The psychology of choice

When the Magic Kingdom in Orlando opened in October 1971, success was far from certain. Oh sure, Walt Disney had opened Disneyland in Anaheim in 1955 and its success hinted at what was to come, but the Magic Kingdom was significantly larger and Walt Disney had passed away five years prior to the opening.

When the movie Casablanca was released, the film earned $3.7, a substantial but not spectacular box-office success. No one predicted what was to come, that the film would win the Oscars for best picture, director, and screenplay, and would go on to be ranked as one of the best American movies of all time.

Throwing darts blindfolded

This is my long way of saying that predicting the future success of a creative piece is a challenging endeavor. In my own life, I’m a horrible predictor of what people want to read or watch on my blog. I map out my blogs each week and naturally think about which ones will be well-read and which ones are there for me, meaning I like them, but I don’t expect them to earn much of an audience. In the end, I’ve come to one simple conclusion: I have no idea what’s going to do well or not well.

For example, my biggest story from a readership standpoint so far this year has been a “throwaway story” — one that I wrote in a flurry of activity one night after my wife and I went out to dinner and learned that a friend’s husband had passed away. I felt bad for my wife’s friend and jotted down a few of my feelings. It was cathartic for me. I let my emotions go and got them down on the computer screen. I wasn’t sure if the story worked or not, but the more I read it, the more I thought it might touch others too.

And the survey says!

From those little kernels of creativity, my blog post, Making the most of every second, emerged and ranks as the biggest hits leader this year. Right up there is a silly little post I wrote poking fun of Nittany, our Lhasa Apso-Bichon Frise, and about her getting older. The post titled appropriately, Turning 13, has done better than I ever expected. And yes, the little bugger, God bless her, has to love that even on the World Wide Web, she still finds a way to annoy and bug me.

Yes, yes, I’ve read my share of Do It Yourself stories about blogging. I know that I really should do more marketing and social media. I’ve learned too that you shouldn’t place too much emphasis on hits. I watch the hits more than anything to amuse myself. I’ve found lately that the stories that I expect to do well or love because of the writing and how they make me feel … perform good, but not great.

A roll of the dice

I have many personal favorites. I’m talking about stories like Semper Fi on my son’s decision to enlist in the United State Marine Corps or A quilt made with love on the family quilt that my mom and dad made my wife and I when we were newlyweds.

They’ve had their share of reader spikes, but not nearly as well as another story I wrote tongue in cheek, called Why didn’t anyone tell me? on the silly, but important things I learned about myself watching of all things — crummy morning television.

I’m left with one simple, but nagging thought: People are crazy!

13 thoughts on “The psychology of choice

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  1. I was JUST thinking about this the other day. The post I wrote last week had a ton of likes and comments but was not well received, and the one I wrote this week has been rather quiet but I loved it so much. So yes … People are crazy 😂

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I totally get what you mean Brian. I write mostly for myself but it feels wonderful when others appreciate it. That being said if you’re writing for yourself than harder to be disappointed. I always think about leaving something behind for my son. If nobody reads it other than him … I’d die happy knowing I gave him something to help him through the hardships of life or to keep the memories alive when I’m long gone.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Great point LaShelle! I think of my kids often when I’m writing. They’re often the audience in my head. I find it helps focus my thoughts and even gives me strength to cut away the junk, be vulnerable, and dig deep for what’s authentic. That’s ultimately how I try to judge my writing: not by hits or views, while that’s all nice, but by the feeling I feel inside. If I feel I was authentic, then that’s all that matters. For what it’s worth.

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      3. I can relate! Sometimes when I’m writing it’s kinda like jumping off a diving board into this otherworldly place in my head. I know I’ve hit the mark if I’m able to make myself laugh or cry while I’m in my own head. If that makes any sense hahaha

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Oh, it makes complete sense. In fact, I was in a work meeting today and someone asked me about my personal writing, I was trying to explain this idea. Of course, I couldn’t come up at the time with the right words, but that’s exactly how I would describe it: “trying to make myself laugh or cry.” The closest I came was mentioning the Robert Frost line: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” I like your description better. Thank you.

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    1. Couldn’t agree more. Of course, strangely enough, I do find those two elements related. When I’m the most vulnerable, then my writing tends to be the most concise and on point. When I’m fuzzy and maybe not as authentic as I should be, my writing tends to be more flowery and all over the place. Funny how that works. Thx for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

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