It took me years of writing (and deleting) essays to get any traffic on this site. I wrote infrequently and when I did write I was rarely able to get more than a couple hundred visits that would quickly tail off.
Today is the highest traffic day on this website ever. It more than doubled the record we broke in a few weeks ago. It’s easy to be excited about this — and I am — but daily traffic is not a signal I particularly care about. Now that I “know the formula,” I can say that it’s not very difficult to write something that will drive thousands of short term site visits. I’m not interested in it.
Since I started blogging daily this year, I’ve had three goals: to continue to develop as a writer, to push my limits as a thinker, and to produce something lasting. Something I’ve realized over the last few years of my career is that you do not produce lasting work by focusing on short term accolades and applause.
As Thucydides wrote of his History of the Peloponnesian War, one of the most important books of all time that essentially invented the modern practice of “doing history:”
In fine, I have written my work, not as an essay which is to win the applause of the moment, but as a possession for all time.
You produce lasting work by thinking in terms of 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 years and beyond. That’s not to say that you deny the short term. I blog daily because daily posting is a totally necessary means to the end of producing a lasting body of work. It’s also not to say that accidents won’t happen and that things you write off hand might take off. But in the end, the best way to produce lasting, meaningful work, is to deliberately choose that as your reference point.
Though I do not consider myself “there” yet, that’s where my head is at and that’s the more important blogging metric than daily traffic: can I produce something that will continue to get quality traffic and readership in a year? What about 5 years? 10? 20?
Here are a few of my favorite articles that have done this:
The vast majority of writing will be forgotten, but these essays will never be forgotten. My kids will read them and they will continue to be referenced and shared around the web for years to come. While it’s fun to get quick traffic wins, it’s humbling to remember that more people read those essays every day than will probably read my blog in a year.
So while I write daily, I aim yearly and beyond.
Painting: Oedipus (1867) by the French painter Jean-Léon Gérôme