5 Things I Learned Upon Being Freshly Pressed

This blog recently got “Freshly Pressed” by our host, WordPress. That means an editor stumbled in and decided to feature a particular post of mine, underlining its existence to the whole WordPress “community,” which is god knows how many bloggers. The net effect over three days or so was a ton of new readers of my “Adventures in Editing” series, many of whom sampled other posts as well, to my immense satisfaction. (Though still not as many in aggregate as showed up one single day in 2011 when I posted the first “Editing” installment, and it got noticed, then tweeted, then re-tweeted, etc. The viral deal is still the most effective method of rapid transmission. In olden days, we used to call this word of mouth.) Nevertheless, Fresh Pressing brought in lots of new eyeballs, so thank you, WordPress. For my take on my Pressing experience, look directly to the right. One may display the “widget” at the top of the column only upon WP’s award. It ain’t exactly a medical degree for the office wall, but still, I’m not complaining, I’m bragging.

I have been floating in a tiny WordPress backwater since I started this journal in 2009: in general, only people who already know me have tended to tune in, which is OK with me too. I’m fine with anyone who wants to “follow,” but the many curious newbies I’ve managed to Freshly Impress in the past few days may be only interested in one or two topics, and I’m not sure I can satisfy them every time. I’m really glad they’re here, but I’d rather roam instead. So let’s see how many hang on for the long haul.

Now the stallions have turned back into mice and my daily page views are gradually reverting to the mean. But being a WordPress soopahstah for a few days has shown me a few things that I never would have guessed otherwise, and when you, the WordPress blogger, accept a Fresh Pressing, you should remember them:

  1. There are lots of spam “followers,” despite WordPress’s generally great spam filter, and some aren’t so easy to spot. Once you get Freshly Pressed, the gates open. You get “comments” written in perfect English, but they’re robocall-ish, and a peek at the sender reveals all. You get people who are following you only because they hope you’ll click back: for example, I just now got a notice that I’m being followed by a blogger called “qualitydiabeticsocks.” I have sent the obvious dross to spamland, so good riddance, and I don’t mind if “qualitydiabeticsocks” gets an email every time I post – but I didn’t know such begging even existed until I got Pressed. There have always been obvious spammers who aren’t fluent in English, like those sad-making, emailing “Nigerian princes” who want to “give you money,” but this is another level of sophistication. Fortunately, nobody can post on this site without first being approved by me. But get Pressed and you’ll soon encounter an entirely different class of spammer.
  2. There’s a 14-year-old kid out there who thinks he’s Lenny Bruce. (I take him at his word on the age.) He likes to riff on the titles of Freshly Pressed posts, which often give him great ammunition when taken out of context. If you get Pressed, you’re probably gonna get mocked too. Sometimes his stuff is indeed funny, but not as often as he imagines it is. Keep plugging, kid, say I, and one day you too might be in the SNL writers’ room wishing you were anywhere else on the goddam planet.
  3. WordPress bloggers are more likely to talk back than is the general public. I love that. I’ve always wanted the dialogue (that’s what the name of my blog means, after all), and these are mostly people who are sending out their own blog posts for the same reason, to get some two-way going. I hip my Facebook friends to each new post, and lately most of the back-and-forth has unfortunately been over there, where it’s ephemeral, rather than here, where it sticks around. The bloggers who have gravitated my way in the past few days tend to feel the same way, and are much more willing to endure the moderation process, which may be annoying but is also quick and permanent — you only need my thumbs up for your first post; after that, your comments go straight onto the site. (Unless you suddenly decide to start selling quality diabetic socks.) I’m every bit as gratified when you talk back as when you read in the first place, and bloggers tend to be chatters, so thanks, WordPress, for bringin ‘em on.
  4. There are many, many writers on WP. We’re all crawling, scratching, etching our thoughts into some verbal sculpture that others might recognize as notable. Dudes and dudettes, I know the feeling. You don’t need payment. You just need the rush. Many of you are super-inventive, and I have been constantly amazed at how many permutations there actually are. I was once an editor, which is what “Adventures in Editing” is all about, which is probably what helped Press me in the first place. But I’ve been inundated in the last few days by what I judge to be talented writers (yep, even the sophomoric Lenny Bruce kid), who are dying to find a proper forum. Your biggest hurdle will be to forget about writing like somebody else and start carving out your own niche. They always say write about what you know. That’s still damn good advice: to seek reality (even if you’re writing about ETs or dragons) by working outward from what you can see and smell and taste and feel every day. I’ll call to the witness stand, oh, Scott Nicholson. Read this guy. He plugs and plugs. He’s innately good – as are quite an impressive few of you! – but his best stuff doesn’t issue from what he learned reading King and Matheson and Poe and Lovecraft and all the rest. It comes from what he experiences on a typical North Carolina day. And you have just as much raw material as Scott does, if you’ll only use it. Thus endeth today’s sermon. By the way: if you don’t read, don’t write.
  5. You need a “round number” like 5 or 10 or 25 to constitute one of these come-hither blog headlines, so here’s the last one. Sorry if you think I’m imploding at the end and cheating you out of something, but hey, that’s postmodernism. Meanwhile, I loved being a WordPress princess for a few days, and I invite you all to stick around, keep posting, talk back whenever you like, and above all, take care of each other.
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16 Responses to 5 Things I Learned Upon Being Freshly Pressed

  1. LindaGHill says:

    Thanks for that – you give very good advice in all 5 points. 😉 I do think I’ll stick around 🙂

  2. aarondbell says:

    Before I finish reading your post, Tom, I just want to say that you REALLY deserved to be Freshly Pressed. Your articles are nuclear bombs of wisdom, and I’m really honored to experience your insight each and every day because of your blog.

