In SC where I grew up, even a few, barely there snowflakes inspired rapturous joy. They rarely stuck, but sometimes those tiny flakes surprised me, and I would wake to find the ground miraculously coated in white.
That, I thought, is the way I feel now.
The previous day I had submitted a blog post to Reddit and that night as I slept, it had snowed page views. Mixed with them was a blizzard of “up votes” and liberal raves.
They had floated down only softly during the afternoon. Early the next morning, when I was still in bed, my husband said. “Do you want to hear the drum roll?”
I did. The blog views from the writing sub-reddit were close to 1000, with 22 comments and almost 100 up votes. The most views I had ever had for a post until then was around 100. Reddit liked me.
And I loved Reddit.
Encouraged, I continued to post my work on Reddit with similar results. Knowing my posts would get many views, I would spend 8 to 15 hours each on the three or four page articles.
In some of them I tried to address what I thought were important gaps in advice given by many writing professionals, things that had confused me for a long time and kept me from writing.
Some authorities, for example, said to figure out what publishers or readers were “looking for” and how to please them. Others said, “Write what you love, and your passion will come across to the reader.”
For a long time, I believed both points of view. But no matter how I tried to reconcile these two approaches, they did not harmonize.
I wrote about my resolution, which ended my creative block which followed a manic episode, and that was, write what makes you happy; write for yourself. I wrote about my experience in "Writing Fiction: the Problem of Trying to Please.”
Over 100 up votes and torrents of praise and encouragement rolled in.
Came over from Reddit. Dug this. Keep on keeping on.
Fantastic read. I'm bipolar too and it's good to know that there's a way to break out of the funk and get back to writing. Thanks for writing this :)
The feeling that I got from this was one I had almost forgotten. In college I had tutored students in writing and I had always loved hearing that my advice had raised a grade.
Not that I would have minded if someone had liked my writing enough to buy my e-book, but only two visitors out of thousands actually did. Still, the encouraging and thoughtful comments were more than enough reason to continue.
In Reddit, the pattern continued. I would submit something, the views would accumulate, and the next morning my husband would announce the amazing new total.
Responses to my work were overwhelmingly positive, despite at least one “troll” for every post.
Posting was not always easy. Reddit has moderators who will “kick you off” if they deem that your post is “spam.” At first I thought spam only meant direct advertising or junk mail.
But Reddit has rewritten the definition to mean any original material submitted by its creator. However, not everyone on Reddit accepts this viewpoint, and moderators have flexibility in enforcing the only-post-others “rule.”
Sometimes my individual posts would be jettisoned for this reason, but usually not.
I continued to write about writing, following advice given to me when I first started my blog: Write what you are passionate about. I submitted to other sub-reddits, too, with equally enthusiastic responses, before something happened that changed everything.
It began my controversial defense of Mathew Inman, a comic who had been bullied into pulling an offensive joke from his website. As an admirer of his work, I thought his intentions had been innocent and that the joke should have stayed.
I posted it on the humor subreddit, and there was an explosion of responses, mostly positive, although I received my first angry mail on my blog, too.
My husband, who had been monitoring the traffic, came to me and said, “Some good news and some bad news. You got kicked off. But the good news is that in one hour you got 500 views, over 50 comments, and over 100 up votes.”
If left up, it would have been, by far, my most popular post. “Why did they kick me off it the post was doing so well?”
“The moderator said you were spamming your blog, only posting yourself and no one else.”
Reddit had a learning curve. I had no problem with posting other people, but the listed “rules” mentioned this nowhere.
I decided I needed a break from Reddit anyway, so during the Christmas holidays, I searched for other aspiring bloggers to promote.
During that time, I also wrote a new post called, “How I Lost My Guilt and Became Addicted to Writing.”
Reddit readers had told me that my post, “Writing Fiction: the Problem of Trying to Please,” had inspired them. In response, I wrote about my experience of overcoming block in greater detail and focused on a different aspect: how the idea that I “should” write drained away the fun of writing and caused block.
However, I decided to hold off on posting it to Reddit until I had posted some other writers first. I wrote another post later, about rough drafts, but did not post that to yet Reddit either.
But when I tried to post another blogger to Reddit, I made an alarming discovery. The link disappeared from view as soon as I posted it. I was not allowed to post others, let alone my own work.
In fact, no one else could post me either. My account was dead, and when I created a new account, nothing changed; my entire blog had been permanently banned.
I was back to my core readership of about 35 people.
