A few months after giving birth to this blog, I crossed a sacred line. I installed code. Tracking code so I could monitor visits. Too green to know what service was preferable, I added all of the tracking code I could find - Statcounter and Sitemeter and Google Analytics. On the days I posted, I scanned the data. I could see what time someone visited or how long they stayed or what pages they passed through before exiting altogether. I also could see what town a visitor was sitting in while perusing my literary offerings, though I learned early on that not all data was accurate. Leslie may work in Atlanta but her employer is based in Belgium. Which naturally would explain why her visits are noted as England. Makes perfect sense, I know. But as flawed as the data can be, I continued to embrace Sitemeter like a warm fuzzy fleece on a chilly fall night.
As my readership grew, I came to rely on the stats to evaluate my success. Comments were one way of tracking visits but Sitemeter clued me into what posts were the most popular. I eventually used this information as the one and only indicator of literary accomplishment. I cringe writing that but alas it is true. And so I became addicted. Some people get a high from heroin. I got my high from blog stats.
“I never set out to be so successful,” a BlogHer speaker noted as she loaded the next Power Point slide. “It just happened.”
Sitting on the floor of an overflowing conference room, I craned my neck to see above the tables and attendees in front of me. I think the number on the slide was something like a million. A million hits a day. To a cooking blog. If I’m lucky, I land two hundred hits. Suddenly I felt betrayed by Sitemeter, erroneously inflating my blog ego and simultaneously shattering my writer ego. Suddenly too much knowledge was exactly that, too much knowledge.
Scanning the room filled with bloggers, I felt conflicted and frustrated. So much so that I ended up sneaking out the back door of the conference room before the session was even over. As I tossed my tote over my shoulder and scuffed my Tod sandals against the industrial carpeting lining the empty corridor, I struggled to figure out if I was a writer with a blog or a blogger who wrote. Yeah, this is my brain strung out on Sitemeter.
In case you were wondering, I never figured it out. But I have found myself yet again struggling with blog stats. Here’s the thing - I’m working on moving forward from my past. And I can’t move forward because when I scan Sitemeter, I see the past has been visiting. It knots my stomach, it sours my mouth and it leaves me hopeful and confused. So for the first time in the history of this blog, I asked someone to stop visiting. I claimed it made things imbalanced. It wasn’t fair. It left him having a piece of me I wanted back. Then, as the conversation unraveled, I got frustrated. Not with him but with me. For my silly efforts to control the uncontrollable. For the ridiculous hope that I could somehow make someone disappear by asking him to not read my blog. It got sticky and confusing and in the end, when I placed the handset back in the cradle, I had no idea what I’d just gone and done. I wasn’t sure if it was self preservation or payback or what. I just knew that what I requested of him wasn’t true to who I am and it made me feel yucky from the inside out.
I could easily write and not post. Or I could post and make the essays private, available only to those I handpick. But I don’t do any of that. This blog may be a writing exercise and I might write because I have something to say but I splash it up here for you to see it because, well, I’m not sure why. Maybe I like having an audience. Maybe your reactions inspire me to write better. Maybe knowing you come back comforts my fragile creative ego. There are a lot of maybes and no matter how much time I spend hashing it out, I land nowhere.
So how do I solve the problem? How do I continue to be me and allow all of you, those who know me and those who don’t, continue to be you? Going private won’t work and shutting one person out won’t work either. Because if I learned but one thing from my growing pains of this blog it’s that there are ways around IP address blocks. So I curled up on my sofa and picked my brain. I bit my lower lip and leaned my head against my sofa back. I punched a clenched fist into my thigh and grit my teeth together to steady my thoughts. And then I figured it out – I’m removing the code. All of it. It’s taking me down a path that from what I can tell leads nowhere. It won’t get me a writing gig. It won’t get me noticed. It will only make my head spin, something I can successfully accomplish with other aspects of my life, thank you very much. Deleting the code, however, that will release me from the shackles of being a blogger and restore my freedom as a writer.
And so readers, I ask for one thing from you this holiday season. A luxurious cashmere sweater packaged and tied with a bow? Nah, that’s too frivolous and indulgent. A collection of handpicked books written by literary scholars? Nah, my shelves are already overflowing. All I ask is that every so often you let me know you’re there. That’s it. Because as much as I believe in myself as a writer, it sometimes helps to know others believe in me too.