How do you get your writing noticed? How do you stand out from the crowd?
I learned a clue to this puzzle when I started blogging, nearly a decade ago. I had created my first free WordPress blog only a few months prior. Like my blogging today, I usually wrote about niche topics that did not generate a lot of traffic. My WordPress articles might get a couple of "Likes" and, sometimes, a stray user comment from an equally niche reader (thank you to all of my niche readers, past and present!).
But one late afternoon, while at work I noticed my email box started "blowing up" due to dozens of comments being left on an article I had published a few days prior. Back then, I did not have the ability to load a web browser on my phone, so I had no idea why my blog was getting such attention. What was causing all this traffic?
I had to wait until I got home to figure it out. Buried in the slew of WordPress emails was one from a WordPress editor, congratulating me on getting one of my articles "Freshly Pressed." I was still horribly naive to blogging as well as WordPress, and had no idea what this meant. But I quickly discovered, Freshly Pressed was a coveted recognition by the WordPress editors, which highlighted an article for the entire WordPress community! As I recall, my article ended up with 300+ "Likes" and over a hundred comments, and a bunch of new followers.
It was only later that I realized a sub culture existed in the blogging community for trying to get just one of your articles "Freshly Pressed." Bloggers wrote their own articles on how to get Freshly Pressed, and those with multiple Freshly Pressed articles would write meta-articles laying out their wisdom and advice. Yet here I was, a blogger of only a few months, and I snatched the prized. But how?
In mid-2014, Doctor Who was a hot cultural topic, with the pending arrival of Peter Capaldi taking over the role of The Doctor from David Tennant. Being a lifelong Doctor Who fan, and being a relatively new blogger, I wanted to write about the event. In early August 2014, I recall explicitly searching for "Doctor Who" on WordPresss to see what others were writing.
And I remember, it was a little depressing reading all of the blog posts for Doctor Who at that time. They were all, for lack of better terms, regurgitations of the same talking points in media and from professional entertainment journalists, wrapped in each blogger's unique style. It is an easy stretch to say that if you read one Doctor Who blog article at that moment, you had read them all.
I decided that I did not want to do that, and I never want to do that in general, so much so that I now try to not read others' opinions on a topic until I write my own. (A recent example is all of my Star Wars articles on the Obi-Wan Kenobi series, links below.) I had so many memories of watching Doctor Who throughout my life, why not try encapsulating my experiences with The Doctor into a blog post?
In the WordPress editor's email to me on my Freshly Press accolade, she expressly called this out, that I had written something unique that stood apart from all of the other articles on Doctor Who, leveraging my personal experiences.
The funny thing is, I didn't think the article was that good. I still don't. I remember writing it, and then moving on, satisfied only that I had completed my Doctor Who article, for better or worse. I think this is true for most content creators, large and small, that many of times, the stuff we personally don't care for gets the most reverberations with our audiences. It's been like this for all of my blogging years - what I think is really good, rarely gets traction, and the content I am not as vested in, sometimes receives my most active feedback. Solving this mystery, I am sure, is a key to success for any content creator.
I did save that original WordPress article, even though I have long deleted my first WordPress blog. I have republished the article, word for word, available to read here.
In the Sky, July-August 2022
The past month had many opportunities to see the International Space Station from my area. I documented most of my photo sessions capturing the ISS here.
Looking ahead, we are entering what I call "planet season." I am sure real astronomers will cringe at my term, but this only means at least one of the bright planets is about to re-enter the evening sky. First up is Saturn, with its opposition on August 14th. Jupiter follows about a month later, and Mars has its opposition in December. The planets are generally in prime evening view for several months after their oppositions, so look for my photo captures of these three planets starting soon and going well into early 2023!
See In the Sky for my upcoming astronomy trackers.