It did not matter that Reddit readers had overwhelmingly liked my writing and that many said my posts inspired them or helped them get “unstuck.” I had posted own writing; therefore, I was “spam.”
Losing access to the Reddit audience was painful. I had written my newest post especially for the writing sub-reddit audience as a direct response to the comments I had gotten from “Writing Fiction: The Problem of Trying to Please.”
Discouraged, I managed to wean myself from the Reddit audience. Due to a December layoff, a lot was happening at the time that demanded my full attention
I decided to write more traditional journal posts for a while.
With so much going on around me, the general depression over my ousting thinned, dispersed, and finally settled into a bland acceptance.
I could still write, with or without Reddit, and I forgot about it as much as I could.
One day as I was exercising, Donnie came into the room. “I just posted you on Reddit,” he said.
“Huh? You what? How?”
“I changed your domain name to match the name of your blog. You have four up votes.”
“Which one was it?”
“How I Lost My Guilt and Became Addicted to Writing.”
The computer became my hearth that day. The flakes drifted down during the afternoon, gathered strength, and continued overnight. By the next afternoon, the post had received the strongest response yet, with over 300 up votes. These were some of the comments:
Wow. On a subreddit full of lists and "rules" and sincere-but-lackluster attempts at inspiration, I finally found what I needed...I'm legitimately excited right now. Thanks, OP. I... love you.
Damn, I didn't even know how much I needed to read this until I was halfway through and I realized how much I identified with the author. I feel more like myself than I have in a while!
I was this close || to dumping all of my writing reddits and declaring that maybe I would return when I retire... I loved this once. Maybe I shouldn't give up just yet.
Thanks for posting this, it gave me much needed hope!
Holy fuck thanks for this.
I read the comments more than once and answered the ones posted to my blog. I always felt grateful when people made the effort to respond to what I wrote. I was thrilled to be back on Reddit, even if it was as an outlaw.
Not long afterward, my life took a dramatic turn and I moved to another state, so I delayed trying to post anything else.
But after I moved to Florida I wrote a post about drawing from stress for inspiration.
When I tried to post it on Reddit, under a new account, I was instantly kicked off with two damning words from a moderator:
All of my frustrations of the previous two months came to a head. I was tired of the assumption that junk mail and self-posted material meant the same thing.
Although the words were “blog spam,” I translated them to mean a classic barnyard term, so I had to respond.
I wrote back and asked what the moderator, called DisconinjaJesus, considered “spam.” I made the point that there were no calls to action in my post, no sales pitch of any kind.
It bothered me that Disconinjajesus had labeled my heartfelt effort as junk advertising when I saw it as part of a dialogue about something I loved. Pointlessly, I added that my post was the product of multiple drafts.
Ninjadiscojesus responded: Directing people to your blog – increasing traffic etc Multiple drafts – jesus wept
The sardonic remark begged for a snarky reply. I knew better but could not resist. I wrote:
Well, Jesus (the non-disco one) did say it was a cardinal sin to post links to your blog in the hope of “traffic.” I stand corrected.
I have since asked myself if I would have been permanently banned again if I had played it cool.
But the implication of calling my work “spam” was that I was ruining the user experience with my posts. The readers did not seem to think so.
The problem with calling self-submitted work “spam” is that it slaps a judgment on its worth without even considering its content. It does not follow that original material submitted by its creator is necessarily exploitative.
Real spam wheedles, demands, and gives nothing to readers in return. It is not the same as giving away a labored-over product in the unexpressed hope that its quality alone will speak for itself.
Calling it all “spam” is fuzzy semantics.
Despite my personal issues, I still go to Reddit sometimes. I like to read what people have posted, but now I wonder about all of the other posts, the ones no one ever sees. Are they all “spam?”
It would be nice to see a writing sub-reddit where writers could post their work and have it only judged by the up-voting and down-voting system without any single person deciding what is “best” for the rest of the community.
In that case, no single person would take down posts that most readers clearly want to read and discuss.
Although my days of posting to Reddit are over, I am grateful for all of the encouragement its readers have given me.
As for my blog, even having 30 regular readers is awesome, and I will continue to write it, whether I have 20 readers or 20,000, no matter where I live.
I live in Florida now, and this is my third post since I have gotten here. It is sun-swept and scenic, and a great place to write.
But sometimes I think about other places and the winter days of my childhood. I think about home and those small flakes that I could barely see, and how quickly they could change.
I think about writing. I think about Reddit.
I think about the snow.