Culling

It would be a lie if I tried to say that I write “only for myself”.

In fact, I dare say that most people who write and share their writing on some level do not write exclusively “for themselves”.

Perhaps you, my dear reader, are someone who shall now attest that you do, in fact, write only for yourself and to hell with likes, shares, follows, and views. And if you are truly honest in this proclamation, then congratulations. You are an anomaly. You are unique. You are rare. You are a unicorn.

For most, however, there is some intrinsic desire to see numbers increase, to feel as though more people are reading what we write, and that they do so because they legitimately enjoy what we’re writing about…or at least the way in which we write about those things.

That being said, it is difficult to honestly gauge our reach, our level of connection. It’s difficult to tell who reads what, for what reason they read, and to what degree they like, or even if they actually care. We are given crude numbers that end up being this mercurial element which is tangent to all the numbers we’re given.

The actual connection between these numbers, however, is vague and the truth of those values debateable.

This leads us to the actual point of this post. Culling.

As of today, I’ve done two cullings of my followers.

The way I do this is as follows: I go through the last 10 posts or 10 days (whichever is longer) and I record the name of every like I got. I then go through my list of followers and redact anyone who hasn’t liked anything I wrote over that given span of posts or time.

First time, I went from approximately 430+ followers down to 48.

Think about that.

430 people were supposedly following me, but of them, less than 50 had made even the most tenuous of interactions with my posts. That’s a little over 11%.

Now, some people might say, “But perhaps a lot of them were reading, but they just don’t click like.”

This is true. But the problem with that logic is that, when I removed the better part of 400 followers, my stats didn’t change enough to substantiate the claim that almost any of them were just “passive viewers”.

Today, I completed my second culling. I went from 283 down to 105, and I suspect I will see the same overall effect. I suspect I will get the same sort of views and likes because, generally speaking, the same core group of people like what I post. Other people like and follow, and then disappear. More to point, it gives me a more accurate depiction of how many people might actually be looking at what I post rather than just giving me the total number of people who clicked on the “follow” button.

So, how about the rest of you?

Do you sometimes trim your following?

Do you let the idle followers stay on board for the sake of “well, they’re not hurting anything…”?

Feel free to share your thoughts. I always like talking numbers, percentages, and statistics. 🤓

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Sleep

I stand at the counter, pouring cheap coffee into an equally cheap cup.

“Hey, man,”

“Hey,” I say without looking up. I know who it is. That’s how life gets when you work at the same place this long. You don’t even say names anymore. Everyone is “hey” and “so” and “oy”.

I put the coffee back on the warmer. It smells like it’s been there too long already. I’m not drinking it for the taste.

“Shiiit, man,” Brian says, “you look rough.”

“Bad hair day,” I deflect.

“That what you call that?”

“Just tired is all.” And I am. My eyelids are lead curtains. I probably have bags under my eyes. I dunno. I didn’t look too hard this morning.

I take a sip of coffee and let the silence spread its legs. I don’t know Brian like that. We’re associates. We work together. We don’t go out for beers after work.

“So, man,” he says, his body partially leaning. That way that people do when they say, ‘You know I’m not racist, right?’ but they’re clearly about to say something racist, so they need to feel like they’re in the right battle stance for saying something that they shouldn’t.

Anyway…

“You hear about Krista?”

“She sick or something?” I ask. It’s a genuine question even if it lacks genuine concern.

“What? No,” he says, with a look like he’s confused or offended…or both. “I heard she broke up with uh…oh…what’s that guy’s name?”

I know he knows that guys name. That’s what guys do when they want to act like they’re not smitten. They play it down. They do it poorly. I’ve done it, too. Guilty as charged.

“Uh…” I say. I draw it out because I seriously can’t remember. I seriously don’t care.

“Anyway,” he says, seeing that I’m either not taking the bait or just not that kind of fish, “I hear they broke up.”

“She okay?” I ask. It’s a disingenuous question.

“I, uh…” he stammers – this isn’t how he thought this conversation was going to go, “I, uh…yeah, I mean. I guess. I don’t really know. I was just,” he goes over to the coffee maker and pours a cup. Using simple actions as a momentary respite from feeling awkward. “You work with her more than me, and I just…” he pauses and takes a drink. I already know the coffee is shit, but I didn’t care. His face reacts before he realizes he’s done it.

