What have I learned after writing 1,000 posts? A thing or two.
To date, I’ve written and posted 999 original essays at this website. So, this is number 1,000.
My first essay appeared almost three years ago, in July 2012. This means I’ve posted an average of one essay per day since this desultory exercise in self-revelation initially began.
But congratulatory fireworks are not in our near future. Sometimes I do ask myself — why? Am I any bettor off now, or any more fulfilled personally or professionally, or have I accomplished anything significant in the wake of so many blistering keystrokes and empty wine bottles? Have any impressionable minds out there been altered in any way, or elevated hopefully, by such erratic prose?
Any serious writer will immediately see the fallacy of wallowing in such questions in self-pity. Who the fuck cares? If this website were all about popularity or attracting heavier volumes of traffic, would I be writing book reviews about Lyndon B. Johnson, or continuously bashing what I see as Christian hypocrisy, or listing the multitude of merits of political philosopher Karl Marx? Those topics are likely to scare off far more readers than attract new ones. But at least I try to be fair. I offend indiscriminately.
I have noticed one trend which is both revealing and a bit of a surprise — and to me, a bit disappointing also. Two things seem to really turn off new readers — excessive profanity (unless it’s a funny rant, and then readers love it) and bashing religion. Website readership and Twitter followers continue to increase slowly, but steadily. Then, when I do occasionally write something mean about Jesus, my following takes a dive. It’s amazing, really. I guess people just aren’t comfortable yet with errant ramblings about the Great Sky Dictator.
Here’s my theory. People hear about the site, or they find it on their own accidentally through a Google search on some topic. Then, over the next several days they enjoy the musings and get a few laughs, and then suddenly one day something they do not like hits the page and — wham! When I tear into the delusional Jesus, or spew too many F-bombs, or offend someone as all piercing inquisition should, the newbies scurry away like roaches when flipping on the kitchen light at 2 am. I think my record for losing Twitter followers within a single day is 27. I’m not sure to be either thrilled or terrified about that. As I said, when I use a lot of “fucks” in the column, the result is pretty much the same, except when I’m getting crushed on making football picks while losing my ass, or having a miserable restaurant experience — and then my traffic skyrockets.
Perhaps the most shocking revelation I’ve noticed in my three years of writing daily is the “most read” essay being something that took me perhaps 20-25 minutes to write. It’s attracted tens of thousands of hits since, and still gets read at least a dozen times daily, even though it’s now old news that no one should care anymore.
Remember Richard Sherman? He plays for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. In his defense some 16 months ago, I used the word “nigger” in the article to make a point, and for some reason the eyeballs hit that landing page like moths zooming to light. I don’t regret using that word, nor any word, to make what I think was a valid point. Nothing is taboo in vocabulary and if you’re easily offended, this site isn’t for you. What I do regret is that I spent so little time on the piece, and that just so happens to be the all-time hits leader. Forget all the riveting political essays, the best and worst lists that took hours to ponder, the rare Stu Ungar stories, the precious memories of working at Binion’s Horseshoe. Just use a verboten word in an article, and I become an instant curiosity and the world becomes a voyeur.
The other article that gets a shitload of hits to this day is an intentionally sourpuss article I wrote about two years ago, titled “If Your’e Under 25, Your Music is Fucking Garbage.” Not exactly subtle, I know. I don’t remember the context of writing it, other than wanting to be a pompous ass prick that would offend just about everyone for the sake of making a point about music and creativity. Well, apparently the part about being considered a prick worked. A few hundred comments have been posted, calling me just about every name imaginable, and the hate is still flowing like blood in the crocodile-infested waters of what we call the Internet. If I ever appear at EDC festival, I expect to get assaulted.
Writing 1,000 essays has taught me these things, but then something that’s far more meaningful, too. I’m convinced the capacity for change, the opportunity for intellectual evolution, must remain well lubricated. Anyone who insists they aren’t at least willing to consider possibilities other than those they believe is a dead soul, a close-minded subterfuge. Not just reading and merely pondering, but thinking more deeply and then writing about things makes one reflect upon them even more closely, and in the process does also test one’s own convictions. Sometimes, contrary evidence dictates changing one’s mind and re-evaluating a philosophy. That’s a good thing. Growing is good. An open mind isn’t a indicative or indecision. It’s proof of innate curiosity.
I hope to remain just as curious over the next 1,000 essays.
Thank you for reading, for giving me your time, and being a part of the discussion.
PS. This post is actually number 1,008. I wrote it up a week ago, and then forgot to post it in time.Read More