Writing is a lonely experience for me. I sit at my desk in the middle of the night with the lights off, listening to the same song on repeat for two hours, while staring at a laptop screen, whose brightness is probably further deteriorating my already myopic vision.
It is a process that is rarely broken.
I can’t even listen to a podcast while I write because their voice clashes with the one in my head and I can’t pay attention to both.
It’s almost as if I’ve created a bubble for myself – a place where only I exist. Nothing is happening in the world, except for the movement of my fingers on a keyboard.
Are other people this particular? Or is this too Dan-Humphrey-in-Gossip-Girl for you?
Truthfully, I love it. Push come to shove, I could write at any hour of the day. But there’s something about the middle of the night. It gives me the freedom to say anything, uninterrupted.
It makes me happy.
When I hit “Publish” and go to sleep, that is my way of transferring my happiness to you – my audience. Though my name might be at the bottom, the blog post is no longer mine, it’s ours.
Words have the ability to bring people together. They just do.
Remember that, because now I’m going to go into a story that will probably be long-winded.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have my blog featured five times by WordPress, whether it was on Freshly Pressed or Discover. Then I’ll come on here and write a post about how I’ve been featured.
You’ll congratulate me in the comments, I’ll say “Thank you!”, and then wonder if I’m just spiking the football and rubbing it in people’s faces that I got featured again and my blog friends didn’t.
Though being featured is wonderful, I’ve never told anyone about the emptiness that comes with it.
The last four times I’ve been featured, there was a period of emptiness before I found any joy. How I found the joy differed each time.
The emptiness came from the fact that I didn’t know who to tell first, that I had been featured. I feel like we all have that person we’re supposed to jump around with when we get good news, I didn’t know who that was.
When I was featured the first time, I had that. I had all my friends from school who I was still in close contact with. There was immediate joy.
But then we slowly started drifting apart and a text message from me saying, “I’m getting featured on WordPress!!!” just didn’t feel right.
So I’d resort to a Facebook post and fill the void that way, by waiting for likes and comments. In 2014, likes and comments gave me the joy I was looking for.
You’re probably wondering, “Paul, don’t you have a best friend you can tell?” I do. His name is Chris and he also has a blog. Truthfully, he’s always one of the first people I tell, if not the first.
However, since he’s also a blogger, I feel like I’m telling one of my own. You know? The emptiness was only filled by telling non-bloggers.
Maybe I was desperate for recognition. Maybe I just wanted my words to mean something to people who didn’t read them on a regular basis.
Last July, I deactivated my Facebook account. Two days later, I was getting featured on WordPress for the fourth time. You know what I did? I reactivated my account, just so I could share my blog post and deliver the news.
Why? I had to fill the emptiness. I had to cast a net to look for validation from people who aren’t in the blogging world.
At that point, whether they liked or commented on my Facebook post or not, all I wanted was for them to read it. That’s how I’ve come to find joy.
Maybe. Maybe not.
I let that status sit there for a few days before quietly disappearing from Facebook.
Jerry Seinfeld always mentions that he prefers to talk to comedians, over anyone else. I allows found that strange, until I realized how much I enjoy talking to other bloggers.
We just understand each other. It’s that simple.
Why can’t friends I know in real life be as eager to read my blog as strangers around the world? I mean, there are some friends who are. They’re reading this right now. But it’s a small handful.
So maybe that’s why I chase understanding from people who aren’t in the blogging bubble. Because if I can get that from “outsiders”, then I can truly feel justified in my accomplishment.
The joy never comes from being told I’m featured. Sure, the news always paralyzes me with happiness, but I’m talking about joy.
In this situation, I distinguish happiness and joy in this way: Happiness comes from within. Joy comes when I can share it with others. I don’t know if there’s a dictionary in the world that will support me on that, but no one reads the dictionary anymore, anyway.
The joy comes from people responding to my words, whether they leave a comment, or just think it in their head.
That fills the hole for me.
I have a Twitter account for this blog, though I’ve always been skeptical of its effectiveness.
Whenever I share a post on there, I never feel like I’m reaching anyone new. The only people I’ll reach are bloggers who already follow me on WordPress.
Then I tell myself that hashtags are pointless because you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink. Sure, people may look up a specific hashtag, but I don’t think many people do so with the intention of clicking a link and reading a blog post.
I may be completely wrong, and stop me if I am, but I feel like there is a lot of truth to what I’m saying.
We live in the “Link in Bio” generation. A lot of us are trying to promote something and send people to it. Our exuberant tweets and captions are over-exaggerated, as we attempt to do (in my mind) the near-impossible task of getting someone to click a link.
It happens all the time on Instagram.
There have been times when I screenshot the introduction of one of my blog posts and put it in my Instagram story. Then I’ll use the social media cliché, “Link in Bio”.
I can see how many people click the link. Maybe one person. Normally zero. That just discourages me from sharing anything again.
So this past weekend I wrote a poem on my blog. I was proud of it, so I took two screenshots and posted the whole thing in an Instagram story. Thus, deleting the need for someone to click on a link.
I don’t know how it went over. I don’t even know if people stopped to read it.
But I took solace in the fact that all the words were in front of them, and if one person read it, then I’d be okay with it.
I get it. I do. I don’t think I’ve ever clicked a link in anyone’s bio on Instagram. It’s not what I’m there to do. If a blogger has shared something, I’ll know to find it on their blog later.
I don’t mean to speak for everyone who tells others to click the link in their bio, but I will.
When we say that, we are optimistic that people care about us enough to read what we wrote.
At the same time, if no one clicks the link, we can lie to ourselves because it’s easy to say, “Oh, they were busy.” Or, “They didn’t see the post because of the algorithm.”
Am I wrong? I’m begging anyone to tell me I’m wrong.
That’s the end of my long-winded story.
So, here I sit in the middle of the night at my desk in the dark. This was one of the rare occasions when my music was on shuffle – not like it mattered, seeing as how I can’t recall any of the songs that actually played.
This is my bubble. This is where my happiness is born. In a few minutes when I press “Publish” and go to sleep, the bubble bursts and you’re all allowed inside, provided that you wipe your boots on the front mat,
and you hand me a box of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies upon entry.
That is when I’ll find my joy.
This isn’t about stats. This isn’t about needing people to agree with me. This isn’t even really about me.
This is about words being unable to reach others because clicking a link in someone’s bio feels more like a strict command, than a well-intentioned recommendation.
Like it or not, this is the era we live in.
Welcome to the “Link in Bio” generation.