I got a text from Ma today. It said something like That short story you posted last week? It’s had over 7,000 downloads!
It was early this morning when I read this. She wrote it late last night. There was obviously something lost in our sleep deprived information exchange. Kindly, she attached a screen shot of the web page she was investigating. There was a file name with the title, “After Sunrise, Full Ahead” on it and file options to “download.” Also: a file ID, a status: Available ( I don’t even know what that means. Available for what?), and a ticker that claimed it had been downloaded “7, 714 times.”
I texted her back. Huh??? What are you talking about? Send me that link.
She did and when I clicked on it, guess what happened?! A window popped-up that said I was an INSTANT WINNER! Of something! Maybe a million dollars! Maybe a car! Maybe a virus that wiped out my memory and started tracking my every move while emptying my bank account!
After I screamed (internally–like I said, it was early and I didn’t want to wake everybody up), I panicked and I swiped it left, I swiped it right, I swiped it all about, and after a few seconds of terror I finally exited that bullshit.
It would be awesome if over 7k people read my little short story, but come on, I’d consider myself lucky if 17 people had read it, and double lucky if 16 of those people were not related to me.
My mom said she “googled” me and that’s how she found it. I googled myself (smh) and while I didn’t exactly find that same probably malevolent software link that she did, I did find some interesting things.
Like twitter posts (I thought) I deleted. Pictures I had forgotten about. Addresses and phone numbers. A comment on a YouTube video. An eleven year old book review about interior decorating. It’s creepy. It’s a little embarrassing. It sounds downright obscene, Mr. March, and it is. I dare anyone to do it and not cringe.
As weird as it is to look yourself up on search engines, it’s also made me think about some things that I don’t have an easy answer for. As writers, we are constantly struggling to get our work read, get it out there, find an audience, get noticed, build that elusive platform that we’re told we need to be successful.
The problem with this though, the Catch-22 if you’re of that age group, is that writers have a tendency to be, how shall I put it? Neurotically introverted. At any hour on the clock, you can find us hunched over our keyboards by the light of our laptops like gnomes in pajamas. We write stuff, and rewrite it, and sweat over it, and swear at it, and rewrite it again, and again, and again, and then we send it out into the world. And we pray that someone will read it, and when they do, there is a moment of inner freak out. Yay someone is reading it. And then, Oh my god….someone is reading it! Quick! Give it back!
Can’t have it both ways. I don’t know if there is a trick to it or not. At some point for the truly successful, a moment of no return must happen, and with it, some sort of comfortable level of saturation. I don’t know how they can stand it, though. Just seeing one of my old Facebook posts makes me want to scream.
But thankfully, or not, no one is googling my name but myself. And that’s just as well, because if 7,000 people read my work I’d probably die from exposure.
What I’m reading now: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood