Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Forward Path - 24 August 2011

Where things stand

Well, the blog is almost two months old, which means my life as a writer is almost two months old.  Everything I’ve written in that time has been strictly for the blog, as I’ve been focused on developing and maintaining a fairly regular posting schedule.  Some of the advice I’ve read about blogging (and I’ve been reading a lot) insists that you should post on a daily basis. The fact that I don’t doesn’t bother me too much, because my posts tend to be lengthy, and I put everything I’ve got into everything I write.  In effect, I’m placing my bets on quality over quantity, which, it turns out, is the other experts’ advice on blogging.  What I’ve discovered about blogging advice is that experts often have conflicting or even contradictory perspectives, and so, for the tenderfoot who’s just arrived on the frontier, it’s mostly a matter of choosing which experts you listen to.  It also tells me that there is more than one path to success, so it’s probably not smart to spend too much time worrying about it.

Anyway, since the entirety of my writing world at the moment is my blog, and therefore represents my forward path, I thought it might be a good time to step back and kind of review where things stand.

When I started thunderstrokes, I didn’t anticipate making it the sole focus of my writing efforts.  I have highly detailed plans for stories and novels, as well as solid but somewhat less-defined plans for various things such as children’s books, travel books, inspirational books, and so on.  But with only about two or sometimes three hours each morning to write, and with each substantial blog post requiring somewhere between 6-8 hours to draft and polish to the point where it’s publishable, it’s easy to see exactly where that time is going.   On occasion, I can work in some writing time while Maria naps, but usually those two hours or so are taken up with research, reading, taking care of household business, or repairing the damage caused from that little Tasmanian devil spinning through the house all morning.  Once her nap is over, it’s a long haul through the afternoon and evening, picking up Jessica, homework, getting dinner started, etc.  Meanwhile, Maria’s racing around with a fully charged battery, and mine has dropped to 25% by about 6 o’clock.  She doesn’t wind down until about 9 p.m., but I’ve spent the last three hours roving through the house like a character from Dawn of the Dead.  By the time she’s gone to bed, there’s not enough electrical impulses left in my brain to power a potato clock.  Writing is out of the question.  The biggest limitation on my output right now is simply the time I have to spend on writing.  

Outside of writing time, finding and enlarging the blog’s audience is the biggest challenge I presently face.  I feel like I’m producing (all modesty aside for one word) superior (okay, now back to modesty mode) work, and the funny thing is, after two months, the world isn’t beating a path to my door.  In fact, as far as I can tell, the path to my door can barely be found at all.  When I google the blog by its name, it shows up eighth (what do you know? I think it’s actually moved up a bit since I last checked), even though it is the only one with the actual word “thunderstrokes” in its web address.  Hits 1-7 all pertain to sites describing an item used in a video game series called Diablo.  One of those sites defines a thunderstroke as a “unique Matriarchal Javelin from Diablo II.” That’s so funny, because that’s exactly how I’ve been describing my blog to people when they ask what it’s about. No wonder people aren’t finding me.

But if someone doesn’t know the blog’s name, how do they find it?  If you google “Kevin Thorson blog” I actually show up second now (that’s new!), thanks to my LinkedIn account. Anyone who goes to my LinkedIn profile can click from there to my blog.  The first direct link to the blog is 17th, and shows up as “thunderstrokes: Haiku #1.” Oddly, “Haiku #1” isn’t even in the top five most popular posts on the blog.  If instead you just put in “Kevin Thorson,” the first reference to me, if you don’t count the link that Google still shows to my non-existent teaching profile at Glendale High School, is the last hit on page 7 (70th overall), which is my Blogger profile.  Turns out there’s some marriage therapist with my name in Tucson hogging all my hits.  Google, your mysterious and fabulously convoluted ways both fascinate and repel me.   

These are the sorts of thoughts that bloggers have, and the kinds of things they talk about with other bloggers.  They are consumed by numbers, and by terms like “impressions,” “click-through rates,” and “SEO” (Search Engine Optimization).   I find myself being consumed by numbers, and that sucks, because math is one of the few things I don’t want to write about.  But if you’re trying to build an audience, numbers are your most reliable indicator of success, and it’s not difficult to start getting a little obsessive about it.  Just last week, thunderstrokes crossed the 1,000th pageview milestone.  It was just like that scene in the social network where they’re all waiting for their one millionth member to join, ready to pop the corks and smash a few glass walls in celebration, except I was alone in my skivvies, eating Pringles, and clicking the “refresh” button like an old lady at a slot machine.  Flush with excitement, I remember calling Elizabeth at work to tell her the exact moment that thunderstrokes hit 1,000 pageviews.  I had to leave a message.  Apparently, Ms. Baconpants felt it was more important to continue earning the money we are both living on, rather than to clear her schedule and breathlessly wait for my announcement. 

