Nov 10 2008

I Blog, Therefore I….?

Blogging is a strange avocation, when you think about it.  Unless you’re already famous, when you start a blog, no one will be reading it.  But you’re hoping people will, otherwise you could save yourself the trouble of setting it up online and just keep a diary.  I suspect most bloggers hope to eventually make a profit on it someday, either directly by advertising on their blog, or by getting noticed and getting a real writing job.  The former takes thousands of regular readers, at least, and the latter probably will too, since people have to read you before they can be impressed by you.

It seems to me there’s something arrogant, or at least very confident, about believing that’ll ever happen, like a high school athlete expecting to make the pros.  Unless you intentionally write on inflammatory topics to get people arguing, you can have hundreds of readers without ever getting a comment, so there’s very little feedback.  If you write for a newspaper, an editor approves your work every day.  Even a novelist gets feedback from editors and personal readers occasionally.  But the blogger, starting out, is communicating through a one-way mirror, and just has to guess whether the people on the other side are nodding in agreement or pointing and laughing.

I really have no idea why anyone would pick my blog over the zillions of others out there.  I’m the only person writing about the new Latin Mass in Quincy, but that’s an awfully tiny niche.  I’m solid on grammar and spelling, but I don’t find my writing that interesting; to me it comes off too dry and lecturing.  But who am I to judge?  I’ve certainly seen worse writers out there who’ve developed a large base of readers and commenters.  I have a tendency to underestimate opportunities, to assume that unless an idea is brand new and overwhelmingly good, it won’t catch on.  I’m gradually learning that if an idea is good, there’s probably room for one more person to be doing it.  And if a product, in this case writing, is good, there will be a market for it.

Before I started blogging, I never really thought about whether anyone read my stuff.  I posted on lots of forums, and I knew people were reading because they were replying, like I was replying to them.  It was always more-or-less anonymous: people could find out who I was if they wanted to, but I never made a point of it, because the important thing was the conversation, not the participants.  With blogging, I have to care about it, because there’s no conversation.  If people aren’t reading, there’s no point in it.  If it grows to the point where there are enough comments to qualify as conversation, then I probably won’t care how many readers there are anymore.  (Full disclosure: I have about 50 visitors a day right now, but it’s hard to say how many of those are actual people and how many are various kinds of bots other than search engines.)

Comments become very important, since they’re your only feedback.  Your first comment is cause for celebration, even if it’s a Viagra spam—someone (or something) found me! You check for new comments several times a day, and even look through the ones in the spam filter to make sure something valid didn’t get caught in there.

Like I said, it’s a strange way to spend one’s time.  Something I picked up from one of my favorite authors, Stephen R. Donaldson, though, was: Every day before you start writing, give yourself permission to write badly.  That works a little differently for a blogger than it does for a novelist who writes for months before starting the rewriting process, but the essential point still works: don’t wait until you have a brilliant story or topic to start writing, just get busy and let the ideas come on their own.  Whether I’m writing a blog post or a computer program, I tend to want to work it all out in my head until it’s perfect, and then type it all at once.  Only problem is, that way takes forever, because my head is a cluttered labyrinth, and sometimes the story or program never does make it out of there.

So, I’m committing myself to regular blogging.  If my blog never gets popular, at least it’ll be writing practice, and maybe I’ll be able to develop a writing style I’m happier with.  (One that doesn’t require at least 500 words to get a point across would be nice.)  If it takes off and I make money from it, all the better.  If I can’t think of ideas, I’ll just write about writing, like I’m doing tonight, but ideas really shouldn’t be a problem.  Heck, if I wrote one review a day of each episode of Magnum PI, Scrubs, and Mystery Science Theater 3000 that I have saved, it’d keep me busy for months.  Those aren’t exactly innovative ideas, but they’re something, and who knows what might spark the next good idea, or become a gathering point for people interested in the same thing.  Whatever happens here, I hope it’ll be interesting.

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4 Comments

  • Joey says:

    I just like to write. While eventually I do hope to support my income with something more than just technical writing, It’s fun, and I AM arrogant about my own ability I guess. :)

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  • Aaron says:

    I’m not sure if I like to write or not. Once I get rolling, I can churn out the text, but it’s hard to get started. Maybe I need to work on my arrogance; develop that attitude that everyone needs to know what I think about everything. :)

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  • Jason says:

    Maybe that’s the problem. I’ve always been perfectly satisfied knowing my own superiority without having to stuff it in everyone’s face. ;)

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  • [...] was reading on Aaron’s blog today about why people blog.  I blog because I obviously have something to say and even I [...]

  1. joeycalveyonline.com » Blog Archive » Blogging. — November 13, 2008 @ 2:30 pm

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