Don’t let the name fool you, this isn’t a post about running… But then, to be honest, it is.
There once was a writer named Stephen. Eager to connect with others like him, he took to the only singles bar wannabee intellectuals call home (Twitter).
Once there he engaged, he posted, he searched for others with the same favorite book or character. He discussed his writing with other authors, some of whom had massive followings. This was to be the first hit, so to speak.
As he followed others, and saw them eager to follow him back, our author got himself an idea.
“What if I too could amass a following? What would that say about me, and how many more would read what I had on offer?”
So he followed writers, and they followed him back, he even unfollowed those that abandoned him. His army increased in rank, until finally he crossed that plateau.
10,000 followers, and now he could rest.
But he could not. Still he followed, still he culled, and it was never enough.
To make matters worse, his engagement numbers weren’t all that good. He did everything he knew to be effective, but no increase in those actually READING him was in the cards.
A good friend suggested he interact with his followers more. That this was revolutionary is almost shameful, for Stephen was no Salinger. No, Stephen loved to interact. No wonder the relentless pursuit of numbers felt hollow.
So back to Twitter he went. He’d spend time each day reacting to the posts of those he followed (and this number was, at one point, almost 8,000).
Well two things happened.
First, Stephen noticed that his Twitter feed read more like the Sunday Target ad. There was little other than hyperlinks, off-center graphics, and unpalatable pull quotes. To what was he even to respond?
Second, those Stephen did reach out to rarely reached back, and they never started the next conversation before he did.
All of this leads us to today. As I write this today, my (because it’s me, Stephen — third person is just more…. literary) followers stand at 10,000. I’m down 700 followers since I began trimming the accounts I followed just one week ago.*
Initially, it was the bots I cut. Follow everyone and automate your tweets? Bye. The next criteria is even more harsh, for only those I actually want to hear from will remain.
I stand today at 10K, but this number will crash as this next purge begins. The thing of course is that others do the whole unfollow me and I’ll unfollow you thing by which I once swore. As I leave them, they will leave me. And with that, my beloved 10K shall fall.
That’s fine. It is. For what will remain will be a group of people with whom I truly want to interact. Young writers (in craft, if not belly button) and a number of others I actually care about the musings of.
Am I over 10K? Heck no. I want it back already. But when I re-reach it, it will be people who want to read me, not pay me back. I love writing, though for the past six years it’s paid me shit. I no longer dream of a best seller, I dream of actual readers. The world owes me nothing, but I’m good. It’s their loss for not being here from the start.
Now I just have to show them. And when a few readers tell their friends to give this writer a try… Maybe the 10K will be back. Maybe.
Either way, I’ll write about it.
* In the time since I wrote this post one month ago, I’ve dropped to below 9,000 followers… I lose a few more each day (and I’ve never enjoyed my handle so much).