    Thank you so much for your posts, because you have inspired me to become a better writer AND a better reader. For example, an insanely useful quote from you is on your (then?) guru, Ian Ballantine, who said, “What do you do? You read your tits off!” That quote, along with the rest of the picture you painted in that paragraph, debunked the myth of proper editing (which, for me, was a quick once over from a couple of friends…).

    You’re awesome, Tom. Again, I really appreciate reading your posts.

    P.S. Edit my comment? 🙂

    • Tom Dupree says:

      I wouldn’t dare to touch such kind words! My day is hereby made.

      (OK, I couldn’t help myself: I fixed a typo and gave the word “tits” the itals that were in Ian’s voice that day. But you’re still too kind.)

      • aarondbell says:

        Thank you so much! I saw that when I submitted the comment! I can’t help myself, either, when I say that I really feel honored being edited by you!

        (OK, I’ve read your post, and it’s so true! For example, here are two favorite quotes from your post.

        You talk about something very true with WordPress on point number three. “WordPress bloggers are more likely to talk back than is the general public. I love that. I’ve always wanted the dialogue ” That’s something I totally agree with! Only when people started talking with me and liking my posts, though, did I realize that this was how it actually worked 😮

        On the fourth point, too, you talk about “the rush!” “We’re all crawling, scratching, etching our thoughts into some verbal sculpture that others might recognize as notable… You don’t need payment. You just need the rush. ” This is so true it hurts!

        And though you typo-ed with “hip” instead “hit” (is that typo?), your thoughts, again are really useful, helpful, and entertaining.

        I have nothing but good to say about your work–which you probably don’t agree with! Except that I love quality diabetes socks ;.;

        Kidding.

        But that’s all for now, Tom! Thanks again for the hyper-quality work. B-)

        ~

        Aaron Bell

        P.S. This comment could be a blog post in itself. Why are comments allowed to be this long? Ha)

  3. Yay! I’m finally popular enough to get insulted for Freshly Riffed! Now I just need to get 4chan to call me a talentless hack too and I’ll finally be on top!

  4. Tom Dupree says:

    Dude, you completely missed the part where I called you a talented writer IMO. (You might not be so talented a reader.)

  5. Doug Ross says:

    As you know I am not a blogger but I do enjoy reading well written and thought provoking pieces. Congratulations and keep it up!

    Doug

  6. L. Palmer says:

    I was Freshly Pressed a few months ago as well. It is exhilarating, but also bewildering how much spam can rack up. I still get spam followers as I go. It’s also interesting to see the numbers swell, only to subside back to their regular size. I have made a few new friends, so that’s fun.
    Your Freshly Pressed article was both helpful and insightful, and well-deserved of the sash and crown of popularity.

    • Tom Dupree says:

      Aw, thanks. I almost sobbed when I realized my tiara was vanishing *very slowly,* like some TWILIGHT ZONE prop. Naw, I still think Cinderella is a pretty good analogy for what we’ve both experienced.

  7. …the many curious newbies I’ve managed to Freshly Impress in the past few days may be only interested in one or two topics, and I’m not sure I can satisfy them every time. I’m really glad they’re here, but I’d rather roam instead. So let’s see how many hang on for the long haul.

    I like this thought as it suggests that building a readership, especially one composed of people who like to read *you* (your voice, your take) no matter what you’re writing about, takes time. I was Freshly Pressed five times, I think, and I experienced this surge — some of it meaningless and spammy — each time. Yet strip that stuff away, and you do come away with new readers who are genuinely interested in more than simply the topic/story you were originally Freshly Pressed for.

    Here and there, I read post-Freshly Pressed write-ups from bloggers who have talked about the experience, and how eventually their stats level off and things “return to normal.” They then wonder — ” how do I keep the interest of all these new followers?” — which I think is a mistake. I do think it’s worth thinking strategically — studying one’s stats to see what has resonated, etc. — but that said, I completely agree with what you said above: “I’d rather roam instead.”

    My blog, for instance, has a pretty loose focus — tech, internet, place, photography, reading/writing, music, death. I’ve told myself to trust my voice and curiosity — to let stories unfold naturally — and common themes, then, connect disparate threads. There are readers who *have* stuck* around, post after post, and I appreciate their insights so much. It’s definitely the type of engagement I prefer and value.

    Thanks for emailing the link to this post. Again, I really enjoyed your recent Adventures in Editing installment — thanks for sharing it with us!

  8. Chris says:

    Hope you don’t mind me asking: for some perspective on the topic of ‘writing what you know’, would you say that there’s a distinct line between inspiration and pastiche? I personally tend towards reading older works, so, if I write, certain elements of style and diction won’t fit contemporary or near-future contexts anyway; but I was wondering about your input as you mentioned your experience with editing. Thanks in advance…

    • Tom Dupree says:

      That’s the $64,000 question, isn’t it? [A reference that seniors like me share with each other, and *only* each other.] I’ll posit Elizabeth George. She lives in southern California. I’ve known “Susan” for years and years, ever since we originally pubbed her at Bantam. She loves the British, and their constabulary, so much that she’s evoked enough research that *the BBC has actually done a TV series based on her books*. I would say that Susan did what only a rare few of you could do: *replicate the Brit chamber mystery,* setting aside the police-procedural part, and do it *from SoCal*!!!!! She has earned her many fans with auctorial sweat. I believe this is the rare exception which proves the case. Elizabeth George writes about what she’s *come to* know. The rest of us have to fish in our own little ponds.

      In other words, don’t tie your muse to anyone, including me. But if you’re having problems freeing her, go back and examine whether or not she’s false. Was that advice literary enough?

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