Taking Stock

This is the third look at the numbers. The firstwas at 6 months. The secondwas at 1 year.  This one is late at 2½ years.

Choosing the metrics for it is never a value-free process, and collecting the data is an occupation, but even a loosely gathered set of facts can be revealing.

At post number 150, for example, I figure we’re now into Blogging 201.

0 missed days. 0 tardy.

Brand, though tweaked, remains at 5 words: clean, visual, informative, encouraging, and real. The only addition is “real” but perhaps “straight” or maybe even “opinionated” are more to the mark.

Posts still at 400 +/- words. Still like that focused, quick length.

Still carried high on Alltop. Still with enduring champions and many more ping backs from around the world, of late, Brazil, Holland, Korea, and Singapore. Chinese readership is growing. Monthly visitors  6,600; monthly page views 12,600. .

Posts inspired from wandering museums and galleries: dozens.  Posts inspired from the peculiar goings-on in my tiny, wonderful town: 7.  Subjects I tend to return to: 5 process; storynaming things, breaking rules, and going for it.

Permissions sought and received: 4. Permissions refused: 1 and it was a most awkward moment, and a shame, as it’s a story I really wanted to tell.

Number of attempted posts that just didn’t work: countless, or at least I’m not counting them.

Most popular of late: How to Write a Villain and Open to Interpretation. Also How to Write a Query LetterWhat’s in a Name?, and Three Writing Principles a Long Way Downstream.

Most successful title: “How to. . . ”  Used 14 times, or 9.3%.

Reader response: roughly 50% female, 50% male. Twitter favored.

Most pushback: Do You Need to Know the Ending? and Prayer or Plan? and The Most Important Skill for a Writer.

Total word count approximately 180,000. By comparison, my novel has roughly 115,000, an essay in progress 3,500, while a set of notes taken on the fly and pretty much on a daily basis might have 700 words.

Number of times profanity appears: 3 – once  in a photo, and again in an expression, and finally in a symbol of an erect middle finger sculpted bigger than life by the bad boy artist Cattelan and positioned not incidentally in front of the Italian stock market.

Most fun: 100% choosing the photos.

Most valuable player: my editor who says it like it is and has some ideas on how to fix the broken bits. And my tech guy, without whom survival is out of the question.

Most surprising turn of events: One honorary doctorate in letters forthcoming in just a few weeks and earned in part for recognition of this blog.

Atahualpa WP 2.92 Theme with 5 widgets and 1 favored classification: “mechanics.” Akismet with 46,850 filtered bits of spam and 106 suspects in the queue as we speak.

The next post, next Friday—number 151.

Comments welcome and edited to include first names only, and website, if provided; never your email. Photo of sextant by United States Pacific Fleet and the numbers board is by admanramblings.com.

The Good, the Bad, and the Unclear

What went well these past twelve months, and what could have gone better? I’m supposed to ask myself this every quarter—it’s in the plan!—but that part of the plan, two years running now, has fizzled. Still, it’s not too late:

1.  TIME

On a good day, I can look up and be amazed that five hours have slipped by. But  I may not have produced much, as it can take me multiple iterations to figure something out. I hate this about my writing. And yes, I do know people who get it right the very first time. (Okay, only two people. And yes, they are MacArthur prize winners.)


But hey, not for nothing, all those hours this work-a-day writer has put in, for at least I have established a voice for this blog. That’s one part of the plan that went well. If you say soulofaword, you mean me.


Every post, including this one, comes with photographs (part of the plan). And, as was true from the very beginning, trawling the photo sites and picking the pictures continues to be a pleasure.  It’s like accessorizing. The hard part—the writing—is done, and now we get to pick the shoes.


My sense is that these posts are growing in complexity, both in content and in language. This was not in the plan. Is this a good thing? A bad thing?  I’m not sure yet, but I will say that complexity doesn’t add to the ease or speed of the undertaking. And it takes up time that should be spent on other things, like the business of blogging.


The stories are one thing, and people have their favorites, but many of the most popular posts here deliver information in neat, tidy lists and/or have titles that begin “How to . . . ” What to make of this?  Are my readers pressed for time? Are they looking for instruction? Do they prefer to graze, not read?  And from a writer’s point of view, is it easier or more difficult to use this form?

