Your Best Work Will Often Be Invisible

We live in an age where almost anyone can be an online celebrity overnight, where any quote or photo or person can achieve meme status in the blink of an eye. We have YouTubers raking in millions of dollars every year, simply by playing games, which all seems a little counter-intuitive compared to the real world.

This is the great equalizing power of the Web: it makes it possible for anyone to reach millions of eyes and influence them. The Web is a level playing ground, where no one has any undue advantage, where everyone can be heard and seen. It’s like the biggest meetup in the history of mankind.

And yet, that very thing is what often drives a lot of people. Be it bloggers, vloggers, budding musicians and artists or even just entrepreneurs, everyone wants to be famous like the incumbent celebrities of the Web; the stars of Instagram and Twitter, the ephemeral kings of Snapchat, the thought-leaders of the blogging world. We try to mimic their meteoric rise, we set their metrics as our goals: likes, retweets, traffic hits.

But the truth is, it’s incredibly disorienting.

The things we love doing are those that we do without any pressure or incentives. Think about something that you do alone. Like maybe cooking a simple comfort food. Or writing little haikus or poems. You don’t do that for Internet fame and money, you do that for yourselves, and it feels great doing it.

I believe it’s the same for blogging. I’ve been blogging since 2010, on a variety of different blogs that didn’t last too long. I used to love it, even though I wasn’t really consistent and the writing wasn’t that good. Every little thing I used to write about resonated with me on a special level, be it reviews of cool new services I’d found online (RIP StrawberryJ.am) or startups in beta. It was a great way for me to share my thoughts (and the occasional beta invites) with the world.

That was until I became a stat-whore. I became so enamored with my traffic stats that I lost track of the why of blogging. I was attached to the number of visits and views, the number of shares, the geographical distribution of visitors and all that. I wanted thousands of hits on my blog every week, and I wanted it now! I started hating the very concept of blogging, simply because it didn’t show any results. I kept writing, trying out every trick there is to attract readers, but none of that reflected in my stats page. In trying to emulate the success of other bloggers, I had devoted myself completely to my stats and away from the reason I loved blogging.

Over time though, this infatuation with stats and fame and pingbacks just wears off. I’ve come to realize that we don’t all have to be blogging legends or millionaire YouTube celebrities. We don’t all have to jump over to Medium, just because it’s the new hot blogging platform and it’s got great network effects.

The best work we produce will often be invisible. It will not get as much attention as we hoped it would. And that’s okay, because what we think of as our best work isn’t our best work. We often produce our best work when we have no pressure on us, no worries about the hits or likes or retweets it might get. Our best work comes out when we are the only ones who can enjoy it. It’s like a small secret of ours, not shared with anyone else. And that’s what gives us the most joy, no matter how stupid the writing might be.

One blog is enough, and the low number of hits I get now, is enough. Frankly, I don’t even have any expenses on blogging that I need to recoup. I have a lot of thoughts everyday, and I find some of them worth sharing, out into the void, if not with other people. That’s why I blog. Online fame and money, if any, is a secondary reward for just showing up and blogging.

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