The Stories Behind the Top 5 Posts of 2014

January 2, 2015

2014 is my first full year of writing publicly. Like most projects I undertake, I threw myself 110% into it. It has been a wild adventure and has been fun and interesting and challenging and thrilling and sobering and hard. Which, of course, is why I did it. I am not “big time” now, or “too-cool-for-school” as my coworkers at the school I work at like to tease me. I am just a tiny fish in a big, big sea, but I am happy to report, after a year of blogging, that I am completely okay with that. I am still small enough that I can cherish all of my readers, respond to every email and comment, and practice faithful hospitality here at my online home.

If you have been following me, you know I write mostly about faith, social justice, and culture. But I also love to write about writing. I have learned so many things from the writing process, both from my own experience of blogging and from learning from other writers, I could start a whole other blog just to share those stories.

For now, let me share five of the most popular posts from this past year and tell you a bit of the behind the scenes factoids to these posts. Sort of like the bonus features reel.

1. In terms of the most number of eyes that read my writing this year, hands down it was easily this post: When Captain America does NOT save my day. On my own blog it was viewed just a handful of times, but the Momastery team chose to feature it on their huge platform, and as a result it was shared tens of thousands of times. I got many followers that day and it was a brief experience of fame. I was worried these readers would be very disappointed because I don’t normally write about marriage, but I know some of them have stayed connected with me since that post, and I am so grateful for them. Shoutout to my readers who are fellow Momastery fans. We love G! One more thing about this post: I find tremendous irony in the fact that a story about my very private husband, who want nothing to do with my public, online life, was my most popular piece ever. Tee-hee.

2. Next, let me tell you about the Huffington Post gig. I get the most questions about how I got to blog for Huffington Post. Here’s the honest to God story that I’m slightly embarrassed to tell. Back in June, I wrote a piece called Our Complicity in the Scandal of Somaly Mam. I was very proud of this piece. I secretly adored it like I discretely appreciate my legs (look, I have non existent waistline so give me my legs, will ya?) No one read it, but I loved it. Every word came from a place of passion, driven onto the piece with radical conviction. I knew my own small platform would not get any attention so I pitched it to another well known site. It was rejected. I did not take it well. I did not behave reasonably, nor respond like an adult. Instead, I stomped and pouted, acting no better than a 2 year old. I said to myself, this is a freaking good piece, so much better than all kinds of crap out there (this is not something I am proud of having have said, even if it was just to myself). I wanted to stick it to them by trying to get it published at a bigger platform (I know! So petty!) So I submitted it to the biggest platform I could think of: the Huffington Post. They published it on July 9th of this year, and I’ve been blogging for them ever since. I really, really wish I started blogging for them from a better spirit than out of spite, because it is truly an honor. And I also bear absolutely no bitterness for the site that rejected me, nor for any in the future who will reject me. Much of my anxiety came from a place of writerly insecurity and self-doubt that I have mostly worked through.

Top Five Posts in 2014

3. Contrary to popular belief, blogging for the Huffington Post does not mean every post gets thousands of hits. The ones that get a lot of likes and shares are written by people with an already large platform. What helps visibility is if the editors at HuffPost either feature it on their home page, near the top, or promote it through their social media channels. This was what happened with my piece, How I Kissed Evangelism Goodbye. This piece did really well at several platforms, actually, and I’m so thankful people resonated with it. However, this was also the piece that elicited the most hate mail. People called me names and questioned my salvation, both in comment sections and through private emails. The hate mail did not bother me. I want to say it’s because of my maturity and wisdom, but the story above would indicate otherwise. I think I have been around the faith blogosphere enough to expect vitriol, and I like to think they are just people with strong convictions, like me. We just happen to disagree. It’s fine. *shrug* I know, I’m so zen.

4. And now, for the runner up to the most views this year: When Prayer Becomes Control. As most bloggers know, some pieces flop and some pieces take off. It’s a bit of a crapshoot, really. But this is the LAST piece I expected to be the number two most viewed post of this year, because I thought it SUCKED. The first draft of this piece read like it was three blog posts in one. My mind was racing and fragmented, and the piece was convoluted and huh, what? After a couple rounds of frustrating edits, I almost flippantly pressed publish JUST SO I CAN BE DONE WITH IT. It shipped and sailed…right onto Rachel Held Evan’s Sunday Superlatives that week. I was so thankful that Rachel took the time to link to my personal blog (as the same piece also appeared on Sojourners), because it drove traffic to my own site. Appreciate it so much, Rachel! Her powerful platform boosted my small blogger stats. More importantly, I hope it introduced my writing to some of RHE’s readers because her audience would be my ideal demographic to reach.

5. Last, but not least, the most popular post of the year from this humble blog: An Open Letter to Missionaries, which received thousands of views with no help from any other platform or popular blogger. Again, no idea this would resonate with people, especially with the people I was critiquing: the missionaries. I shared on Facebook at the time, but I’ll say it again. You guys humble me so much with your willingness to learn from me. You convert me all over again.

Now that I’m wrapping up this post reflecting on the year, I am a hot mess. I’ve worked really, really hard this year, sacrificing family time and social life, to write my truest thoughts, and to be faithful to the craft. In the beginning of my writing career, someone asked me whether I would keep writing if no one read it. The honest answer, which I replied, is no. If my writing fails to connect with anyone, I would quit and spend my energies doing something that would. So you guys, my readers, will always be the reason I keep writing. Thank you for sticking with me.

Here’s to more connection in 2015.