“Hook a brother up, right?” I say for him.

“I mean…you know, if it’s not a big deal,” he says. It’s a dishonest statement. He doesn’t care if it’s a big deal. “I mean,” he says with one hand up, “I’m not saying like, ‘Hey, bro, if you could ask her if she likes me,’ or anything. I mean…you know…we’re not like, passing notes in school ‘Do you like me?’ with a yes and no checkbox.”

“No,” I say, more an answer to the question of whether or not I like him. “No, we’re not,” I say in response to the whole statement. “I’ll see what’s up.”

“Cool, man. Cool.”

He puts his coffee down and leaves.

I have no intention of finding out.

I don’t care.

Work is a cycle of repetition. It’s worse than normal. The minutes grind like hours. It’s 5 pm in my mind four hours before it’s even lunch.

I sit through a meeting about some new policy that they’re implementing. I feel like I’m talking along with them. Meetings all sound the same after a while. This one’s just worse.

When I get home, I do it with a deep breath. With a hand that opens the door slowly.

Three hours later I’m on my bed. I write in my journal like I’ve done for the past year. I tell myself it helps.

I’m not sure it’s helping.

I take a deep breath and close my eyes.

I can’t use a timer. I found out a long time ago that they don’t work…for obvious reasons. So instead, I tap on my wrist. My timing has gotten pretty good.

I slow my breathing.

I wake up in bed, and the sun is that weird shade of orange-red. Like it’s struggling to get up, eyes bloodshot from a night of heavy drinking.

“I feel your pain,” I whisper.

In the kitchen is a note: “I have that thing with Claire later today. We should eat out. You pick.”

I muscle through the motions at work. I chew the nomenclature and drink down routine verbiage of a professional pencil-pusher.

I get off work. Shower. Change. I send a text. “Mondino’s”

“K,” she texts back.

I get there before she does.

She sits down, her eyes on her phone. “Sorry,” she says as she kisses the side of my face. “Claire was just…uh…” she looks up finally as she’s sitting down with a light press of her finger to turn her screen off. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” I lie. “Just tired.”

“Aww,” she says. “You should try valerian root or…oh…” she scrunches her face up like she always does when she’s thinking, “Shit…” she says with a shake of her head, “right on the tip of my tongue.”

“It’s fine,” I say with an honest smile. “It’s not that big of a deal.”

“It’s gonna bother me.”

“I know it will,” I say. I clench my teeth. I hold back a tear.

“You sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah,” I lie. “Just tired. Dull day at work. You know. Like driving on an empty highway all day. It’s sadly draining.”

“You should see about that job at Lochlan and Callister,” she says as she clicks into her phone, “Trish told me that…” she’s scrolling, “…yeah…yeah, they have something going on there. They’ll probably be hiring.”

“Yeah,” I say. “I’ll shoot em my resume in the morning,” I lie.

Dinner is nothing fantastic. It’s only saving grace is the company.

I wake up the next morning and she’s still there sleeping. I kiss her on the cheek before I leave the house. I whisper that I love her. I mean it.

The drive to work is the same as ever.

I’m standing at a counter pouring cheap coffee into an equally cheap cup.

“Hey, man.”

“Hey,” I say, without looking up.

I go through the motions. I give all the same answers.

“Hook a brother up, right?”

“I mean…you know, if it’s not a big deal,” he says. It’s a dishonest statement. He doesn’t care if it’s a big deal. “I mean,” he says with one hand up, “I’m not saying like, ‘Hey, bro, if you could ask her if she likes me,’ or anything. I mean…you know…we’re not like, passing notes in school ‘Do you like me?’ with a yes and no checkbox.”

“No,” I say, more an answer to the question of whether or not I like him. “No, we’re not,” I say in response to the whole statement. “I’ll see what’s up.”

“Cool, man. Cool.”

He puts his coffee down and leaves.

I have no intention of finding out.

I don’t care.

I muscle through the day. I feel like Sysiphus. I idly nod during a presentation. I feel myself reciting the words.

