted that. That’s because creation has an inherent bit of Magic in it. And luck.
Here’s the secret: create abundantly. By creating abundantly, an artist, in this case a musician, maximizes their chances that one of their songs will catch on and perhaps even rank in the charts. And writing for a website is actually very similar to this. To create a ‘hit’, you’ve got to listen to your intuition and act on inspiration, yes. But you also have to crank out a lot of things that few people will ever read. You have to be prolific before you can enter the magic.
Why is this?
Having been through this process myself, I can say with informed confidence that because of the nature of probability and creativity, this is simply how it works. The reality is that it takes a lot of time to find your writing voice, not to mention calibrate to becoming a writer who produces stuff that people actually enjoy and find useful. In fact, this is true for all creative mediums.
Now you might be thinking that this is a real bummer. Who wants to spend months (or years) making stuff that will go mostly unnoticed? But this is actually a blessing. It frees you up to experiment and discover new aspects of yourself through your medium of choice. In my experience, as long as you’re creating something that satisfies a real human need (a human need for story, in my case), and you consistently create, then you will eventually hit gold. It’s inevitable. This works because you will have built up your skill to a point where others can benefit from it. Reaching this point takes courage and determination, but the rewards compound tenfold over a lifetime.
Then the Real Magic Starts
Once you get to a point where you have steady growth in the amount of people who actually read, watch, or listen to your stuff, you’re in a wonderful place. No, you’re not Madonna yet. You may never be. (You may also never feel the need to fake a British accent.) The number of people you’re effecting isn’t as important as the growth rate. As long as you’re making progress, you’re on the path. As long as you’re creating something that benefits others, you’re participating in the magic of co-creation. (And if you’re releasing it on the web, you’re participating in the Google Magic, too, which is just as unpredictable, but also tends to snowball in the end.)
And eventually, something sticks, and you have a hit on your hand. Eventually, you enter the magic, and people who had never heard of you before, suddenly think you’re an overnight success.
But we both know better don’t we? It often takes years to reach a point where you’re providing something of true value. But that time is going to pass anyway, so why not start working toward it today? Why not step on the path of the Magic of Creation?
It’s calling out to you!
Very true, and it is good to be reminded. The more we do something, the better we get at it, it is true for writing and anything we undertake that burns enough inside to get us through the hard parts of learning it.