Thursday, July 23, 2009


“Had-i-lay, did-i-lay, had-i-lay, pood-i-lay.”

These words don’t seem significant, yet nearly five million people have tuned in on youtube to see a young man utter this gibberish.

This is not the kind of video I normally seek out and I wouldn’t have known about it unless the young man in it, Brandon Hardesty, was featured on a recent cover of the Washington Post Magazine.

The same week the article came out about the popularity of Hardesty’s “Strange Faces and Noises I Can Make” video, my blog counter registered 1,200 hits. That’s 1,200 hits in 13 months; 1,200 hits for 66 posts, sometimes made with thought and great care, vs. millions of hits for one video made in a matter of minutes.

I have never assumed I can win over the eyeballs that watch videos of cute cats or naked sportscasters or goofy teenagers. The difference, of course, is between readers and audience. Reading requires thought, perhaps even a delayed gratification. Watching a video just requires a couple of minutes of your time. And it’s hard to imagine an essay going viral.

In other words, I am trying to console myself with the idea that I am seeking quality of readership vs. quantity. But it’s not entirely true. I still expected that more people would have read my blog by now—it’s been around for almost 15 months.

Yet, truth be told, I’ve done little to promote it, other than having it listed on a couple of web sites for writers’ organizations. I’d rather spend my small amount of free time each week writing it rather than advertising it. And I don’t know how to advertise it anyway, or how to help people find it other than sometimes posting links to it on my Facebook status line.

It goes to a deeper problem I’ve always faced as a writer—do I write for myself, or for an audience? I feel a deep satisfaction when I’m able to complete a story or essay/blog post; it feels like an accomplishment in and of itself. But there’s always another feeling there alongside it, a tiny discontent that can only be appeased if I know that the thing I have created has been seen.

So, I am looking for validation, no matter how happy the process of writing itself makes me. Not fame, but a recognition, a visibility. Without that validation, there’s always a little bit of melancholy, perhaps even a small amount of bitterness, in everything I write.

I don’t think my lack of popularity in high school can be blamed for this, though perhaps it feeds into it a tiny bit, like so many other slights in the whole history of my life, all these things feeding into what it is that makes me a writer. Without that urge for validity, maybe most writers wouldn’t write in the first place. Without that urge, I would write, but the things that I write would be entirely tucked in my drawers and never seen, not even here.

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