It was not so long ago that I could lose an afternoon writing a 2000-word blog post about a video game I was playing. Another 1400 words on why a TV show annoyed me. (Yes, Game of Thrones I am looking at you.) 2500 words about a musical group that feels like family to me (Paul McCartney and Dave Matthews never show up though or call me). A blog post with writing advice (I did a lot of those). And how about one about a strange thing that happened to me, or something that made me the person I am today.
That was my life for years! And for a while, I was averaging a few blog posts a week. It was a fun time with likes and shares and comments and followers. But now something has shifted and nothing feels the same.
The thing that shifted is not just about me, it’s about the world. I think we as a collective consciousness decided to all move away from blogging together. An itch was scratched, we all sighed, and then forgot about it. (How many of you just scratched your arm because I wrote “itch”? Weird, huh? Mind control!)
I have some theories and thoughts on what has happened to the artform of blogging (and, yes, I used the word “artform”). It’s not a graveyard scenario yet. We are not pouring wine or throwing a rose on a casket while Boyz II Men plays on a stereo, but it is definitely a major hospital visit and there is a machine that makes a “ping” noise every time its heart beats. But remember what the nurse said when we entered the room- talk to the patient. Even though the patient doesn’t respond, it does make a difference.
“Hi blog, it’s us the writers. We just wanted to stop by and see how you’re doing. Are you feeling okay? Do you want to wake up now?”
I blame reality.
More than reality, I blame the age of Trumpism and the speed and madness of the typical news cycle. The world is no longer a friendly place. It is a place for battles and arguments, where truth seems to take a backseat to passion. We can have scientists screaming from the rooftop about climate change, but there are people who stupidly don’t believe it because it is cold outside. It is a daily madness reading the news, checking the sites hourly to make sure a war hasn’t started someplace and begging (pleading) that we are going to find ourselves out of this Brexit-build-a-wall-racism-ignorance-embracing craziness.
Words and time and purpose are important!
And why write an online personal essay, when you can sum it up quickly on Twitter or simply let a picture speak for you on Instagram? Words are not really even neccesary, right? It’s what the public wants now, right? The speed? The instant gratification?
We as a society no longer can lose our time wondering what a favorite writer or blogger is doing or thinking about. We need to be aware of important things. Who has the time and who cares? Stop writing about a nice vacation you had, there is a battle going on! Kiss blogging goodbye and head out to war!
For the last few months I’ve lived with the ghost of this website. It sits quietly by, a marker of the past, reminding me of a time not so long ago when blogging was important and a lot of fun.
Blogging saved my writing in many ways. People found me and my writing from the blog. That carried over to social media. It led to publishers shaking my hand and my local NPR station asking me to do book reviews on the air. I spoke at colleges and writing conferences. I had a readership and reviews from around the world!
My blog gave me that and I am forever grateful.
But, frankly, I am afraid that if I was to try to jump back into my schedule I once had writing here, it wouldn’t be a fun light conversation, but a barbaric yawp that could be summed up quickly by “What the fuck is going on?”
When the right topic comes up, I promised myself I would set aside the time. Create something new. But I feel this truth now, very deeply- If you are going to put words up on the internet for the world to see, God damn!, it better be important and needed. It better make a difference.
The landscape of the writing website has changed. Where it was once a field of green grass and possibility, I see a lot of houses with FOR SALE signs.
Blogs always had underneath the surface, in its very blood, commercialism. Even here I would do it, especially when a book came out and I was giving interviews. Between every other blog post about what I considered interesting points, there would be a reference to a review or an interview or an excerpt from the work. Oh, and also at the end of every blog post was a note saying something like: “If you liked this, you should check out my book…”
We were all doing it and it was fine. It was the commercial you had to deal with to get the show.
Commercialism has come to the surface and claimed control. Now, what I see is that writing websites are merely about promotion. the next appearance and hopefully building some kind of excitement for a book, building a readership. I get it. And as time goes on, I expect this site will probably become more and more like that as well. (Did I mention I have a book coming out later this year? That is not a joke! Stay tuned!)
There is nothing wrong with this! Nothing at all. How else can an author build interest for a book, talk to their readers? They need this connection.
It is just the other piece that is missing. The little insights that made a reader feel like they knew someone. For blogs had a capability to allow a reader to feel like they were seeing into another’s life in real time. The second I hit “publish,” my thought at that moment was shared with you. You are experiencing it right now. Hello.
It was liberating, it was special… and now it feels very trite.
It all sounds so grown up. I am the stern teacher asking the students, “Don’t we all have something better to do with our time?” A part of me would really like the students to reply, “No, we like this.”
Blogging was a unique writing artform and I will stand by that statement. It was the next evolution of journal and diary writing, but for a mass media. The art of sharing oneself, but doing so in a professional/best foot-forward fashion.
And for those of us worrying about our fiction and the next publishing deal, it was freedom. I can share my thoughts, fiction writing, unpublished books, etc., and no one could stop me. Heck, just recently, I wrote posts recreating favorite old radio shows. There was no agent or editor telling me that it is a bad idea or a waste of time. I did it because I wanted to, and if you read it… awesome!
Here is the rub though, I think I am a better writer for having a blog.
When I was in college, I had a great professor who demanded we all journal every day. At the start of class we were required to bring in our journals. And, get this, he would walk around at the start of each class with a wastepaper basket for us to throw out our weekly work. Yes, it was dramatic, but it was right. Just the art of creation is important and that is the lesson he wanted to teach. Like learning a musical instrument, you need to take the time to master it, put in the time.
But what blogging did was take what my professor assigned and give the feedback he didn’t. For on a blog you know pretty fast if you are making a difference or not. Do you get Like comments? Are people sharing it? If not, well, there is your answer about your piece. Try again!
There are few writing mediums I have discovered more freeing than it. We as writers could do whatever we want and readers (we know) can leave at any moment. They didn’t pay for this content, they are not being forced to sit in a theater. There was a unique understanding between the blogger and the reader that no other art form really shares.
Total freedom in creation and in reading. When it worked right, it was bliss for all of us
Yes, I get the irony of writing a blog post about the death of blogging. (Irony is never lost on me.)
I am a better and stronger writer for having this blog, and I’m sure as this year unfolds I will from time to time return to it and share, but for the time being, I understand we are all still in the hospital wondering if blogging will push through.
Let me try this differently…. Right now I enjoy a exercise game that some might call an illusion. I have a NordicTrack and I use iFit. For those that don’t know what this is, it is a treadmill with a little screen on it and I jog with trainers from around the world. The machine speeds up and slows down based on what the trainer is doing and will go up and down based on the environment. Honestly, all you are missing is the smell of the different lands.
But it is an illusion. I buy into this illusion, because it is a nice distraction and inspiring to me. I’ve gone from being able to run a few miles (on a good day) to taking on half-marathon jogs.
This running game made me a healthier person, and blogging made me a better writer. I see similar trends between both. There was a freedom there for both and results at the end feel positive.
We all need our illusions. So maybe it could be said that this is the moment when reality decided to break the illusion of blogging? It feels harsh to say that. Yes, I blame reality for killing many blogs and disarming others (like mine), but it is more than that.
This might be an evolution. Another step in the process towards becoming its next thing. Maybe when blogging finally opens its eyes in the hospital and smiles it will be a very new and beautiful butterfly.
I would like to see it. The world could use some new beauty right now.