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WhatFourthWall Rewind – 2018.

4,751 views with 2,709 visitors and 69 posts (a happy accident) later, here we are bidding goodbye to 2018.

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I set out this year to write one post per week, and have a net total of 52 posts by the end of the year. 12 months later, while I did slip a couple of months with the one post/week rule, I did hit the total target number and then some as well. The site did see some unplanned changes and all things considered, I’d call this year a success, at least blog-wise.

The first few months went like clockwork, with a new post exactly every 7 days starting from Jan 7th, that too with a poem. I never set out to write poems and the first one was entirely on accident. I had completely shrugged it off as a ‘one-time’ thing but I was so very wrong. Surprisingly all my Januaries seem to have a lot of travel involved, as I began last year with a trip to Vijayawada, Hyderabad and Bangalore (write-ups of which are STILL in my drafts folder ’cause I’m lazy like that). I also had my first trekking experience which blew my mind. It was as if I was subconsciously going out and doing things more now that I needed content to put up here.

February went as per schedule as well, even though I had to dig out an old draft for the final week. It was the month of both my GATE exam and Black Panther; so a bit of a mixed blessing, that one. By March, the most pressing concern I had was the upcoming Air Force selection interview I had the next month, which would be my second attempt. So I had decided to write about my first attempt in excruciating detail leading up to it. It would also serve as “searchable content” which my blog needed desperately to drive more traffic to it. People don’t really care about my views or my life experiences unless I’m famous already, so these posts like movie reviews, travel journals and interview experiences were necessary to get people to click on my links. It was also the month we lost Dr.Stephen Hawking, the first of many poignant men we were to lose that year yet.

April began with one of my all-time favourite posts, a sort of April Fool’s day prank which would work only on people who know me personally and it sure did its job. They say life has its ups and downs and looking back, I can tell you April and May were one of the highest ‘ups’ of 2018 right before the steepest ‘down’ ever. So they are littered entirely with cheesy poetry which I dubbed as ‘Fondue‘, a pun I feel has largely gone underappreciated among my audience.  I even installed the TTT app immediately as I felt the fondues would have a bigger audience over there.

*Morgan Freeman voiceover:  They didn’t.* 

College ended in the first week of May and my poetry took a rather sombre turn. I have always felt like I got through life entirely on luck and I was suddenly spat into the world with no clue of what comes next. I decided I just had to trust the universe and hopefully we all end where we are supposed to be which gave rise to “Leap of faith”. That and “Purgatory” were probably the poems easiest to write for me as the words came to me so organically. I tend to over-articulate silly details at times and have always had an issue with brevity, but these two poems were very satisfying to write as they conveyed exactly what I had in mind without being too long. Honorary mentions to “The Theseus’ Paradox” which began and almost ended as another rant but then I felt it was too expository and cut out most of it and changed its essence into a poem. May also saw the release of Avengers: Infinity War. I did attempt writing a review but nothing felt satisfactory enough to deliver what exactly I felt watching it and I ended up never publishing any.

It was also the month of another experiment – Smartphone astrophotography which hasn’t moved a day beyond “Day one” yet. I had great hopes for that and I did technically attempt it for more than just one day, but all the nights spent trying to line up my phone and my binoculars, and the hours spent on hobbyist forums made it clear to me that I had to get a better phone or invest in a better tripod. So I’ve currently shelved it for a time when I have better resources. However, while I couldn’t see the Galilean moons or Saturn’s rings, I did see that nothing gave me more bliss than doing just that. I’m an extremely lazy person who gets very easily contented with the bare minimum requirements out of everything I seek or do. I’ve never been a perfectionist and never one to put extra effort to do anything. Anything except this. It was frustrating, my neck hurt like shit, I was getting no immediate rewards and yet I went up to the roof every night to try something new. It was the only thing that gave me drive and I decided to find out what exactly it would take for me, B.Tech in Aerospace engineering with no physics research background, to pursue a career in Astrophysics.

