Contests and Awards

On Being Freshly Pressed and Why We Write

By Hartwig HKD
By Hartwig HKD

This is my first post since being Freshly Pressed and I’m still feeling giddy at all the attention. When I initially received an email from Cheri at WordPress, I had to Google what the term ‘Freshly Pressed’ means. For those of you unfamiliar with it, WordPress essentially picks a handful of posts each day to feature on their website. It’s a great way to reach new audiences. As there are only a few editors tasked with picking posts to be Freshly Pressed, and millions of blogs, it in no way shows your work is superior to anyone else’s but it is a fun ride. Now I’m on the other side of it, I have what can only be described as stage fright. Can this post measure up to my last one? What if my new readers followed me by accident? What if they don’t stick around to read the end of this sentence? I’ve now sat on those little demons of doubt so I can get on with telling you about the experience.

In terms of the number of readers it reached, my post on The Joys of Longhand Writing has been my most successful piece of writing yet. I’m very lucky that WordPress Editor and Story Wrangler Cheri (awesome job title, and almost as brilliant as a friend’s who is a forensic scientist specialising in explosives…imagine that on your business card) discovered it. It helped that she is currently using handwriting to help get unblocked. The writing we are drawn to often reflects our own thoughts and that helped me to be found.

The most exciting part has been the interactions in the comments on the article. It’s been a thrill talking to new readers. I loved reading the descriptions of how people feel when they are writing longhand. It seems many more people miss handwriting than I’d previously thought. I was also very excited to be placed next to my friend @akmakansi on the Freshly Pressed page. What are the chances of that?

There has also been a remarkable, likely short term, effect on my website stats. I’ve been blogging nearly a year. In that time, my average daily views have been about 25 (with the exception of a guest post which generated about 100 views) and my posts have been getting a maximum of a dozen likes and a few comments. I had 149 followers. In the two days since being Freshly Pressed I’ve had an additional 1700 views, nearly 400 likes on that particular post and about 150 comments. Notifications are still coming in. My follower numbers have more than doubled to 421. That is huge for me, so thank you. There are lots of words in the world, so thank you for sticking around to read mine.

By Alan Weir
By Alan Weir

The experience has in many ways made me think about social media etiquette. Is it polite to follow back those who follow you? Auto follow back probably makes good business and marketing sense, but I’m not sure that’s what I want. I’d rather rummage through other blogs slowly, taking in the new ideas and quirks of expression at my leisure. That way, reading each other is a joy and not a chore. Forgive me if it takes me a while to stop by your online homes, or if I don’t at all. I don’t want you to be another item on my to do list, governed by the rule of reciprocity. Let our relationship be free of pressure. That way, next time we meet and have a virtual cup of tea together and discuss books, ideas or our thoughts, we’ll know that each of us is exactly where we want to be.

I’ve also been thinking more widely about why we write. Perhaps it is just the stage I am at personally with regard to my writing ambitions and the increased opportunities that come with self-publishing and the reach of social media, but I think recently I have lost track of why I write. I mentioned in a past post that without readers, words aren’t alive. That is both true and besides the point in some ways. It is wonderful to have readers. We want to feel valued. But we write, because we have to. Even in a void, on a desert island, on a distant planet without the slightest chance of being read, we would write.

I write because I feel rushed when I speak, a pressure to get to the end of the sentence and let someone else have a turn. Writing allows me to explore my ideas in my own time, to pick precisely the right word to express my innermost thoughts. It gives me balance. I am sure I would be a frustrated wreck without it. So write, write for the joy of it, for the clarity it brings you, for that sense of immersion and wonder, even if there is noone around to read it.

48 thoughts on “On Being Freshly Pressed and Why We Write

  1. Lovely post, addresses so many thoughts about blogging that I’ve had in the brief while since I started. Especially the etiquette of “following,” really nicely written :-) Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

  2. Freshly Pressed was so well deserved. Congratulations once more. And I loved this post too. I love what you write about online reciprocity and not feeling the pressure. That’s so important. Also the fact that we write, one: because we have to but also because we do want readers. I think sometimes we’re a bit shy to admit that one. :)
    Oh and don’t feel obliged to reply! I’ll know you’ll have read this. Enjoy the ride!