I’m standing my front door and I take a deep breath. I open it slowly.

I listen for something.

Anything.

I walk into the kitchen. The bedroom.

I go into the bathroom last.

She’s there. She’s on the floor. Pills scattered on dry tile.

No note.

No last words.

I clench my teeth and close my eyes.

I go over everything that happened. Everything that didn’t.

I sit down and write it all out in my journal. I don’t even know why. I tell myself it’s helping.

I don’t think it’s helping.

I can’t use a timer. I found out they won’t work…for obvious reasons. I close my eyes and tap slowly on my wrist.

I slow my breathing.

I wake up in bed, and the world is still dark. The sun hasn’t even stirred from its slumber yet. A world of deep indigo and charcoal.

Throne

Looking now, it seems as though I’m truly all alone
Within a home I never wanted
More a drone than anyone is
An expression always blank, as if I carved it out of stone

Walking in a world that always says, “You could have flown…”
And with a groan, I simply shamble
Falling prone, within the brambles
Hearing words that seem to guarantee I’ve no way to atone

For anything I’ve done, or for the seeds already sown
And to the bone, I’m feeling empty
Ever thrown, and never gently
As it seems my very world is but the interest on a loan

Looking now it seems there’s no escaping what was shown
Or what is known to be the ending
In the gloam that I’m descending
On a spiral that would lead me to an oubliette or throne

2018

So let me try this again.
I started writing this post already this morning and it turned into a poem about the new year rather than a straightforward narrative about the previous one.

So what can I say about 2018?

I wrote a lot of poetry.
I still write a lot of poetry.
At this point, I don’t exactly know why I’m still writing poetry.
Well…no…that’s not entirely true.
I write it because it’s easy. I can sit down and go, “I’m going to write a poem,” and in about ten to thirty minutes, I have something that’s finished. I think the fact that it’s something that I can complete without having to keep working on appeals to me. I never need to go back and go, “Ok…where do I go from here? Where is this leading? Are there continuity issues?”

I don’t have to thread an idea backward through the narrative of a poem. I just start typing and make it to the end and hit publish. And for those that may wonder, I will now walk you through my actual process of writing a poem.

  1. Concept
    1. A word comes to mind and I go, “I can write a poem about that…” or…
    2. A sentence comes to mind and I go, “I can write a poem with that…” or…
    3. I hear a song that has a word or a line that I like and I go, “I could write a poem with that…”
  2. Writing
    1. I start writing the poem with absolutely no plan, no concept of meter, no intended rhyme scheme, and no end game in mind
    2. If rhymes emerge in weird places, I run with it and go, “We’re doing one of these again, I guess…”
    3. I try to make sure I “wrap things up” at the end of the poem
      1. I like to feel like the poem has a conclusion
      2. I don’t like it to feel like “and then the words just kinda…stop…I guess?”
      3. Sometimes this means that the end of my poems have more punch than the rest because the first few stanzas are me just trying writing things because I’m writing things, and the end is me going, “Ok… let’s end this with an exclamation point…”

And…yeah. That’s that. That’s my process in a nutshell.

So what else…

2018…right…that’s what I’m supposed to be talking about.

So let’s talk numbers…I’m a numbers guy. I like numbers.

I started writing October 17 of 2017 – I made 70 according to WP. That number is inaccurate, however, because I redacted all my poems at one point, and while re-publishing them, some got pushed into “post immediately” so I had to revert them to drafts and backdate them. I had no idea when they were posted, so some probably got shoved into 2018 when they didn’t belong there. Also, I deleted some things and never put them back – most of these were poems that I thought were terrible and all of the awards/thinking-out-loud posts. Anywho…let us say 70 is accurate – that’s 70 posts in 75 days and I had an average of 11.9 likes per post.

2018, I made a total of 486 posts. Some of these are short stories, but most of it is poetry. I also left WP for a little over a month (I think?), so that number would have been higher had I not taken a sabbatical. That’s 1.33 posts per day. I had an average of 19.6 likes per post.

