I Stopped Caring About Stats, But Maybe You Shouldn’t
A few days ago, I published a piece about being overwhelmed by the stats game.
I’ve learned the hard way that when I focus on numbers — fans, followers, reads, social media likes, etc. — I lose sight of why I wanted to write in the first place. I end up putting all of my time and energy into figuring out how to increase my stats instead of working on my craft, and eventually I grow resentful because the work isn’t all that much fun anymore.
After giving it some thought, I realized I should add an addendum to that piece: Just because I stopped caring about my stats doesn’t mean you have to.
You Do You, Writer
Each of us is driven by our own wants and needs. Your long-term writing goals might be in complete contrast to mine. And, as such, your motivation for staying true to your goals might differ from mine.
Shannon Ashley, widely known as one of the most prolific (and highest earning) Medium scribes, has stated that she pays close attention to her number of fans, as they’re an indicator of how well her work is being received and how much she’ll potentially earn:
“For a while, I had a goal to average 150 fans a day. Now I aim for 200 a day and am trying to see what I can do to reach 250 fans a day. The way things stand right now, if I can average 200 fans, I can hit more than $1,000 a week.”
That’s awesome! Shannon went all-in on Medium, turned it into a full-time job, has published at least 3 times a day (maybe more…the woman is a writing machine), and uses the number of her fans as a motivator.
She isn’t the only one. There are entire Facebook groups in which members share and analyze their Medium data in the hopes of using it to work smarter and generate rapid success.
And, in his comments on my last piece on this subject, Hawkeye Pete Egan B. wrote:
“I’m almost as much a numbers guy as I am crazy about words. I don’t care about earning money here, but I do watch those stats, as I consider the number of fans to be gold — more people reading my work.”
As I said in my response to Pete, there’s nothing at all wrong with following the numbers if that’s what motivates you.
I’m not one of those people.
Falling Down the Rabbit Hole
If I check my number of fans, it leads to checking my number of followers. And then I review the number of claps. Soon I’m updating an Excel spreadsheet with all the data. Where did the reads come from? Internal (Medium) or external (social media)? Where on social media? What’s the read ratio? Was the piece curated? Which tags and publications did I use? When I promoted the pieces online, did they receive a good response? Were they liked, retweeted, shared, or otherwise loved? How are my stories’ highlights doing? Comments? Why didn’t I earn as much as [insert other writer’s name here]? Why does s/he have more followers, fans, and shares of their work? Why is that person following her but not me? Why did he clap for that guy’s piece but not mine?
I’ve spent hours — literally, entire afternoons — checking numbers and trying to figure out how to crack some mysterious code that could lead to long-term health, happiness, and success. (What I usually end up with is a migraine and depression.)
So, for me, numbers are bad. Stats are evil. I must avoid them at all cost. My ego just can’t handle them.
And after taking some time away from the stats page, I realize the numbers aren’t what drive me, anyway. I want bylines. I want my work in national publications. I want a book deal and fans who read my work because it moves them, not because I figured out some algorithm that will bring more people to my page.
But that’s just me.
Follow Your Own Path
One of the things I love about freelance writing is that there is no right or wrong way to do it. There’s no singular path to success. There’s no correct way to pursue your passion.
It’s perfectly OK to track your stats if that’s what pushes you to do better work. It’s absolutely fine if you’re comfortable sharing and comparing your earnings with other writers. You will receive no judgement from me if you find that analyzing data is helping you to put forth great writing.
Whatever helps you to do your best is what you should do. Always keep your goals in mind and use whatever tools you need to better your skills and advance your career. If that means following the numbers, then by all means, do it.
Just please don’t show them to me.