It all comes down to numbers.  Well, despite any possible embarrassment, I will share a few numbers now. Since starting the blog, I have had a grand total of 1,207 pageviews.  A pageview is the basic unit of measurement for a blog, and occurs whenever a person requests a distinct page from the blog’s host server.  For example, every time someone enters, and the home page of the blog appears, that counts as a pageview.  If that same person then goes on to click on, let’s say, the Noman’s Land Archive page within the blog, that counts as another pageview. Basically, each time a person visits the blog or clicks to a page within the blog, it counts as a separate pageview.  Most people will generate multiple pageviews on any given visit, so the total pageview number will always be higher than the total number of visitors.  With that bit of ‘Blogging 101’ out of the way, those 1,207 pageviews have occurred over a period of 54 days.  That equals an average of 22 pageviews per day, which reasonably represents anywhere from 6 - 13 people.  Thus, the need to expand my audience becomes obvious. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love the readers I have.  One thing I’ve noticed is that the volume of pageviews has been fairly consistent day over day, which tells me I’m probably doing a pretty good job of keeping the readers I get.  This is a really good time to pause and acknowledge everybody who has taken time to read thunderstrokes.  I can’t thank you enough for coming to the blog, and for sticking with it so far.  Even at 10 readers per day, that’s still an infinity higher than what I had two months ago.  I also can’t express enough gratitude for the great comments and feedback you’ve supplied.  They help remind me that I’m on the right track, so keep ‘em coming.  Finally, thanks for following me down this road, whichever road this is. I promise to continue giving you a seat up front with me for the rest of the ride, wherever it is that we’re going. It’s nice to have a little company.  Before I forget, let me give a special shout out to the four souls brave enough to call themselves followers of thunderstrokes.  I appreciate, with an affection so extreme it is only rivaled by my love of Elizabeth’s chicken tacos, your willingness to attach yourself to my site.  I promise not to sell your personal information to anyone ever, or in any way abuse the rights and privileges I have obtained as the recipient of your membership, unless I can make unbelievable bank for it. Kudos to the following avatars and/or actual people:  Deann, Carol, klove45, and my brother Kyle’s family.  For some reason, Google likes it when people join websites.  You are probably the ones responsible for me moving up to eighth – hold the phone!!!  I just checked again, and we’re number 5, as of 5:54 a.m. on Wednesday, August 24th, 2011.  We’re top 5, people!   This is cause for celebration! Where are my Pringles?  Anyway, as I was saying, you are probably the ones responsible for thunderstrokes moving up to fifth, just after D2 Diablo 2 Guide - Diablo 2 Thunderstroke - Matriarchal Javelin.(See, I wasn’t kidding about that.)  Your reward is in heaven, children (that way I’m off the hook). 

Alright, back to business.  In order for this blog to fulfill its ultimate purpose, I need more readers.  And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling some pressure to succeed quickly, seeing as how I single-handedly dropped our household income by 40% with this move.  I have to remind myself constantly that my blog hasn’t even existed for two whole months yet, and that the internet’s been around for, well, a little while longer than that, and has proven to be somewhat popular.  I’m trying to be patient, and just focus on producing quality content (more advice from the experts).  But I feel confident that I’m writing good stuff, and I want people to read me now!  Google’s reply to this is, “Yeah, bub, you and 300 million other people. Here, take this mathematically incomprehensible algorithm and have a seat.  We’ll call you when it’s your turn.”  So, the challenge is:  when everyone out there is fighting for attention, how do you rise up out of the pack?  Back to the experts, who recommend, first and foremost, writing great stuff (Done. Whoops, modesty mode faltering! Danger! Danger! I mean, which I am hopefully capable of possibly achieving in only my finest moments of caffeine-induced inspiration. Whew! That was close!).  The next thing they recommend is to find other blogs like yours, and get involved with those blogs by posting and responding to comments on them and even writing guest posts for them. 

This advice, which is supported by a degree of unanimity unprecedented amongst all the blogging advice I’ve encountered, introduces two simultaneous challenges for me.  One, we’ve already reviewed my schedule. If I’m going to write for someone else, who’s going to write for me?  Two, I don’t even know what the hell kind of blog I have.  When I originally conceived it, I didn’t have a particular focus in mind, which I also discovered goes against the better judgment of many experts.  For instance, according to the experts, I probably should have chosen to focus strictly on my love of reptiles, or maybe on my savvy coupon shopping skills, or possibly seek to create a new niche by focusing on using coupons to get reptiles, or possibly shopping with coupon-savvy reptiles.  But I didn’t.  As I saw and still see it, the primary purpose of my blog is to serve as my writing portfolio, one that hopefully demonstrates my skills and my range to prospective employers.  Its secondary purpose is to document for me and my posterity exactly what happens when one man suddenly sets out to become a writer for no better reason than that’s what he was supposed to have been doing all along.  The blog format just seemed to naturally lend itself to these twin purposes.  And, as perfectly befitting someone who doesn’t know what he’s doing, I’ve chosen topics to write about not based on fitting into a particular subject or niche, but on what would produce the best piece of writing possible.  Consequently, the blog itself is all over the place in terms of content.  I sat down yesterday and actually tried to categorize thunderstrokes.  The best description I came up with was “a serious and humorous blog about writing, parenting and relationships, and movies, which includes some poetry, inspirational themes and personal development, and probably several other things by the time you read this.”  If you happen to have seen a bushel of blogs like that lying around, please let me know.  I’d like to get in the basket.

So, my two biggest concerns at present are writing time and readers.  Readers and writing time.  Hey, that’s kind of cool! I sound like a writer, don’t I?   Not insurmountable problems, by any stretch, but challenges which will require some creative thinking and problem solving, to be sure.  Well, I never fooled myself into thinking that taking the forward path would be easy, just necessary.  Anyway, that’s where things stand today.  It’s funny, I feel like a field reporter in my own life.  “That’s all for now, Bill; back to you.  This is Kevin Thorson, reporting from somewhere . . .” 


  1. Your doing great, your doing great! This is what I say out loud to someone everyday, and today I say it to you. Your writing is life and in life you have to listen to all the experts in order to grow. Living the Dream!

  2. Does "E" know you refer to her as "Baconpants?" I can't believe that is a pet name that makes her feel all warm and fuzzy. Maybe we should all call her that? :)

  3. Adam - thanks for the support. I'll keep on doing what I do, whatever that is!

    Hutton - She's actually approves of the nickname, knowing that I'm actually paying her a compliment, in my own smartass way. I would not advise anyone else to use this nickname, however, unless she's bringing home your bacon the same way she is mine. And if she is . . . well, Lucy, you got some 'splaining to do!