Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Secret of Blog Longevity

I’ve been making a point, lately, about my blog (my main blog) being ten years old.  It’s all part of a self-promotional scheme that you don’t need to concern yourself with.  But I think the fact that I have the longest running blog I know of (I have been asking, but so far no one has come up with one as old or older) might be something of interest to writers.
How, exactly, is that done?
Actually, I think a better question is: Why should it be done?  The answer to that, of course, is: It shouldn’t.
Blogs are ephemeral by nature.  They are of a season, an interest, a point of view, designed to cover a certain period in our lives and then fade away as we move on.  Maintaining the same blog on the same topic for so long merely points to a person who can’t let go.
And having attained this milestone, I can’t say as I feel like a sage sitting on a mountain top dispensing advice to pilgrims.  I’m more like the annoying dad who’s every sentence to his kids begins, “When I was your age…”  (…we wrote in HTML, we had to start our computers with a hand-crank, and it took two weeks to upload a 3k file…)
Anyway, if you want to have a blog that has lasted as long as mine, my advice—even though you didn’t ask for it—is write about something you will never get tired of writing about.
The only blog author I can point to who was around when I was first blogging is Rob Rummel-Hudson.  His blog followed his life’s arc from one adventure to another.  He wrote well and managed to make his life sound interesting and amusing.  Then his daughter was diagnosed with a rare disorder and he started a new blog about that.  He is still keeping that one up.  He chronicles their triumphs and failures, the progress and setbacks, he’s become an expert on bilateral perisylvian polymicrogyria and has, in fact, written a book about his experiences.  We go where life takes us; sometimes we blog about it.
Another long-standing blog is Joe Knorath’s “A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing” (20 March 2005).  In retrospect, I’m sure Joe wishes he had picked a different title; his blog has not been for or about newbies in a long, long time.  But he has discovered the other secret of longevity: diversity.  Joe was an enthusiastic newbie and more than ready to share all his hard-won knowledge.  This earned him a devoted following.  Then he became the poster boy for self-promotion, he became an early proponent for e-books and now he’s the poster boy for self-publishing.  He has gone on a journey and brought us along for the ride.
In fact the only reason Joe’s blog has not been around as long as mine is that he made the mistake of starting it in 2005 instead of 2001.
There are a lot of good blogs out there (and an unlimited number of really crap ones) but most of them, to my way of thinking, were created with a sell-by date.  Two of my current favorites are The Passive Voice and Catherine, Caffeinated, but I can see both of them running their course.  The Passive Voice is about self-publishing and author contracts, but even now I feel he is preaching to the choir (though, as a member of that choir, I am still an enthusiastic reader).  Catherine’s blog is also about self-publishing, but the title allows her a lot more leeway and she is already using the self-publishing podium as a means of self promotion.  There is nothing wrong with that, of course; that is what blogs are for.
And this is what makes mine different; it was never about self promotion.  Okay, I have ads for my books on the site and, currently, at the end of my posts, but I don’t tuck sales ads into my posts.  My post are what they have always been, humorous, personal essays.  I do write about being an expat a lot, but I have also written about throwing up, encounters with spiders, sitting in a cafĂ© in a train station and simply riding the bus.
In short, I write about my life; and that’s not something I don’t plan on getting tired of anytime soon.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Divining a Doctrine

...that we henceforth be no more like children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine...                                       Ephesians 4:14
No, I’m not getting all religious on you, I just thought that quote from Ephesians was apt, and will maybe get me listed in some different search engines, like Godgle and Ask Jesus.

(Wouldn’t you know, after coming up with that joke, I found out that Ask Jesus is an actual web site.)
But my point is, with the once-stable publication industry now shifting under our feet, and different theories about how writers should react to it careening about like sugar-crazed toddlers at a fun fair, it’s hard to not get carried away, thinking one thing one minute, and another the next.
In reading various articles over the past few weeks, I’ve become convinced that traditional publication is the way to go, and then that only an idiot would consider it, that social media is an absolute must, and then that it is a time-suck to be avoided, that I should be concentrating solely on Amazon sales, and then that the other eBook outlets are every bit as important. My plans for the future, it seems, rest on whichever article I have most recently read, and that is no way to plot a career.
In the old days (say, about 18 months ago) the path was well-defined. The way to publication was rocky and treacherous, but it was stable. Likewise, the ‘alternative’ route—the broad, smooth way, paved with stones from the Good Intentions Construction Company—led to a place no real writer wanted to go; as it always had been and forever would remain, amen. But now the paths are inexplicably merging and the temptation to step off of the rocky trail onto the smooth slip road is becoming harder and harder to resist, especially when those further ahead are telling us that the wide road leads to a better place.
So I’ve been, shall we say, a bit distracted. Oh, I had good intentions: I did set alarms to keep me on track, as I promised I would, and I did my best to make peace with social networking, but I kept sliding deeper into frustration.
Despite the alarms, I would keep hammering away at the social networks, determined to get at least one tweet, post or comment out in the allotted time. I rarely did, which did absolutely nothing to assist my marketing efforts and merely assured that I would start each day off with a magnificent FAIL. Only then would I attempt to write (‘attempt’ being the operative word). After a time I gave up attempting. Then I gave up social networking.
This wasn’t an altogether bad thing; sitting and doing nothing for a few days gave me time to reflect. Soon enough, the answer came, as it always does: it’s all about the writing.
As a writer, I should be writing; tweeting, commenting, posting or working up graphics for my next book ad are all secondary. The writing is the thing, working on THIS book, not the last one, not the next one. By making that the center of my day, all the rest will fall into place.
So, after weeks of angst and soul-searching, I have decided on this as my definitive doctrine. Until I read another article.