Maybe Numbered

Blogging may betray my incessant need for reassurance.

What else are all these like/share/tellmeyouloveme buttons for?

Sometimes I am envious of writers-gone-by who just wrote in the silence, unconnected world of their homes and then waited to hear back eventually from their editor. And then wait to perhaps get a few letters from readers.

I am romanticizing, no doubt.

Sometimes I leave comments on blogs and websites. Don’t you?

Sometimes I get irritated–does everyone have to share an opinion every minute of the damn day? Is creativity and thought supposed to be by committee?

But then that feels undemocratic.

After all, I like being able to express my opinion.

And then there are stats and the great popularity contest in the cybersky. Numbers don’t lie, they say. Sure. Okay. But they don’t tell the truth either. Lying and truth-telling imply motivation and purpose. Numbers just are.

100 people like this!

Only 100 people like this.

Look at the power of that word–only–and the punctuation. (Shouldn’t there be punctuation for the opposite of the exclamation point? The exclamation point is UP! The period is flat. Maybe we need something for down…? Anyway.) The number 100 is still the same in those sentences, but they feel different.

I’ve been reading a lot of interviews, essay, conversations about the numbers of books–publishing industry sales numbers, e-books sales numbers, click numbers, view numbers, friend numbers, dollar numbers. All this obsession for numbers when I thought I was supposed to care about words.

Reminds me of a favorite book–The Phantom Tollbooth. Do you know it and its subplot of the conflict between the cities of Digitopolis and Dictionopolis–which is more important: numbers or words? And everyone except the participants in the battle can see both are necessary.

Popularity would be awesome. Money would pay bills. But what if my stories still weren’t very good? Popularity doesn’t mean good. It doesn’t mean bad either. It means it struck the right nerve at the right time.

Would Harry Potter be as popular if the first book came out for the first time now–post Twilight and 9/11?

But I really want to write a story that means something to someone–even if it really is a ONE.

I’m romanticizing again…

Sigh. Maybe I’ve overdosed on my own stories. (See? I need that anti-exclamation point here.)

Well, I’ve got story number 12 for Story-a-Day May. It may never be popular, but it exists anyway.

How important are numbers to you?

3 thoughts on “Maybe Numbered

  1. Are numbers important?

    Money matters. Publishing is a business, end of story. (Ha!) It’s NOT all about the art, and there’s nothing anyone can do about that. No one cares about the art, the words. Stephenie Meyer isn’t a good writer but no one cares because she’s sold a gazillion copies. And J. K. Rowling could be good or bad or crap or fantastic and no one would care in the industry because they don’t love books. They don’t.

    They love money.

    And yes, we as writers have to be business people, savvy, sharp, and aware. We don’t like it but too bad. We must. Do numbers lie? No, and yes, they DO tell the truth. It’s not relative, math is absolute. And money talks. The rest walks.

    I like numbers, and I know from experience what not enough money feels like. I’ll take the numbers every time.

    But that’s me. And I’m very opinionated.

    1. I wasn’t trying to say money doesn’t matter. Of course it matters. Not being able to pay bills or buy food matters.

      I guess numbers tell the truth, but they are manipulated every day. Decide on what you believe and you can find numbers to prove it. People often believe the numbers they want in the context they want. If I see a number, what is its context? $10. is a lot when you have zero. It is nothing if you have a million.

      It is good you’re opinionated! People who have no opinions drive me crazy. I have students like that–they don’t know, they’ve never thought about it, they shrug their shoulders, they don’t care. You know how you feel, and that’s cool.

      But I don’t value what I do or other people based on number. Stephanie Meyer is no more or less important to me because she makes a lot of money. I don’t care. Good for her. Good for everyone who likes her. But so she has the numbers? Numbers change. Who sticks with you? Your numbers or your wife? Where will Meyers be when Twilight is over?

      Numbers are great and important. I want to pay my bills. But I don’t tell stories for numbers.

  2. I’m with you. Maybe in my case it’s just age, but it suddenly hit me yesterday that if I never sell another book — if I dropped dead tomorrow* — I’d still be delighted to have written. The databases and Web pages I’ve worked on for pay? Eh, not so much.


    * On the other hand, having another day to wake up to is nice, too. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s