A week ago I wrote a Buzzfeed article called The 14 Stages of Writing a Book. Soon after posting it, I got a message from the fine people at Buzzfeed, telling me that my post had been promoted to the Community front page and had received over 1,000 views. Because of this, the email told me, my “Cat Power” score had gone up. I wasn’t sure what Cat Power was, but it sounded like something good.
Now, writing lists for Buzzfeed isn’t exactly the type of writing I want to be doing. But writers are always being told that we need to “build platform.” We need friends on facebook and followers on Twitter. We need have social media influence and connection so that if/when our book is published, we can let everybody in the whole world know about it. Makes sense, of course.
I figured having my name out there on Buzzfeed might generate traffic to my blog and win me some new followers (and it did). Plus, it was kind of exciting. After getting promoted to the Community Page, I emailed my mom the link, and she was impressed to see my post there, front and center.
I started to feel encouraged, and almost a bit greedy, about the prospect of building platform getting more followers. Now I wanted to get an article on the main page! I wanted even more Cat Power, whatever that may be! So the other day, instead of revising my novel or working on a short story, I wrote another Buzzfeed post, this one entitled The 10 Things Writers Are Tired of Hearing.
Later that day, I talked to my mom on the phone. “I tried to show my friend your post on Buzzfeed,” she said. “But it wasn’t on the page any more. I couldn’t find it.”
“Yeah.” I sighed. “It’s already gotten covered up by new articles. It was only on the front page for a day. Or maybe less.”
“Oh,” she said, sounding disappointed. “Well, I guess you could write another one.”
“Yeah,” I said. “I just did.”
The whole thing was starting to remind me of Roxy and Velma from Chicago, struggling to keep their names in the papers. But there’s always some hot, new murderess (or, in this case, some funny list about celebrities) stepping in to take your place in the media. People forget you fast.
And unless you’re constantly posting and tweeting and reminding the world of your existence, you float to the bottom of the heap. So you keep churning out lists and posts and quick-crappy things that don’t really matter. They don’t last, and they don’t deserve to, either. And I wonder, should I make any more Buzzfeed articles — these lists that have a one-day shelf-life? Or should I spend my time writing something substantial, something my children might find on a library shelf one day? Because what I really want is to write something that stays.
“You need to build platform,” everyone says. I know I do. And I’m trying to figure out how to do that without sacrificing my real writing. It’s funny. This is the one comment I forgot to list in my article, but boy are we writers tired of hearing it.
Isn’t it grand? Isn’t it great?
Isn’t it swell? Isn’t it fun?
But nothing stays….
In fifty years or so
It’s gonna change, you know
But oh, it’s heaven
(From”Nowadays,” Chicago, the Musical)