It’s that time again: Time to meditate on whether or not the blog is doing what it should. To do that, I suppose we have to know what the blog is meant to do. Then we compare what it does against that and decide if this thing is really doing any good.
It is meant…
- to entertain and inform.
- to promote me.
- to promote my work.
- to let me play with design.
- to teach me about Internet tech.
- to compel me to write more.
Does it do those things?
For a couple of weeks, I’ve been stewing on a half-written post about self-promotion. One of the goals I have for this site is for it to promote my work, but does it do that as written? Is this page succeeding at drawing any attention to me? According to my stats (which turn out to be juked by some robot and indexing issues), a few key search phrases land here periodically, bringing in fans of 300 and Battlestar Galactica, it seems, but I don’t think it’d be fair to say that the site itself is attracting any attention. It has become merely the place you arrive when other things attract your attention toward me. It’s just more contact information.
As an example: I hear from and am found by old friends through Facebook (Facebook!), but this page, coupled with Google, has let me down. If folks are finding the site, they’re not writing emails or commenting, so clearly it is not doing something right. Whatever that something is, Facebook does it better.
More to the point, are people who arrive at this site more likely to hire me to do writing, speaking gigs, or design? Would you hire me based on the material on this site? The honesty that comes with an online journal runs counter to self-promotion, doesn’t it? Unless you’re David Sedaris, David Rakoff, Sarah Vowell, or Wil Wheaton, honesty can scuff your image. I am none of those people, and it’s worth noting that Sedaris, Rakoff, and Vowell don’t maintain websites for themselves.
Why is that? I suspect: a) they do not need to, and b) they have better things to do, anyway. They’re getting work already, and if they’re not, they’re working on getting work.
So, the blog’s not getting me work. It’s not keeping me in touch with anyone. It is promoting neither me nor my work. Those are vital failures.
As A Plaything
It used to be that I used this blog to tinker with graphic design ideas now and again. Organizationally, though, I’m happy enough with the look of the blog as it is now. If the blog’s not pulling its weight, though, why don’t I make this a portfolio site? Why don’t I strip it down to something lean and aggressive? Why don’t I use it to serve those who come here wondering “Who is this potential contractor?” instead of serving those people who Google “battlestar +angels” and arrive at an old ranting post? There doesn’t seem to be a middle-ground. There don’t seem to be readers, per se.
Why would there be? What have I been writing on the blog that’s been worth becoming a fan of? I don’t meant that to be self-deprecating, I mean it seriously.
As for the site teaching me about Internet technologies: it has succeeded. I know more now than I did a year ago. As it stands now, though, I’m not learning anything new and (based on the time I’ve spent tinkering with Flash and Java scripts) the time I spend learning Internet tech isn’t making me a better writer, it isn’t getting me graphic-design work, it isn’t feeding my wife. I loaded and was ready to pull the trigger on a new web-design education just a few months ago, but that’s time and money. That’s more debt.
The Blog As Written
Lastly, and vitally, there’s the question of whether the blog keeps me writing? Even when it does, it distracts from work I could be doing and trying to shop around. Since the time I invest into writing a blog post doesn’t seem to pay for itself, the better question might be this: Is the blog compelling me to waste time on valueless writing?
The material I put into the blog isn’t worth anything if it isn’t attracting readers. Volume of content doesn’t cut it; I tried that. If nobody’s reading the site, more material not being read is no good.
Aiming for three solid new posts a week hasn’t resulted in new posts, only guilt.
I’m not quite the type to do the advice-for-writers site that has worked for the likes of admirable victors like John Scalzi, Jeff VanderMeer, or Tobias Buckell. What advice would I give anyway? I haven’t backed up my shop-talk with a volume of noteworthy published material yet (not enough that counts). I spent years writing advice-for-storytellers material at White Wolf when I could have been doing actual storytelling.
When I was at White Wolf, maybe I could have had something of an audience here, but shy of dishing out dirt and war stories for a shallow dose of quick hits (assuming anyone linked in the first place), what good is that going to do? Audience retention from my White Wolf days was something close to 0% — those guys don’t care what I’m doing now, and potential new readers don’t care what I was doing then.
The Blog You Are
Aaron Sorkin wrote a line in an episode of Studio 60 that I think back on, now. It goes something like this: “No comedian that you admire has ever been afraid of silence.”
This site is cluttered. The portfolio sites I admire—the sites of professional creatives who are respected for their work—are about the work. Nobody is tuning in here for an update on my day-to-day shenanigans or my dinner plans or what I’m reading. (That’s what I have Twitter for, I guess.)
I want people to come here for the substance. I want people to come for the work, not because they wish it was five o’clock already. Is there a better market for actual substance, though? Honestly, I don’t make enough money to give away that much writing for free. If it’s not promoting me—if it’s not getting me work—I shouldn’t be spending time on it.
The reason is this: I’m not living the life I want. I’d like to share more about where I am and what I’m eating (they’re so big it’s not funny but, instead, magnificent), but who the hell should care what some common mope like me is microwaving for lunch? If I was going places (dupe meanings by design), I could understand why you’d give a shit, but it isn’t like I’m jetting off to Italy (or even Indianapolis) or delving into the secret hot corners of my own glamorous city.
Don’t get me wrong. That Internet culture of sharing pictures and anecdotes and experiences from one’s life with folks on the other side of the planet? I love that. I truly do. I’m happy to write about some steak I grilled or some lovely coffee I had. I think blogs are ridiculous and absurd, but wonderful.
The trouble is, I’m not doing anything worth writing to you about most of the time. Why? No money.
The Dream is to go places, do things, and write about them. But I cannot afford to go places or do things. Is it the blog’s fault? Of course not. But it’s not helping either, so something has to change.
I don’t have the blog I want because I’m not yet the person I want to be. Blogging about who I am isn’t making me better. I have the blog I am, not the blog I want to be.
The local activities I take part in? The things I do in the ATL? Those few such things that exist are now the purview of the Atlanta Metroblog, where they belong. For one, I need to fulfill my commitment over there. For two, that blog has led directly to paying work. It is what it is.
My personal life and its associated antics now belong to a tumblelog called “The Mooncalf”, which is what now resides at that link at the top of the page. Why Tumblr? Tumblr does a lot of work for me while still allowing me to play with design. It has light community-building elements. It’s a short-form medium. It’s favored by designers and creatives and I (stupidly, maybe) want some of that association. It lacks robust commenting features, but I wasn’t getting comments anyway.
Short-form posts, stupid links, a few pictures, quick notes — that’s what you get on me. No more long posts about bullshit. No more feeling guilty for writing little posts. No more stretching little posts into longer ones. No more of this.
“The Gist,” here, is for posts of substance. Articles related to writing and design go here. Articles about my personal life go here only if they’ve graduated into full-on essays. If I wouldn’t want to collect it into a book later on, I’ll try not to publish it here (or I’ll keep it short enough to fit the Mooncalf). You can see that some of this has started already as I’ve been importing flash fiction and short articles from other sites. I’ll keep on doing that, so they can be linked to the growing Work page, up top.