I GOT CURIOUS about my odds. The biggest lottery in Canada? I have about a one-in-15-million shot at that. Weirdly enough, there are smaller lotteries in this country where my odds are only half that, or one-in-twenty-eight-million. It’s far more likely that I’ll be abducted by extra-terrestrial thespian sharks. I’m glad that’s the case, because there’s nothing more terrifying in this universe than the menace of shark power combined with the narcissistic bitterness of actors.
I found this analogy for the odds of winning the lottery
Imagine you’re on a football field and that you’re blind-folded. You’re given a push-pin. An ant is placed on the field, and you’re instructed to walk around a bit and then stick your pin into the ground. Your odds of winning the lottery are equal to the odds that your pin will pierce the ant.
Piercing an ant with a pin while blindfolded sounds near impossible, right? And yet even these odds are not your worst.
Reason #1 to start a blog: to share my writing with a large audience
Forget it—that’s never going to happen.
Millions of lottery tickets are sold, but billions of webpages have been made. That number grows every second, as each day hundreds of thousands of new blog posts appear on the Internet.
The odds that your poem or story will be seen by the millions of people on the web at any moment are far less than the odds you’ll pierce the ant. Most likely your labour will be wasted on a post that cascades into the black hole of virtual oblivion—along with millions of other superfluous posts.
Sure, a few people will stumble on your site, just by accident. Most of them will leave without reading, because that’s the nature of the web. You may even get a follower from one of these non-readers, because following is a way to build an audience. That’s what most of your followers and likers are doing: trying to turn you into one of their readers. And by most I am talking 90% and more.
This is worth repeating. Probably ninety percent of your already-small audience is not reading, much less liking, your work. Face it: for ninety-nine percent of us, a blog is a piece of dust floating in the sky.
Reason #2 to start a blog: I have something important to say
No you don’t.
You have something that is important to you. Pictures of your dog, what you had for lunch today, something funny your boyfriend said, poems about your sad life, your random thoughts as you go through your day.
Why would a stranger care? People have their own dogs, their own lunch, their own random days.
We live in the self-contained universes of our tiny, meaningless lives. That’s human nature. Is your writing really so powerful that it pulls in people who don’t know you, and who could not care less about you, out of their universe and into yours?
Do you have something so urgent to say that it would draw and arrest a crowd, if you were to shout it on a public corner?
Isn’t it the case that only a couple percent will have an extraordinary power—a power that compels millions to buy their books and spread the word of their awesomeness.
Reason #3 to start a blog: I’m a good writer
I doubt this, and you should too.
What do you mean, and how do you know it is true?
If you mean by good writing that you write well—that you know how to use punctuation, and spell words, and make easy-to-understand sentences—big deal. Millions of obscure bloggers are doing that.
Yes, it helps to know the mechanics of English prose. Good grammar however does not a good writer make. Readers expect you to know how to spell words and use commas. They don’t head to Instagram to tell their followers about the exciting new author who totally gets semi-colons and participles.
No one gives a shit about this kind of good writer.
If you mean by good writing the ability to smash your way into the deepest inner places of random strangers, then wow! Good for you. So how do you know this? Show me the proof.
Is it that your mother tells you that you’re super smart? And your friends say you have talent?
Sorry, but saying these things is their job. They likely would never tell you that you suck, even if it’s 100% true. So don’t listen.
The proof that you are a good writer is not complicated: you have readers. Lots of readers. And over time, you draw more and more of them. People you have never met take the time to send you email, thanking you for changing their lives.
If this isn’t happening, then you have no evidence of being a good writer. It’s just a notion in your head.
Reason #4 to start a blog: I’m different and special
Sure you are.
Of course you think that your voice is unique, that your message is special. Everyone does that. What are the odds that hundreds of millions of bloggers are correct about being unique and special? Or that you are correct?
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to look at others and see the faults and weaknesses? You can tell right away when someone else’s writing is just okay. But in their mind, their work is much better than okay. It’s unique and special, right?
Unique and special is at bottom a basic math proposition. Take 100 people. Now subtract one of those people. The one person is unique and special, and the 99 are not. So you are either the one or the ninety-nine.
So, yeah, tell yourself you’re unique and special. And then stick your push-pin into the ground, and hope the odds are with you (they’re not).
Reason #5 to start a blog: I don’t care about any of these things—I just want to write
The world does not need another blog. In almost every case, another blog is nothing more than another grain of sand on a beach. You should definitely start a blog, however, if you can accept the following truths without losing your desire to write.
The odds are that…
– You are not a good writer
– You have nothing urgent and life-changing to say
– You will never have a large audience
– Other than your mother, most people will not think you are better than just okay
– Most of the traffic to your website will be accidental, and most of them will not read your blog
– Your writing is not unique and special
– You’ll never be a famous writer, and you’ll never make any money from it
– There are millions of people in the world as good or better at blogging than you
– You’ll be writing for and to yourself, and maybe a few close friends
– Nothing that you say will make a difference beyond the small bubble-world of your life
I sincerely wish you well, my fellow bloggers. All the best!