I say successful idea here rather than good idea because there are tons of good ideas that, for whatever reason, never turn successful — even if they should.
You all know the kind of successful ideas I’m talking about. Follow Friday. Waiting on Wednesday. Teaser Tuesday. Bloggiesta. Dewey’s Readathon. Bout of Books.
The continued success of these memes and events is not by chance. They fill a need within the community, and they do it well enough that people come flocking to it. But it requires a lot of work.
Like, A LOT of work.
Though I wouldn’t want to speak for any other host, I have been in charge of running Bout of Books, and I can talk about that event. We’ve had four readathons since August 2011. During that time, I’ve learned a bit about what it means to have an idea of yours explode into something that many people love and enjoy. And I’ll let you in on a little secret:
Sometimes I hate it.
Having a successful idea means that you are regulated to a supervisory role, and you can never recapture the fun you had when your job was minimal, or for me, when I was still naive about the process.
The fun is for your participants.
My work behind the scenes begins at least a month before the readathon starts. I have a 2.5 page checklist that only scratches the surface of everything that I need to accomplish in the time it takes me to set up and run Bout of Books. The checklist does not bear witness to the multitude of questions that I consider when planning:
Do the dates of the readathon work for both me and many people? Are there any other events going on around the same time that might interfere or overlap? Should there be challenges or co-hosts? Which seems to work better for the greatest number of people? Which is easier for me to deal with? How do I choose challenges? Do I stick with people I’m familiar with or do I take a chance on people I don’t know if I can rely on so we have new blood in the readathon? How do I make sure everyone gets a day they want? How are we going to run @boutofbooks? Do we need to prepare a schedule? What is going to be the most efficient way of disseminating the important information? How can I make the important information visible so I don’t get 20 million questions about the the same thing? How do I prepare for the unexpected?
And so on. This doesn’t include the amount of time I spend emailing people, creating the google forms, setting up the linky for each day, writing the daily posts, writing the sign up post, fixing the pages to reflect current information, and answering questions that both challenge hosts and participants have. Nor does it include the time I play administrator during the readathon to ensure everything goes according to plan, tweaking things here and there to make information easier to see, or clarifying something that seems to cause confusion, or trying to get people to follow directions.
Running Bout of Books is a job I don’t get paid for. I rarely even get acknowledgement for the work that I do in order to make Bout of Books run as smoothly as it does. If I get frustrated or upset by people, I’m not allowed to vent. I must smile and be friendly to everyone. It doesn’t matter how hard I’ve worked, how stressed I am, or how shitty my own week has been. As the host, you must always be on your best behavior. And then there are people who don’t even connect me with the readathon anymore.
I don’t say this to whine about not being appreciated enough. I say this to emphasize that planning an event or hosting a meme is a lot of thankless work. Bout of Books was only fun for me the first time around. With each successive readathon, I’ve spent more time in the background and focused on my reading rather than actively participating in blog hopping and networking, which happens to be a big part of why we’re so successful. If I try to run the readathon AND participate in it, I burn myself out in a day or two. This past Bout of Books, Kelly kicked me off Twitter in the middle of one of my Twitter manning session because I was on the verge of having a meltdown and/or anxiety attack. That’s not good when there are seven days to get through.
When so many people decided to stop participating in IMM and a very small number turned to Clock Rewinders, I could easily see how CR would progress in a similar fashion to Bout of Books. Not on the same scale, and much less work, of course, but two weeks of Clock Rewinders with more than 10 people, and the responsibility overwhelmed any fun I could have.
I began to hate Clock Rewinders.
This is a big part of the reason why Tara and I decided to scrap the linky. Clock Rewinders is our baby, and I wasn’t willing to let it go the same route as Bout of Books. At least with the readathon, I don’t have to do it every week.
The thing about your idea gaining momentum and popularity is that people begin to change your idea from whatever you intended to whatever suits their purposes. In effect, you lose possession and control over your own idea. There are still always going to be people who have been with you from the start, who have read your directions and information, and understand and respect the idea. But some people don’t. Some people see it as an easy way to gain more hits on their blog, or get more followers. Even if that is the intention, it can be twisted from a well-meant idea to blatant self-promotion with seemingly little regard to anything else.
You either have to learn to accept it, or make serious changes.