My Retirement from Blogging
For nearly 15 years I was a blogger. Sometimes this had been for profit and other times it only served as a creative outlet. I believe I have had at least one blog on every platform since Open Diary. That was until I decided to launch this site a few weeks ago.
Not having a blog feels weird and it seems oddly timed. This is due to the fact that I recommitted to regularly blogging for most of 2016 after several fits and starts in the two years prior. Though the act of this recommitment was cathartic and offered many insights I have came to realize blogging does not meet my needs. Trying to force it does not add value to my life.
In part this is due to how much blogging has changed in the last five years. Blogging networks used to primarily serve as a way for people to connect based on their content. It really was social media 1.0 in this regard. I remember on Livejournal and in my early days of Blogger I had at least as many online only people interacting with me as I had family and friends doing the same.
It was a way to create thoughtful content that allowed people into my head in a real way. In restarting my blog I noticed hits and other metrics were much better, but comments were way down. Also people directly reaching out via messages to me were non-existent. The quality of the experience had degraded a good deal. My belief is that the proliferation of SEO and other money making schemes has turned blogging into a entirely profit focused medium leaving little space for true communities to grow.
Having been back for a full year now I believe my desire to create content for its own sake is better served on a dedicated website instead of a blog. On the site management side of things it is physically easier to maintain a bunch of static web pages using only html and css. This also allows me to more readily apply my values around essentialism directly to my site itself. I won't be distracted by engagement tools, tempted by profit making schemes, or any of the other trappings of modern blogging. All this means I am more focused on my content, on my process, and producing outcomes I won't come back to in a couple years with a cringe as often as I do now.
Content has always been at the center of my writing ethos. Without quality content there is no real point to even creating. In the social media age writing has become more about monetization, or the ability of that content to be repurposed for profit. In addition to this writers today find themselves gearing their content to social media. This usually entails writing less, using visuals, audio, and following a writing process to emphasize certain words to pull you in. All of this runs counter to what I prefer to do. Yet, looking at some of my recent work I can see that I have been subconsciously impacted by that style.
It has been my long held belief that a writer should not write to an audience or a niche, but rather one’s self. In many ways I write as much to me as I do to others. Writing is a way to get my thoughts out of my head, analyze them, and grow from them. Sometimes this produces outcome that provide opportunities to make money or connect with others. At best though this happened organically due to the quality from what I produced, not as part of some scheme to become a profitable blogger.
A personal favorite book of mine is How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely. In many ways this often funny tail rings true to the current state of "content creation" on the modern web. The main character, seeing the success of big name authors in literature for what is rather formulaic output decides he can do the same. He sets out to dissect the formula of others and use it to create a new work. Many fan fictions do exactly this, often with low quality outcomes. I don't want to do that.
I want to look at my work with pride, share it freely, and connect with those who add substantively to my experience because I add to theirs. How will I do this? I often am called upon by former contacts to help them "save" their blog project that has gone sideways. I always advise the same thing and it is high time I took my own advice to heart.
That advice is usually to let the blog die, start a new blog with better planning, and leave that content behind. Sometimes the best thing to do is not to clutch to the past, but to let it go so you can move on to better things. Hopefully this is done in such a way that you land a bit wiser and more prepared for what you do next.
Everything I write from here on out will be new. I have canned all my old drafts and came at this blank slate with a blank slate. In many ways this is exhilarating, a hard reset. It has been many years since I have been in this place. I will admit though it is a bit scary. So much of how I see my present and future is tied up with my past.
Instead of bite sized posts with nice pictures I am focusing on the longer form with this new mission. I take on this challenge to grow my skills which have become dulled with complacency. I am also linking my writing to another interest of mine, website development. The site this essay is on looks spartan by design, but it is also limited by my skills to keep my honest.
With a heavy heart, I am a blogger no more. I see an opportunity for growth as an essayist unencumbered by the trappings of the modern consumer web. In the end it is about the process and the outcome, not the medium.