But I Just Want to Tell Stories
I hate web analytics and site stats and organic reach. I shudder at the word platform, even though I find myself saying it a lot (shame on me).
I hate all those articles that tell me to optimize my keywords, put the phrases from the post title in the first paragraph, write short posts, write long posts, add video, use lists.
Because I’m telling you right now, if I see one more article about how everyone on the Internet just wants to read lists, I will scream my last Luddite scream and scamper off to a mountaintop, sans Wi-Fi.
I hate all the tracking, manipulating, baiting for clicks and likes. Because, and I think you’ve heard me say it before, I just want to tell stories.
Maybe I can guess what you’re thinking. Didn’t I just wax poetic (and proud) about taking a break from writing my novel, which would, theoretically, mean that I’m taking a break from telling stories?
Nope. The story brain is deep in me.
Everything is material. #amwriting
— Cassandra Greenwald (@EditCassandra) October 24, 2014
Last year at the Chicago Writers Conference, I listened to Andy Crestodina, Chicago’s web strategy and content marketing sage, while he talked about analytics and keywords and all the ways writers can twist the electronic world to have a bigger and better online presence.
The science-loving nerd in me was fascinated with the idea that there’s an entire underbelly of writing for the web, tick-tick-ticking away beneath the surface, working hard to influence me, forcing my hand to click and read one post instead of another.
Then, after the nerdish sparkle wore off, I have to admit I got sad. The orchestrations of faking out Google and enticing just one more person to click on an optimized blog post seemed way too much for me, a writer who just likes to sit around and make stuff up and share an opinion or two. The focus on data and numbers felt so clinical, so impersonal.
Where’s the soul in plotting for better SEO?
I toyed with the idea of tossing aside all that analytic crap and doing whatever the hell I wanted. And then I snapped myself awake. Like, duh. I can tell all the stories in the world, but if I don’t do what I can to get readers to see what I write, what’s the point?
Of course I love the process of writing almost as much as the finished product itself, but stories can’t exist in a vacuum. I can scribble in my journal just for me (and sometimes share it, if I’m feeling plucky), but the fact is I need an audience, like all creative people need an audience.
Maybe admitting that feels a little too self-involved for my comfort?
I’ve managed to convince myself that people like Andy are necessary for people like me (people who just want to tell stories)—that somehow the creative daydreamers can coexist with and learn from the data crunchers.
In case you, too, need a little more convincing, you can come see Andy present at Chicago Women in Publishing’s November 19 program on writing for the web.
And because everything comes full circle: I’ll be at the Chicago Writers Conference all weekend, mucking it up with lots of other storytellers and publishing nerds. I’ll be taking notes and tweeting my heart out. You can follow along at #cwc2014 (the wordy tweets, not the soccer stuff) if you didn’t get a ticket before the event sold out. If you’re there, come find me, so we can chat, compare notes, and laugh in the face of analytics.by