I thought that thing I wrote this weekend was slowing down, but it crested 10,000 views this morning. The referral notes on it and on my related blog posts are showing traffic spikes from all kinds of places. The Nashville Scene was one of the earliest outliers; they included both the original and my parody without comment in a miscellaneous link round-up. There’s apparently a thread on a ravelry board that have sent a few hundred readers. There’s a thread on metafilter.
The weirdest and most concerning was a couple of errant clicks from the most bigoted corner of the anon image boards. For a moment I was concerned that they’d found common cause with me taking potshots at a man they’d consider a “beta cuck”, but I followed it back and found that no, their take on all this is that I’m jealous of a straight white man’s “success”.
Listen, as I said on Twitter last night: I do resent the fact that his privilege allows him to get away with having such a mediocre hustle, but that’s not that all that particular to him? But in terms of success, I’m not sure what there is for me to aspire to. He wrote one thing that went viral and got picked up by Huffington Post. My most successful viral hit has still likely been read by a hundred times the audience his reached, and it paid exactly the same (i.e., nothing).
Actually, it was interesting reading that and then seeing some of the discussion on metafilter. Among the fringes, there seems to be two emerging narratives of what’s going on: I’m either a big bully established author stomping down on a plucky underdog with spirit, or he’s the established, well-respected professional and I’m a nobody scrabbling to grab his shoelaces.
Both opinions seem pretty firmly in the minority, so I’m not really worried about either wildly distorted view taking root. According to this guy’s CV, he’s had some success in the field of pointing cameras at things and convincing people to look at the footage. I’ve had some success in the field of writing things and convincing people to read the words. Trying to figure out any kind of 1:1 comparison is hard enough between two artists taking different paths through the same field, much less wildly differing paths in completely different fields.
My one piece will never reach as large an audience as the original did. That’s the nature of the beast. Its target audience is a subset of the people who read, saw, or heard about his. And only a subset. The people who read his and see a man talking about feelings and are willing to accept that this makes him honest, sensitive, and mature even when the specific feelings and circumstances reveal the opposite aren’t going to get my piece. The response is never going to have the same legs as the original. I could write a broader piece that takes down the general concept in more general terms, and it might take off, but that’s not what I felt the need to do.
I say this all not as a lament. I’m not bothered by any comparison in the numbers between one piece of mine and anybody else’s. My earnest wish is that everybody who read the original and recoiled from it would know that my response is available, but I never write anything longer than a chat post on Tumblr or a single tweet and think “I want literally everybody to see this.”
Everything I write has an audience. I don’t write anything for everybody. When I write a thing, I want for it to reach as much of its potential audience as possible, but I hate the idea of shaving bits off of something to widen its appeal.
I looked at the dude’s Patreon page a couple of times during the first day I was aware of his work. At the time, I was doing better than he is on that one metric, even before you add in my other revenue streams. I still might be. I don’t know. I’m not tracking that. A little while back when N.K. Jemisin and a few other trad-pubbed authors either made the jump to Patreon or upped their efforts in using and promoting their Patreons, I had a bunch of people in my social media inboxes trying to stir up some kind of feud by asking me if I was jealous.
It didn’t work for a variety of reasons (including the fact that these people are my peers and friends, which makes it pretty easy for me to be happy for them), but chief among them is the fact that I don’t measure my success against other people. I didn’t do it when I was the only person I knew who was using micropatronage. I see no reason to start now that it’s a legitimate phenomenon.
I will admit that the petty part of me that saw that the guy’s Patreon pitch revolves around inviting people to be part of “The First One Thousand” (i.e., his initial funding milestone is $1,000 a month) thinks it would be hilarious if I make it to a thousand before he does, but, I mean, reality check: I want to get there anyway, regardless of what he’s doing and whether it works or not; we’re not competing for the same dollars, so if I’m at a thousand I’m not making any more or less based on what he’s doing; and above all, basing a business model around spite is just not all that sustainable.
I’m sure that my takedown piece seems kind of mean, but I didn’t write it to hurt the author or spread hatred. I wrote it to provide joy and relief and mirth to the people who felt anger or pain over his writing. There have been a few times on Twitter when my frustration with his entitled cluelessness has boiled over, but ultimately, the reason I write parodies is to give people something to laugh about in the middle of a mess. That’s bringing something positive into the world.
I said on Twitter last night that everybody has a hustle, and I try to keep mine simple: I provide value in exchange for value. I’m not going to write a hit piece or hate piece for the purpose of stirring up outrage or a sense of righteousness in the reader. I can. It’s not hard for someone of my talents to do that kind of manipulation.
But it’s not very… to borrow a word from the original piece in question… worthy.