These are some of the questions I’ll be answering as I make my year-end plan. For now, though, I’m off to gather the hard data, another something I’ve left for the very last moment, but oh well, it’s not too late.

Comments welcome and edited to include first names only, and website, if provided; never your email. Photo credit – Giacomo Lorenzo.

Just the Facts

As the cop says to the old lady, “Just the facts, ma’am.”

Number of months blogging: 8.

Number of posts: 65. Ones I particularly like:  21.  Website tune-ups: 3. Improvements in the works: 3.

Posts pulled from an inventory of ideas: 15.  Freshly conceived, more contemporaneously inspired posts: 50.  Rate of new pieces generated as compared to inventory:  3:10.

Number of free photo sources: 3. Countries represented in my stable of photographers: dozens. Number of photographers I called upon repeatedly: 2.

Number of permissions sought: 11. Most required for a single piece: 7. I didn’t run it, even though it sported two from the CIA, one of them a spy, a famous cartoonist, an accomplished painter, the king of Bhutan, a parrot, and a man who knew how to cure prosciutto in the attic. . . .

Dumb decisions to which I nonetheless adhere: 1 (The issue: SEO versus what one would really like to say.)

Publication: twice weekly. Number of Tuesday pieces that spiked: a lot, randomly. Number of Friday pieces that spiked: same. Biggest spikes:  unrelated to day of the week.

Most popular post:  How is Information Acquired.  (Note: Topic had sex appeal.) 22 others also particularly popular, including: What’s in a Name?, Three Writing Principles a Long Way Downstream, Trash and the Written Word, Flamingo A-go-go, Choosing to Write, Owning a Word, and The Clause for Immortality.

Number of planning hours per week:  2.  Number of writing hours:  never enough, and they fly by.

Number of pieces that just did not work:  7. Number of times I tend to go at a piece, over and over, until at last I come to my senses and trash it: 4.

Typical posting hour: 6:30 a. m. Latest posting hour: 3:30 p.mTwice.

Number of languages in which spam arrives: 5. Most popular, of late: Russian. Rate of real comment (best as I can tell) to spam: 1:15.

Most fun in the working day:  selecting the photography, which is refreshing after the labor of writing.

Number of changes as promised in my last blog, which addressed a refocusing initiative: 1. The change: This blog is now a weekly, with Friday posts.

See you next week.

Photo credit: ralphsmyth.me.uk

Playing it by the Numbers

I spent 8 months learning to blog. I needed 10. There were 3 blogs I studied most intently, but some 50 passed before my eyes.

Current wisdom suggested 30 finished pieces before I launched. I had 48 ideas and partial sketches of 10, but 0 finished. The shortest piece came together in 30 minutes. The longest took many hours, over days. The longest piece is no more than 400 words. The shortest is 93. The number of pieces I’ve walked away from until I can figure out what’s wrong is 3.

I have viewers in 66 countries, including most of Europe, Southeast Asia, China, India, South Africa and Australia. The most views I’ve received in a single day is 450. The most in a weekend was 655. The least views were a pitiful 1. The most popular topic had some sex appeal, though 2 readers linked the subject of that post closer to the idea of “enchantment,” which I liked better. The blog has run 4 months, twice a week, 32 posts, and with 259 comments and several discussions generated.

Along the way I’ve picked up 2 nice champions and some pleasant fans. Total page views are 1,752. A surprising 3 times I was drawn into online conversations I never thought I’d have, 2 of which I’ve written about. Along the way, many things happen in real life and you read 0 about it here. This is a blog for writers, not a diary, though real life is certainly a feature.

Every 2 months or so, I evaluate my data and will seek the casual but purposeful counsel of 5 generous people in this process. 3 come from business and the café will be involved. 1 will be at her kitchen table, and 1 will be at mine. In 2 more months, I’m at the 6month line, half-way to a year. I’ll look at the big questions then: fulfillment, satisfaction, and value.

A writer can learn a lot by his numbers, even if loosely gathered. People who favor words don’t always see this, but it’s a handy tool in the toolbox—nothing greater than this, but nothing less, either, and so easy to do.

Photo credits: graph by Gabriella Fabri, sxc; calculator by Stefan Gustafsson, sxc