How do I know what I think until I see what I say?*

A recent serious illness** gave me ample time to think & I’ve decided to suspend blogging for now, despite of what I may have said elsewhere, how blogging is the bee’s knees for the budding modern writer, young or old, tatty or totty.

I’ve not changed my basic beliefs, but I’ve also paid close attention to my numbers—both here, on facebook, on twitter, at fictionaut, on my various literary blogs … everywhere really, because I’m a sucker for collecting usability data.

And the result is that I’ve been read (not just hit) a lot — 4-5,000 times a month — when counting all the different places where I have access to data (I’m not including online magazine publications). While that sounds pretty cool, there’s also a clear stagnation of numbers; when I blog, about 150-300 people take a good look; on Facebook or Fictionaut, I get a similar number of views. Twitter (despite 6000+ followers): ditto. But few of those who like what I do go out of their way to tell others about my work; you know: pass it on, share the link, etc. Or rather: those who share manage to only marginally increase viewer numbers—mostly, they stop numbers from dropping.

Put differently: I have between 150 and 300 fans, who aren’t really fans but good acquaintances or friends even. Most of them aren’t readers as much as writers with their own axe to grind & house to build. Many of them  know me so well that they rarely comment—I think because we interact anyway on different channels.

While I’m immensely grateful to my many online contacts, who are appreciative of my creative work, it does not justify the effort I’ve put into my online presence over the past couple of years. I think I probably got ill so that I would realize it. It’s been an amazing journey and learning curve, but I will now retract and try to focus away from the instant gratification (which is an important part of all this, especially when holding it against the loneliness of writing).

When I asked myself what’s missing, there are two answers to this, one social and one content-related:

1. Limitation of communities. Blogging and online presence as part of a community model is absolutely useful and rewarding. But a community cannot grow beyond certain humane limits, especially if all members of the community have the same goals (writing & publishing) & communities are also subject to a normative “Tall Poppy Syndrome“.

2. No book. I’ve worked hard on the hundreds of micro prose pieces that I’ve written and published at a good rate; but a bunch of shorts doesn’t amount to a “product”, it’s only a pleasant drip. Readers, I presume, respond to books. Saddle up then…and get back to work, leave the shadow of permanent chatter.

Or perhaps all this is idle talk and I’m just tired. Well, it’s my blog, innit. I take heart from the words of a greater man:

“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” — E.M. Forster

Cheerio then, for a while at least, until I know what to think!

Marcus Speh


*/The title is a quote by E.M.Forster (from: Aspects of the Novel, 1927). In another year, I might have quoted him as saying “Only Connect” instead. I wrote this post in two installments totaling about 2 hours of precious prose writing time. Places with freebies where I will suspend free unfettered pre-publishing include: 1000 shipwrecked penguins100 days and nights;krautflash; already out of operation since last year were: flash by flawntflawnt. I will however re-issue published prose here on a spanking new “story of the week” page, with 100 weeks on the horizon.

**/Last time I was this ill was twenty-three years ago.Then I made the decision, on general grounds, to live and do something interesting with my life. This time, after the worries stopped occupying me, I kept writing in my head & found that I could dispense with putting myself out there so much & should stop spreading myself as thinly as I have done these past few years.

***/All illustrations in the post are by Albrecht Dürer.

6 thoughts on “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?*

  1. Dear heart, you had possibly spread yourself out too thin and in too many directions. I understand the frustration and for myself, I apologize for not promoting you more on twitter, Facebook, etc. tho I’d like to think that I have been supportive of you and your work more directly. Because you have, so religiously shouted out for others, that too, I thought to myself, takes so very much diligence and time that it’s hard to keep up. But alas, I do understand. I too have been wondering if I even care to submit stories anywhere anymore. The “high” lasts a day at most before you’re read, patted on the head, and quickly forgotten. Go, stew about it a bit more, then focus, focus, and reincarnate.

    • thank you susan, as ever, i’ll miss these love letters. i shall have them sent to a mailbox in the deep blue sea where i will seek them out when i’m ready…don’t blame yourself, i think this lack of promotion of others, as i tried to point out, is a systemic attribute of artistic communities rather than anybody’s fault. also, i don’t feel sore, but rather serene. C U around!

  2. I do so hope you feel better soon, and find the focus/time/? you wish for your full length work.  The data breakdown was very interesting, and perhaps being away from us all will leave us craving your company even more – enough to hunt down your work, comment and share it with those who will enjoy it and perhaps lead you to more fruitful areas in the publishing world.  I’m going to share this blog post with the writers’ group I attend in Warrington, who have been recently discussing blogging and the like.  We will miss you, but I’m sure we all wish you well and understand the need for you to pull back a little and focus elsewhere.  Get well soon, and let the words flow.

    • thank you, gill! the words are flowing, no problem there, in fact illness, a darkened room, a feverish mind, hours on end … is just what it takes for me to keep writing in my mind. i’m curious to hear what your writers come up with if you discuss the issue. i’m still a fervent advocate of blogging for writers, btw, but i’ve reached a temporary impasse myself. thanks again.

  3. You will be the inspiration you need, and will inspire the rest of us continuously, no matter what you decide. Thanks–a million times–thank you. Your poet pal, Darryl P.

    • thank you darryl, a compliment that i can fully return (after soaking it up with delight) to you — it will bounce back and forth between us like a rubber ball of continuous inspiration…so that we can create with joy!

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