I was listening to Chris Jones’ Longform Podcast episode this evening and took the time to sort of scroll through his recent Twitter feed. Came across this multi-tweet “rant,” copied and pasted below, which isn’t really a rant but rather a reminder that the digital audience is a strange and irrational beast.
July 20, 2015:
Writing rant coming tonight. You’ve been warned.
You don’t know anymore whether you’re writing for a dozen readers or a million. Or the one who might change everything for you.
It’s a weird, intense feeling when a story goes viral. Sometimes it’s work you love, and you’re grateful and soaring.
Sometimes it’s work that, in hindsight, doesn’t make you proud.* Then you start sweating and looking for places to hide.
(*Yes, I am speaking from experience. Yes, I have regrets.)
The trouble is, you can’t pick and choose why someone knows your name. The reader will decide who and what you are.
Hell, sometimes they decide based on a single tweet.
So all you can do is try to do work that won’t shame you—if this is the one that happens to launch, you can live in its light.
That isn’t easy these ugly, unsound days. We don’t and maybe can’t take the time or care we once did.
In the end, though—or in the beginning, at least—every word that you write is a choice that you make.
That’s the last moment you have control, in fact: when you’re alone, looking at the screen, at the white space under your name.
You won’t be perfect. You will make mistakes. You will overreach. You will be too brave and also too fearful.
Your writing will make you fans and enemies, and sometimes it will turn one into the other and back again, faster than you can imagine.
That’s because the words you write matter—weirdly, given the state of the business, maybe more than ever.
Never let anyone tell you that soulless hit jobs and cynical, shitty hackwork are the way to “make your name.”
Their names won’t be on it, and all the clicks in the world won’t salve your self-inflicted wounds.
What kind of writing do you love? What moves you? What makes you happy? What gives you pride? What becomes and fulfills you?
Do everything you can to write good work well and nothing else. That’s how you make your name: By.