Nobody tells you that becoming a writer also means becoming a data junkie.
Nobody tells you this because a stereotypical creative doesn’t get along with numbers. Numbers are supposed to be foreign. Logic and creativity are wrongfully assumed to be two completely separate sides of the brain. They don’t belong together.
However, numbers are one of many ways to determine whether or not what you’re writing is accomplishing what it’s supposed to accomplish. Likes, comments, followers, views, even revenue. It’s a numbers game. If your numbers are steadily climbing, it means you’re doing something right. If they’re falling, it means you need to make a change in your production. If they’re not changing at all, it usually means you’re doing something wrong. Whether that’s related to your writing or not is another matter entirely.
I didn’t know that part of my job as a writer would be analyzing data. I mean, not back when I was a naive teenager with this dream of making money writing stuff. Now it’s something I do weekly, if not several times per week. My goals are based on numbers. Those numbers motivate me to write better content, because I want them to improve.
It’s very easy to get caught up in this mindset that data is the most important part of a writer’s website or blog. The truth is, data is only a very small part of the evaluation stage of your process. They’re a measurement tool, and should be used regularly, but not obsessively.
Because sometimes a post gets attention by chance, or for the wrong reasons. Sometimes a post doesn’t reach the right audience at the right time, and it performs worse than you expected.
But that doesn’t mean your post was bad, or that you wasted a few hours or more writing it. Sometimes, you get lucky — and sometimes, you don’t.
I’m guilty of spending too much time looking at analytics. I’m sure it takes away hours’ worth of writing time every year, or it would, if I were to spend the time necessary to add it all up. Think about that — hours I could have spent writing, I spent looking at graphs.
There’s nothing wrong with taking some time every week to evaluate how you’re doing. Setting specific writing goals, after all, sometimes means putting numbers down on paper. But don’t let yourself get caught up in how many email subscribers you have or don’t have, how many people read your last post or didn’t, how much you have or haven’t grown in the past two years. It’s important — but even more important than that is actually sitting down and spending as many hours as possible writing.
If you like data, use it as a reward. Set a goal to hit a certain writing milestone by the end of each week, and if you do it, you can review that week’s data. You can’t base your confidence, your worth, on a bunch of numbers. They matter, but there wouldn’t be any if you hadn’t written anything at all — and there won’t be any more if you quit.
Data is meant to be interpreted and used to improve the quality of your content. Don’t let it become an obsession that takes away from why you started doing this whole writing thing in the first place.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.