Why does it matter that I want my work to be responded to positively? Or to be responded to at all?

My hunch is that every single one of us who writes something for publication wants to know that someone has read our work. We want to make contact. Why else would we make our writing public? Now there is an idea. What if at the end of every piece of writing the writer posted what they were hoping for from their reader.

My writer friends have indeed confessed to me how “starved” they feel for connection to others through their words and ideas. As a rule, I don’t doubt she’s correct here. Still, I feel obliged to stand and be counted as an exception to the rule, even as I’m aware that my “standing and being counted”, given the unlikelihood of this post attracting more than a few readers, is like the tree falling the forest with no one to hear it, but worth doing nonetheless. Phew! Getting kind of meta in here. Let’s start again.

I’ve been writing consistently here for almost seven straight years. In that time, my daily readership has almost never exceeded the low double-digits. Some of that low visibility is no doubt due to the fact that I’ve never made any effort to promote myself. I don’t have a presence on any other social media platforms. I only have a few people from real life who even know about this blog, and other than Arthur, none of them keep up with it. This doesn’t bother me. Quite the contrary. In fact, if I ever became inexplicably popular, I would pull up stakes in the night and start over somewhere else under a new pen name. As in real life, I can’t tolerate the sensory overload of having to deal with more than a few people at any given time. I religiously avoid crowds and hubbub, whether in shopping centers or comment sections. I have the same three regular commenters I’ve had for the last five years (though Shanna wastes too much time on Reddit hanging out with the cool kids to participate as often as she used to; let’s see how long it takes her to notice this!), and I appreciate their contributions, but I also recognize several regular lurkers in the site stats, and I equally appreciate the silent compliment of someone who shows up for no other reason than to quietly read what I think.

So why do I write here, in public, if not to attract a following? Well, to be honest, the audience could be purely theoretical and still serve its function. Obviously, if I were adamantly opposed to interaction with readers, I could turn the comments off or make the blog readable by invitation only. But even if I never got any comments, the mere idea of an audience provides a useful focus and keeps this from being an exercise in solipsism. Envisioning a Constant Reader can be a reminder to strive for more clarity. Newcombe seems to drive herself half-mad obsessing over the lack of comments on her posts. I laugh as I check and see that the majority of the posts I’m most proud of have no comments and few unique pageviews. The satisfaction was entirely in the writing. Not that there’s anything wrong with desiring company and feedback, of course. I just want to state for the record that a pure, selfish labor of love is not only possible but fulfilling.

I don’t hope for anything from you. I only hope that you are either entertained or informed by what I write, or, best of all, that you go away thinking, “Huh; I never thought of it like that before.” I hope to clearly express thoughts you didn’t even know you had. I hope that you go pick up one of the countless books I mention here and find something enthralling in it. I hope to remind you, if needed, how much fun it is to think beyond the obvious.

He is not merely not looking for fame; he would even like to escape gratitude, for gratitude is too importunate and lacks respect for solitude and silence. What he seeks is to live nameless and lightly mocked at, too humble to awaken envy or hostility, with a head free of fever, equipped with a handful of knowledge and a bagful of experience, as it were a poor-doctor of the spirit aiding those whose head is confused by opinions without their being really aware who has aided them! Not desiring to maintain his own opinion or celebrate a victory over them, but to address them in such a way that, after the slightest of imperceptible hints or contradictions, they themselves arrive at the truth and go away proud of the fact! To be like a little inn which rejects no one who is in need but which is afterwards forgotten or ridiculed! …That would be a life! That would be a reason for a long life!

— Nietzsche