Buzz, revisited

Last week, I posted a story, Buzz, that paints a picture of drug use. It wasn’t encouraging or cautionary. It offered no opinion. It was simply a snapshot, a vivid scene featuring four intoxicated teens.

It went nowhere. Stats-wise, it was my worst performing story in a year. Thirty page-views, two commenters, not so many likes. Buzz, for me, was a flop.

Let me tell you about my story. I wrote it almost a year ago while I was out for a run. Maybe not word for word, but I got down the basics and a little bit more. By the time I walked in the house, Buzz was 80% complete. What I posted isn’t the whole story, the rest of it is about running and the excited intoxication I feel when things are going well. But this small excerpt is the part I love.

There’s not much to it. Only two hundred and ten words. But in terms of effort per word, I doubt I’ve put more energy into anything. Buzz was wrought. Sculpted. Forged. Shaped. Excavated. After my run, I carefully, lovingly, tenderly selected each and every word in the story. I poked at it for hours. And then hours again. I published it in a magazine (it flopped there too), and I kept refining it. I wanted it to be perfect. I think it is.

This has happened to me before. Countless times. I’ve written my best story, donated a piece of my very being, and it resonates with no one. Being an artist is a dangerous thing. Art demands risk, and risk often results in failure.

It’s impossible to tell what a reader will like. Last summer, I knocked out a quick story. I was on vacation, trying to achieve my goal of a post a day, and I responded to a daily-prompt. Nothing impressive, nothing invested. Just a quick little piece before heading out to the beach. But a WordPress editor featured it on Discover. I shouted (to myself) “No, no! Not that one.” If only I could choose.

But I can’t. But I can ask you to give Buzz one more look. Susan warned me the day after I posted it that others might not see it from my perspective. I can accept this, I think, but I just want to know that people have read it.

25 thoughts on “Buzz, revisited

  1. I thought buzz was great! You are clearly a real writer and are very thoughtful. As opposed to my random rants and stories that I never proof read and almost always post while I’m exhausted and trying to get something out of my system. Keep it coming Jeff!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am not drawn to stories that involve drug use. No matter if they are pro or con, well-written or wretched. It’s just not a topic I want to read about. Mark Doty, one of my favorite poets, wrote about using crystal meth in his most recent book. I gave up on that poem when it finally dawned on me what he was talking about. It’s my bias and nothing more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The full piece was actually about sobriety, but I felt it was fairly trite. This chunk of the story was the part that worked. I’ve also had that sort of reaction to a story – the subject matter is offensive to me and I just stop reading.


  3. I think that a lot of readers, like myself, enjoyed reading the piece. But it is impossible to separate the writing from the subject. I loved the structure of the story, the poetic vision, but I couldn’t bring myself to approve, which would equate validating the content. Even if I understand that these are two separate things. It reminds me of a story I wrote in my German class years ago. I was very proud of it and my efforts, but the professor only saw the subject that inspired me and that I celebrated in it: smoking cigarettes! So no mistake, this is a fine piece of writing, just one too controversial to Like, especially in public.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know what you mean. I would have a hard time with a piece lauding cigarette use no matter how well it’s written. The funny thing about this one is that in the original form, it was about sobriety. I cut out that part and just left what appears to condone drug usage. I’m mulling over a post titled the Sobriety Paradox. Those of us who are now sober still have the past experiences to draw from in our writing. I don’t want to give my approval to drug and alcohol abuse, but it’s part of who I am.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I enjoyed Buzz – thought it was a good snapshot of a moment. But I didn’t know how to comment on it besides to say it was well written. I can relate to my favorite post vs the post that gets the looks. Sometimes I honestly think a title can draw a crowd (and titles are not my strength). Good writing – I enjoyed Buzz. And this commnetary about Buzz.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s a lot of neediness in “Buzz, revisited” – something I find in myself that I don’t particularly like. The response today has been overwhelming and I appreciate my blogger friends for their positive comments. Your posts serve two different purposes. One is to convey information and the other is to tell stories. I think people read your blog for different reasons and respond when you’ve pushed the right buttons for that person.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Pingback: No Buzz on Buzz? You have my sympathies, Jeff. – Curious Steph

  6. First, failure is NOT when few people read your work. The world does not owe any of us an audience. Failure is not doing your work to the best of your ability. What we owe our art is everything we have.

    I just read Buzz. You have successfully written ABOUT a scene in a dorm room. I wouldn’t have recognized it as drug use if you hadn’t said so. I think Buzz is a post a lot of people would read and would just not know what to say.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Ego and Art. What a struggle, often conducted between the neurones and viscera of the writer.

    Possibly somehow catalysed by a combination of your candle story and one of Bill Pearse’s mentioning Portland, I wrote a vignette too. Happy enough with the process — write, bit of a buff up, press Publish, wait for the affirmation…

    Of which there was enough to prompt an excavation of the poem mentioned in the piece. Posted that too, to deafening silence. But in this case I could see why. It’s not a very good poem and without the rambunctious piano struggling for ascendancy, pretty thin and weak. Should have stayed in the filing cabinet. Oh well.

    The thing with a vignette is, it just kind of sits there like a postcard on a fridge. Compared to reflective pieces, opinions, analyses (of self or other) there are less hooks for the reader to hang their response on. Perhaps you could say that a vignette doesn’t ask a question. Maybe that’s why sometimes they don’t get answers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with your analysis about publishing a vignette. I’ve posted a dozen (along with a few poems) and they typically generate less discussion than other types of stories. The thing is, the vignettes and poems are usually the pieces I’m most invested in. And once I post them, I immaturely crave praise.

      Liked by 1 person

      • As do we all, Jeff.
        A week or two ago an acquaintance was asking me about starting a blog, saying she didn’t care whether anyone read it or not. It was all I could do to refrain from calling bullshit.

        Writers want to be read.


  8. I really enjoyed Buzz. Was well written and something different. I really like this post ‘Buzz, revisited’ as it shows your vulnerable writer side and I could resonate with how you felt when you posted something which didn’t get the attention you expected or in my opinion it deserved! This seems to happen to me all the time! Thank you for sharing and your honesty.

    Liked by 1 person

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