JK Rowling is spreading her wings across social media again, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect with the topic of this blog post taking root in my mind over the last month. I’d like to talk about invisible readers, but first, if you haven’t seen Rowling’s recent tweets to the writing community, let’s see what the marvelous author of Harry Potter has to say.
Rowling retweeted @beauty_jackson’s advice to “finish it anyway,” even if nobody will read, watch, or listen, then went on to elaborate just why that advice is so heartfelt and important.
I encourage you to check out Buzzfeed’s full article by Ellie Bates here.
This brings me to my topic of the invisible readers.
We live in a society of statistics, and low numbers can make us feel like nobody is paying any attention. It’s discouraging to publish a new post and share it on social media, only to look at the stats and realize your website had a total of eight views that day, one retweet, two Facebook likes from family members, no shares. Those numbers seem so small, so insignificant.
I’ve been there. Many days, I’m still there. It’s hard to fight that malicious voice in the back of your mind whispering, “Why are you still trying? Nobody is reading. Nobody cares what you have to say.”
Here are three personal experiences that prove otherwise.
Once I grasped the concept of Twitter, I wholeheartedly embraced it. I eagerly awaited #2bitTues, #1linewed, #thurds, #ThruLineThurs, #fictFri, and #SlapDashSat, where I could share a line or two of my work in progress based on the assigned theme for that day. I usually posted multiple tweets per topic, pleased when someone liked my work, thrilled when they deemed it worthy enough for a retweet.
Over time, my enthusiasm waned. I suppose it was a combination of Twitter’s novelty wearing off, frustration building with my job, and seasonal depression draining away my motivation.
And then, out of the blue, I received a message from an author I’d met through Twitter and had limited contact with in the past: “Hadnt heard or seen anything from you in a bit, hope all is going well.”
I was shocked. This man, whom I didn’t even know by name at the time, actually noticed that I wasn’t posting. When I stopped writing, my lines were missed.
An old friend from high school was in town for the weekend, and we decided to meet for lunch before he left for Colorado again. After telling me stories about his photography and film endeavors, he casually asked about my writing. Small talk, I dismissed, until he said, “I haven’t seen you post anything new on your blog lately.”
Again, I was floored. I stared at him for a long moment. I couldn’t remember him ever liking any of my blog posts I shared on Facebook or commenting directly on the post itself. As far as my statistics showed, he didn’t follow me. And yet, here he was, sitting across the table from me, asking why I hadn’t posted recently, to which I shyly answered, “I published a short story on the blog last week. I’ll have a new article out soon.”
After graduating from college with a minor in creative writing, I joined the Sandcastle Writers to continue honing my skills in the relaxed and meditative company of fellow writers. We adhere to the Amherst Writing Method, and I’ve found irreplaceable companionship within this writing community.
During a break between prompts, one of the writers touched my shoulder and said, “I read your article on depression and the arts. It really spoke to me.”
My cheeks warmed. Once again, nothing in my dismal statistics gave any indication that this writer followed me. We were not connected through social media. She, like my high school friend, like the Twitter author, was an invisible reader I had no idea existed until directly reaching out to me.
I want to stress to other writers (and artists, musicians, whatever it is you do that brings you joy) how important it is to keep going. The numbers may seem like nobody is interested, but you might be surprised how many invisible eyes see your work under your radar.
I’ve removed “aspiring” from my title of writer because I do not aspire to write; I DO write. I’m not published yet, but I’m on my way, and I came tantalizingly close when I was a high school senior. Although that dream hasn’t faded, I haven’t won any awards. No honorable mentions in a contest. I haven’t been paid for any of my writing. If you measure my advice to my accomplishments, you might doubt the merit of my counsel.
That’s why seeing an inspirational and successful author like JK Rowling share the same wisdom is so encouraging. From someone still at the beginning of the journey to someone miles away down that rough cobblestone road, the advice is the same: “finish it.” Keep going. Even if your audience is invisible or nonexistent, you are writing first and foremost for yourself.
Related posts: Why Is Depression So Prominent Among Artists?