This realisation gave birth to “Ambition Confusion” which kickstarted June. Now that I was writing regularly, my views were steadily increasing and I wanted to see just far I can take it. So I created separate profiles for the blog on Instagram and Facebook. This, in turn, drove me to learn SEO techniques and made me create more innovative cover-art for each post, to make the posts more presentable and to maximize traffic.

July was the first month I had to struggle to come up with content, so I ended up doing a Buzzfeed type article titled “Life lessons from a marathon” and finally managed to complete a draft I began very close to the beginning of the blog back in 2016. I often go back to it, re-write it, and then delete it anyway. So I decided to publish it with the raw title of just “Draft twenty” itself literally explaining what the previous nineteen drafts were about, to the best of my memory. Out of nowhere, I had to visit the dentist; that I wrote in my 101 format, which is my favourite ’cause nobody really ever gets how hard normal stuff is for socially awkward people to navigate through and every time I write these, people tell me its really relatable and I feel a teeny bit less alone; and a week later James Gunn was fired from Disney (dick move) and that gave us 2 more posts for the month.

August and September were the first months of the year when I had faltered from my weekly schedule with only 3 and 2 posts in the respective months. I had finally made up my mind about Astrophysics and was working towards a PhD admit from the US and had a series of exams lined up – The General GRE in August, TOEFL in September and the physics GRE in October. I also lost a weekend in August with my college convocation, which was bittersweet at best. I did end up writing my first non-romance poem in August though, which in my books is a huge win.  The abysmal performance of September can be attributed to the fact that the Marvel vs DC post is my longest post and my most viewed ever (nearly one-fourth of the total blog views for the year is from this particular post in the two days after it was posted). I had also just begun the Nerdgasm series, which were largely factual posts and required actual research and extensive crosschecks before I posted anything. September was also the month when my poem “Name” won the second place in an online poetry contest conducted by “writers den” on Instagram. That provided some much-needed validation for me and the site.

I had just realised just how much of a reader-base the Reddit community is. People on Facebook and Instagram are too used to short, visual mediums. I can make a video or a meme or maybe a one para poem with the typewriter font and it would be a hit but anything more, any link that required actual clicking and reading was a big no-no. Not Reddit though. Reddit still had people who loved to read and discuss passionately and also has highly specific subreddits which let me target deeper (and weirder) niche groups. I decided to create a profile for Fessonia on Reddit as well, exclusively to divert traffic to the site but found myself shadowbanned in under a month. Further digging pointed me to the Reddit rulebook which very elegantly stated: “You may be a Redditor with a website, don’t be a website with a Reddit account.” Reddit was made for people to discuss and taking advantage of it to gain readers was a tricky business, even within its blogging subs. Repeatedly posting links from the same website was enough to get me banned. So that required a better-nuanced approach. However, the idea that my writings are capable of getting over 1500 viewers in a couple of hours pushed me to think of self-hosting the website and maybe seeing if I can generate ad-revenue from it.

The next month was spent mostly reading up on wordpress.org versus wordpress.com, advantages and disadvantages of free hosting services, how to use FTP servers and how Google ads crawlers actually work. The year so far had clearly indicated that even without the social network pages, the site was generating increased revenue if I just posted regularly. So I decided to move my brother’s works to the site as well. He was initially writing extremely well-crafted stories on Wattpad, with sophisticated world-building and already had a lot of chapters published, so I figured if I moved them here, the blog should be set for regular content for the next three months just by scheduling his stories. Thus was born “Storyboard”. It was created exclusively for him but as fate should have it, the blog gods decided to sprinkle a few story seeds onto me as well. With content all set, and a moderate knowledge on website management, whatfourthwall.wordpress.com became whatfourthwall.com (using the cheapest hosting plan I could find with GoDaddy, of course). 