    1. Thanks JB. The comments are so fun to respond to! But don’t reply to my comments on your site if you prefer not to. I know where we stand :). It’s a fine balance isn’t it? We put our words out there because they don’t go stale while they have life, but we can’t expect attention. Always nice of course though. And people don’t need to feel pressured to show up all the time for you to have a bond. Sometimes online our group seems to blog about the similar issue accidentally, for example, because of shared experiences and reading each other’s words has a profound impact…osmosis of ideas. And that feels fantastic when it happens, like there is a natural reciprocity rather than a forced one.

  3. Nillu, I really like your style and grace!

    I’m with you with the follows; I’m actually VERY sparing with my follows as I can’t handle either never looking at the reader AT ALL because it is so full of posts, or looking at the reader and feeling giddily faint and guilty because i really don’t have time to read what is in there.

    I think a certain number of follows are automatic in terms of a perceived good behaviour tit for tat, as SOME of my followers i really have no idea (when i check their blogs) why they are following me – they seem to be blogs about selling stuff, so i feel a bit cynical about the follow!

    I much prefer to be a butterfly dipper in and out of blogs, to see what people are up to.

    I tend therefore to like posts, rather than do follows. And compensate for NOT following by using the posts I like widget as (provided the ‘liked post’ poster has used images in that post, they will show up on the liker’s ‘Posts I Like’ widget. If someone is picture free, it doesn’t appear. But i guess you know that.

    Once someone comments, it becomes a bit more of a dialogue and a relationship

    1. Thanks, that’s good to hear. I was worried this post could be read as a big F you! I know that feeling of feeling overwhelmed in the reader, of wanting to support other writers, but rushing through posts as a result. And that’s a shame.

      Your approach – butterfly dipping, likes and the Posts I Like widget – is a great approach. I tend to follow blogs where where I’ve had interaction with the writer, either on Twitter, or in the comments, or if I come across work of theirs and the ideas and expression jump out at me. Cheers for commenting and not throwing rotten fruit at me ;)

  4. Why we write? Writers always wonder that. You are definitely correct. Writing is a limitless form of expression. I was discussing the same thing with a friend of mine the other day, and I ended up telling him the same thing.
    When a person is speaking, the person on the hearing end of the conversation starts building up thoughts/images as he hears each word and starts adding his own subdued conscious perspective to it but to the contrary, when we read something the images are being formed but they are not hindered by our psychology, they are a continuous projection formed off the words that we read.
    Congrats on being Pressed. n;)

    1. I love your point about our own psychology muddying the message somewhat when listening to someone speak. I think there is some interaction between our own experiences and an author’s vision when we read, but you’re right, the reader is more open when reading and unable to interrupt ;). Thanks for commenting

      1. I thought about it more. So, it is basic human instinct that comes in here, while listening to someone one starts to develop his part to carry forward the dialogue. By default, we assume that when we are listening to someone speak, we need to reply. Whereas, reading, is like holding the author’s finger till he lands you where he wants you. And then, you are free to put your mind to use. To summarize, while listening, the mind works towards a more impulsive action, while reading it is a more mellow and delayed response that has to happen.

  5. First up, congratulations again! It’s been wonderful to see great writing get recognized, especially when it’s so many deserving friends one after another lately. The traffic spikes you get after a Fresh Pressing are welcome, as are the follows, certainly makes one feel all giddy inside. As to whether or not to follow back: you don’t want to feel like a snob, but at the same time, there’s only so much time one has to devote to blog reading, that the idea of having to skim through 1,000+ posts in the reader is a bit daunting. I’ve had a lot of new followers since my FP’ing that are obviously just selling stuff and looking to generate new leads so those I don’t bother with. I do try to at least have a peek at the work of some of the new followers, but if their focus is a subject I’m really not interested in, it behooves neither of us to just follow for the sake of following. Same has always gone for me with Twitter – yeah, it probably means fewer followers in total as many folks will unfollow if you don’t follow them back after a few days, but if they’re never engaging with you anyway, what is the point of following each other? Better to have a dozen great interactive friendships than 1200 uninterested “followers” who are only using you to bump up their own stats.