All combined, I have 86,697 words written on WordPress. Subtracting anything that’s a short story (I think there’s like…27? 30? Something like that…) that’s about 525 poems. I feel like I should see that number and be either impressed (Wow! Look at all those poems! I’ve written all the things! *insert sense of accomplishment*) , or maybe disheartened (Wow…Just…wow…what’s wrong with me? Why am I doing this? This can’t be healthy…). But if I’m being honest, I feel…nothing. I’m terribly apathetic about it. I see the numbers and I think, “Huh…so that’s what I’ve done over the past 14.5 months.” *shrug*

I once said that I started writing poetry, at least in part, to “pour my darkness out” – I even wrote a poem about that… (Poem about why I write poetry…is that an inception poem?), and if that is, in fact, true, then I wonder if I’m now poetically dry heaving.

Maybe?

I dunno.

I also said at some point or another that I started writing for an audience of one. I eventually realized that I was actually writing for an audience of zero. Even now, when I write, I feel like I’m pretty much just talking to an empty room. This is not to say that no one is listening, or that there aren’t people in the room who seem to enjoy hearing me speak, but that’s not the point. For a while, I think I lived under the illusion that, maybe I’d have some perfect day where I’d write the perfect thing, and my audience of one would come by in that perfect moment, and…I don’t know. Some part of my mind probably thought there was a plan in there somewhere that actually led to some end result that mattered. The numerical part of my brain, of course, just sat there shaking its head like it was watching someone eating paste.

Anywho. That’s where I’m at now, I suppose. I write for an empty room. I’m glad some people swing by, take a seat, listen, and occasionally clap I suppose, but I’m currently just writing for the room, and writing because it’s easy to do. Because I can sit down and start typing, reach a conclusion, and be done with it.

So…yeah. Yay for 2019, I guess?

I dunno.

I’ll keep writing things. It’s what I do, apparently. I also have another short story idea in mind. Plus, I need to finish up Aberration.

I’ve also thought about posting my book here…but it’s a big book. It’s 78 chapters and 350,000 words. Maybe, when I finally finish editing, I’ll just make a post about it, and put up a link so people can download it and read it. Or not…I dunno.

Okay. That’s all.

I’m done.

New

So, let us have our words about the year that is no longer.
Of how we were…or how we are…or how we shall be stronger.
Of how we left, but thus returned
Or how we never should’ve
Of injuries we know we’ve earned
And sad farewells to “could’ve”

So, let us share those moments spent and claim them for the better
Those days before…amalgamates of merely shifting letters
As if to say the day is new
For reasons that we’re listing
From pages old, and held askew
For names are clearly missing

So, let us speak of newer trails that forward we are choosing
And for a moment just pretend we’re honest in our musing
To offer thus a stoic face
That bellows of ambition
As if it were a bow of lace
On gifts of old abscission

So, let us cheer for what has passed and all that isn’t changing
For all the noise is but decor for words we’re rearranging
And what are they but letters set
On pages we’re erasing
In hopes that we’ll, in time forget
We change not what we’re chasing

Matilda

With passion in her veins
And yet a damn within her heart
She, within a world of chains
And fire raging even lacking spark

Set with eyes to weigh
A world that so disrupts the scale
Of balance and of beauty made
That pales to her who now I so regale

Cast as if a statue made
For beauty runs within her veins
The sort that often gods forbade
That others would so gladly beg her chains

With wonder in her eyes
And there, a fire in her soul
That burns as surely as the skies
And thus requires more than words of wax and hearts of coal

Turtle

Little turtle,
Once again you’ve hidden in your shell
Retreat, your favorite option
I admit, you do it well

Little turtle,
Why, when facing such a simple choice
Of having nerve, and using words
You always lose your voice?

Little turtle,
There you are, obsessed with your defense
When none was ever needed then
And none is needed hence

Little turtle,
How long in your shell will you remain
When you could merely come without
And, with your words, explain

Little turtle,
Fear for you, I do, when this you choose
To hide yourself away in fear
When darkness so ensues

Little turtle,
Tell me if and when you’ll finally see
You’ve made yourself a prisoner
Of dangers not to be

Little turtle,
Do you think I harbor such a will
That knowingly would do you harm
Or spite you with a quill?

Little turtle,
Let me tell you, clearly, if I may
I merely wish you’d leave your shell
And say to me the words you need to say