Capture
R.I.P Cool old format

It took some getting used to, navigating the WP admin console and finding out how to get all my old preferences back. I wanted a whole new look with an independent landing page and a blogroll. I spent weeks looking for the right theme but to no avail. (Much like with astronomy, turns out I’m bit of a perfectionist regarding the blog too.) I really wanted to keep the mosaic layout from the old theme but most of them looked heavily cluttered or didn’t let me control fonts and designs as much as I wanted to. I finally settled on building a page on my own using Elementor and bits and pieces of CSS code scraped from GitHub and StackOverflow. I wanted the site to really stand on its own and put a very aggressive minimal stock photos policy. I sourced photos from some of my friends’ Instagram pages and with little knowledge of photo editing I had picked up earlier during the astrophotography stint, I started making my own cover photos and logos. I’m still not entirely happy with the blog feed page of this theme as well. I’m still figuring out how to get ads exactly where I want. It’s still a work in progress.

I wrote my first short story in October. As cliched as it sounds, the entire story did pop into my head during a shower. I swear. It was one of the quickest pieces I’ve worked on and I am really proud of it. It got a much better welcome on r/SciFi and r/creepypasta than it did here on the site, which was expected. From inception to completion, it only took me half an hour at best, as though the story had been long inside me and just managed to pop out only now. October was a really good month. I got to talk about my TV shows, my anger towards science-deniers and write a couple of sweet poems and start writing stories. Extremely satisfying month.

November was one of my most creative months of the year and whether that has any correlation to No Nut November is completely debatable. I kept getting ideas for new stories and poems back to back and had finished the monthly quota of 4 posts in the first 5 days. I ended up scheduling the posts to publish throughout the month and save up the rest for December. Need for validation got the best of me nonetheless and I ended up posting four more posts in the same month, resulting in me running dry with only 3 posts again in December. I managed to write two more stories, both sparked off from r/WritingPrompts. I had been noticing that my brother’s stories still got more views on Wattpad than here, so I created a profile for myself over there as well, as it was built specifically for story writing. The last voice was pretty easy to write too and I didn’t deviate much from the vision I had in mind at first. It took me around a day to complete. Most of the subtle hints I’ve added to my first story had gone largely unnoticed which bothered my ego. “The fallacy of genius is that it demands an audience,” Sherlock once said when he was accused of showing off as he elaborately explained his deductions. Following his footsteps, I started elaborately explaining all the easter eggs and foreshadowing I’ve thrown in along the story as a footnote. The third story definitely took a long time to solidify, a week nearly, it initially had a much darker ending, with the younger brother almost dying of nuclear radiation and the kids actually retrieving the SpaceX suit to save him. There was also the idea for them to find out the “Archs” aboard the roadster and taking it back to their home planet, with a different kind of happy ending. But yeah, I chose to send them back home just a little shaken rather than half dead. I liked the aesthetics of mankind’s only legacy being a meaningless publicity stunt that future historians will definitely never guess and probably create wild theories as to why a car and an empty spacesuit were shot out of the Earth. It would be our best prank ever. So yeah, let us leave Starman alone.  I also ended up writing another poem on father to pair off with the mother in “Magic”. The month would have been perfect if not for the unfortunate demise of Stan Lee.

December was rather uneventful. I was too occupied with my college applications and writing essays. I did manage to post 3 posts and this rewind was supposed to be the 4th, going up on the 31st right before New Years. My sincerest apologies for the delay. Although I’m particularly proud of Fondue 07.

Summing up, I think I did do justice to my resolution to the best of my efforts. I have a good hold on the content. Probable goals for 2019 would be to keep this up, and work more on SEO and find methods to ensure more traffic flow to the site. I’ve already joined a couple of blogging communities, you can see the IndiBlogger badge in my footer below. I guess the next step is to start networking more with other established bloggers and reading communities. I’ve been trying to get just about anyone to read my site while I should be using all the abundant stats Insta and WordPress give to better target my audience. Let’s see if I can triple the views in 2019.

2019, please be good. 

Peace.

Fight me.