    1. Thanks Graham, and to you! I wondered whether the Editors took a look around the bloggers we were all interacting with, and so in finding one, it was more likely that they happened to come across the others. Thrilled in any case. Really good to know your perspective on the follow back question. It would be a shame if Twitter and blogs were primarily marketing instruments. I’d much rather use them as magical ways to connect to people we would not be able to otherwise reach. There are some blogs and Twitter friends (present company included) whose voices I miss if I don’t hear them for a while, and I’d like to focus on bumping that figure up. Speak soon ;)

  6. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed. I agree with your thoughts on auto-follow back. I follow a similar principle on Twitter, where following back is a big deal. I follow people because I want to share their thoughts and I don’t expect them to feel the same way about me. But having someone you did not expect follow you back can be just the ego boost you need on a bad day.

    I once posted on Facebook that I write because I have to and the urge to write is like having daemons in my head. The number of people that agreed with me was a revelation. Yes, we have to think about our audience but for me they are not the reason why I write. There could be no one in the world and I would still write.

    1. Thank you and yes, I’m completely with you there. Thanks very much for taking the time to comment and hope your writing is going well. I must check back in with Flash Friday. It’s been a while and I miss it, and I think Jess is judging this week too.

  7. You well deserve your place on the FP Wall of Fame, Nillu. And you are absolutely correct that we write for ourselves more than others. Writing solely for the purpose of being read is as vacuous as seeking fame for fame’s sake alone. On the other hand, writing without any thought being given to the impression of your offering upon the eyes and soul of an imbiber will ensure that your work remains perpetually in the shadows. But what thrill would the composer discover were their not such a delicate balance between expression and reception?

    1. Thanks for your comment and generosity. You’ve expressed this beautifully. I guess the best writing transcends the individual and finds truths that resonate with the reader. That’s the holy grail. To get there we have to be both part of the world and on the periphery. And as you say, there’s a delicate balance to be struck between the writer’s needs and that of the audience. Certainly a fun journey. Cheers for reading, n

  8. Ay ay! Congrats once again and thanks for the shoutout in this post. Seriously, WHAT are the odds? Was such a pleasure to share that ride with you :)

    As for the follow-back etiquette, I don’t see it as being parallel to Twitter at all. I only follow WordPress accounts if I am seriously, legitimately interested in reading them. And I don’t expect reciprocity from anyone when I follow their blog. Unlike Twitter, which is all about tit-for-tat, I see WordPress and blogging in general as a form of self-education. I follow loads of people on Twitter I don’t think I’ll ever learn from, but I’ll never follow a blogger whose words I’m not deeply committed to reading.

    1. Cheers Amira :). Always refreshing to hear your perspective. I like your description as blogging/reading blogs as self-education. That feels right to me too. It’s taking a while for me to work out the right balance (for me) of blogging/working on fiction/reading/social media but think I’m getting there. Now when are we all going to be in the same city again? We need to take this offline one day ;)

  9. Great follow-up post :) So great that Freshly Pressed has had such a beneficial effect on your blog and I love the way you write about our reasons for writing, mine are very similar xx

  10. PLEASE! Don’t feel the need to “follow back” all of your new followers! I find that when I log into WordPress for the day that I enjoy catching up on those that I follow through the “reader” feature. I would sure hate for it to be all cluttered up with feeds from followers that don’t inspire me. Meaning – I totally appreciate all 21 of my followers, but I may not follow them back due to the nature of their blog. I feel that in this age of social media we concentrate too much on the etiquette side of things, and not on why we are here in the first place. I am here to write as well, and a few of the folks that follow me are too – that being said, we share different styles, or subject matter, and while their writing may be wonderful, it may not be what would be inspirational to me to read on a regular basis. I hope they understand, but, I’m here for me first and foremost, and therefore need to do what is best for me. I don’t think anyone will be offended if you do not follow back, nor do I think they all necessarily want to be followed back. Just my 2 cents:)

    1. Thanks Heather, great to hear your perspective. It’s almost like a party isn’t it, when you hang out in the same place, and some people you return to time and again, and others it’s fun to have a quick drink with or swap an anecdote. But they are all part of your evening in different ways. It really resonated also when you wrote that you’re here for you first and foremost. Too often I see people around me who give so much there is nothing left for themselves. There always has to be a balance, n

    2. Gorgeous pics by the way. My husband was passionate about photography until a course he went on last year was so focussed on the digital settings that it seemed to him that the wonder of the visual was somehow lost. Look forward to seeing your analog pics, n.

