The Top 5 Most Popular Posts on the Big Thing–and Why

dems_top_5_101It’s almost the end of the year, plus I’m nearing the third anniversary of The Big Thing, a blog I started so that I could talk more about teaching writing.

I’ve been looking at my stats, seeing what I can learn.

Here are my most popular posts, according to Google Analytics:

This one about visiting Linda’s grave.

  • Why is it so popular? Every time someone sees De-Lovely, they Google “Linda Porter Rose” and boom, they find me. I get at least one comment on that blog post every other week.

This one and this one about applying to MFA programs.

  • Why are they so popular? Every time an MFA hopeful Googles, “How do I write a statement of purpose?” or “How do I ask for a letter of recommendation?” they find my blog.
  • I have no idea why this information isn’t available anywhere else. Probably because all the other people who could write these essays (writers my age who are academics) don’t blog.
  • Here’s the rub: I should really repurpose these essays and submit them to P&W or the AWP Chronicle. Then they would count for me as “real” publications, but they would also be harder to find and therefore less helpful.
  • Basically, I’m “giving away” these two essays. You could say they’ve helped me to extend my reach as a writer, or that they’ve helped me to meet a lot of new people. The fact that I have opted not to repurpose and publish these essays but rather keep them on my blog is a form of literary citizenship.
  • That’s what I think on a good day. On a bad day, I think I’m a chump.

This one about period dramas that are like Downton Abbey.

  • Why is this post so popular? Duh. Because people Google “What can I watch that’s like Downton Abbey?” and those Googlers are my potential readers, since the novel I’m writing is set in the same period as Downton Abbey.

This one about what to blog about.

  • Duh. Because every time someone Googles, “What should I blog about?” they find this post.

This one about how the hell you’re supposed to know if you’re really a writer or not.

  • Because, yeah, because people Google that shit up all the time.

Please note that none of these posts are about teaching, which is what this blog was supposed to be about.

What does this mean?

Over time, I’ve learned that if I frame a post toward teachers, about the classroom, it will not reach as many people as if I frame it towards writers looking for writing tips.

Simply, there are more writers out there than there are teachers of writing. 


Stay tuned for the next few weeks as I continue to work through my issues re: this blog.

And Happy Holidays!



  1. “…because people Google that shit up all the time.”

    I laughed.

    Could you write the article for the Chronicle IN ADDITION to having the advice on your blog? Maybe the article for the Chronicle is for managing requests, for the teachers, and your blog remains for the requesting students?

  2. Those are your most searched and read posts, and they seem to say that teachers of writing aren’t interested in posts about writing. But it might be instead (or also) that teachers of writing don’t use search engines to find articles about their teaching practice.

    So the issue might be not that the articles about the practice of teaching aren’t useful, but instead that relying on search engines to publicize those articles isn’t enough — that to reach the audience of teachers you need a combination of publishing in journals, writing guest posts on related sites and blogs (or cross-posting on other sites and blogs), and otherwise thinking about how teachers go about staying fresh.

    But more than that, while it does seem more than likely that there are more aspiring and practicing writers than teachers of writing, that doesn’t mean that the teachers who read your teaching posts don’t get value from them. And also, just because it’s a smaller audience doesn’t mean it’s a less valuable audience. The number of people who read a post is only one measure of the value of a post, and arguably it’s the least important one. You might also think about which posts are linked to and cited, which have long-term impact on the reader (I don’t have a way to measure that), and which are most important to you to have written.

  3. Cathy Day says:

    The teachers don’t need the advice, really. It’s the students. If I published that advice in print, I’m sure I would have to take the info down. I might not even be able to publish it in print at all bc it’s been “published” here.

  4. A. Leahy says:

    Interesting post, Cathy, as I’ve been thinking on and off about these issues too. We have a “recap” post queued up at Lofty Ambitions for New Year’s Day, but we didn’t go by the numbers, instead thinking about our range and what we wanted people to glean.

    Raw numbers aren’t the only way to measure a post’s success, of course. Even if there are fewer teachers of writing out there, you are likely reaching a far greater percentage of them even with fewer hits.

    Also, I know that AWP appreciated your rabble-rousing for the governance vote, and my students appreciate your give-away posts. That’s not to say that you should publish in the official mags, but we can’t do everything all the time. Hey, this post may be related to your time management posts.

    • Cathy Day says:

      Anna, yes it is definitely related to my recent thoughts about time. In my post for next week, I talk about the role this blog plays in the “field” of creative writing pedagogy. It’s about the things you and Stephanie talk about. I hope you like it.

  5. “Basically, I’m “giving away” these two essays. You could say they’ve helped me to extend my reach as a writer, or that they’ve helped me to meet a lot of new people. The fact that I have opted not to repurpose and publish these essays but rather keep them on my blog is a form of literary citizenship.”

    After five years of blogging, I am really struggling with this. I put so much into some posts—though increasingly I try to keep them short, sweet, and less ambitious—that I wonder why I didn’t try to pitch them somewhere for credit, as it were. Don’t know The answer.

    But for me, for now, I have decided that having to post makes me churn up stuff I wouldn’t. You could, I could, expand and recast a winner post and pitch it. Then you do it if it truly interests you, and thank the blog—and hope your new repurposing flings it free of the Already Published gulag.

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