  11. I think your party comparison is spot on. Thank you for dropping in on my blog, I think it’s funny that you got directed to my photography blog, I have a blog that is dedicated to writing as well ( I guess I need to learn how to use the site better so I post from the appropriate blog! And, thank you very much for the compliment on my photos, I’m shooting this weekend, so new photos coming soon. Tell your husband to find a new course, sometimes you just need the right instructor to make it fun again! :)

  12. I’m new to WordPress, and it’s a bit overwhelming. So far, I think only my friends have cruised my blog, which is nice, and appreciated, “But we write, because we have to. Even in a void, on a desert island, on a distant planet without the slightest chance of being read, we would write.”

    The blog I started is a way for me to shuffle, prune, and develop my many (many) bits of scrawl into a coherent narrative. I look forward to following your wonderful Longhand Writing blog more closely in the future. Just now, I’m still orienting myself to this new cosmos of creation. Thanks again for your wonderful work. Congratulation on being Freshly Pressed!

    1. Welcome to WordPress! It’s a fun journey and one of the best decisions I have made for my writing. I tend to post once a week and have been blogging about a year. We have young children, and the blogging makes me feel productive even if I don’t have time to work on my fiction. Thanks for the congrats and happy writing, Nillu

  13. If your current writing is any indication, then you have nothing to worry about. Your writing flows and it’s beautiful. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed, and thanks for the explanation. I actually did not know the exact meaning of it. You have a great blog with very interesting content.

  14. Congratulations! For what it’s worth, I totally agree with you on not just setting up an auto follow back. The process of discovering other writers is something to be savoured. In saying that – more often than not I do follow back as there are so many great writers out there! Thanks for unveiling some of the freshly pressed mystique and info on stats etc, all encouraging stuff ;)

    1. Thank you! You’re write, there are fabulous writers out there. I find though, that if I have too much to read on my list, I skim everything rather than taking the time to digest the words properly. It’s almost like when there is a huge portion of food on my plate: I get overwhelmed!

      Glad the stats were helpful. It’s been over a week now and the views have dropped to about approximately 200 a day. I think it would help the momentum for me to post a new article or two this week. Home life hectic at the moment, but I’ll have to see if I can find some writing time. Your blog is gorgeous, n

  15. A thoughtful response to a giddy experience. I have been following back more people in my reader than I can possibly read since being Freshly Pressed, and I’m not sure whether I will continue doing that or not. The one thing I experimented with that I know I won’t be doing again was re-blogging. There was another lovely FP post on Spring, full of photographs, and it was so cold and snowy here. After I did that someone nominated me _on that post_ for a Liebster award (after you did!) and all those lovely pictures ended up in my Media Library. This just seemed wrong. This isn’t a Tumblr, and that wasn’t my post. Several people also reblogged my post – I even found blogs that were nothing but reblogged posts of other people. It made me realize how thin the line between sharing and stealing can be…

  16. This is fantastic! I recently re-invented my blog, and the decision to add blogging to my other writing outlets (journaling,emails, simply saving typed pieces on my personal harddrive) was largely motivated by the desire to participate in a community. An audience, feedback, the opportunity to participate in others’ writing projects…in spite of the drive to achieve these things, it’s almost taken me by surprise just HOW ENORMOUSLY PLEASANT it is to see the little star or comment symbol light up on the Notifications icon!

    It’s wonderful to be recognized, especially in this world of such rapid and overflowing sharing. I love that you bring us back to why we continue writing even when that particular thrill isn’t present. Very thoughtful post, I enjoyed this very much :)

    1. Hiya, thanks for reading. Your sentence about ‘rapid and overflowing sharing’ is so well expressed. That’s exactly what it feels like: both a burden and a joy. Blogging is such a great way to connect and other readers and writers. I love the sense of community too. When you work on your writing in long (welcome) lonely stretches, it’s wonderful to have an opportunity to interact and to know that your words have resonated with someone. But that will never be the primary reason to do it ;). Cheers for taking the time to comment and good luck with your writing projects, Nillu.

  17. Just wanted to say that I loved this paragraph. For some reason it stuck a chord within me. It was as if someone (you) had finally said what I’d been unable to…so thank you.

    “…I write because I feel rushed when I speak, a pressure to get to the end of the sentence and let someone else have a turn. Writing allows me to explore my ideas in my own time, to pick precisely the right word to express my innermost thoughts. It gives me balance. I am sure I would be a frustrated wreck without it. So write, write for the joy of it, for the clarity it brings you, for that sense of immersion and wonder, even if there is noone around to read it.”

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