Thoughts of an accidental blogger
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. When I started this blog in November 2010, I wasn’t sure how often I’d be posting, or even if the site would survive more than a couple of months. I’d spent several years blogging with my roommates after college, often writing multiple posts per day, but gradually the well went dry—mostly after we all all got girlfriends—and the site hasn’t been updated in a long time. At best, I thought, this blog would serve as my author page, with information about my novels and other works, a bio that I’d occasionally update, and news about readings and other events. The idea that the blog would become a major part of my writing life frankly never occurred to me. Yet that’s pretty much what happened: almost two years later, I’ve posted something every day, sometimes just a quote or a picture, but more often a fairly involved think piece that takes up a good chunk of my morning. And while I don’t think I can maintain this pace forever, at this point, it’s hard to imagine my life without it.
So what happened? In some ways, it’s an illustration of one of my favorite truisms about writing: the power of habit. By now, my blog routine has become deeply ingrained: after my wife heads out for work, I pour myself a cup of green tea and start the day’s blog post, which usually takes about an hour before I move on to other things—and it would feel strange not to spend the morning like this. I’ve also developed the usual tricks and mechanisms to keep going, even on days when I don’t particularly feel like writing, and although I no longer maintain a formal list of potential topics, I’m always thinking about what the next day’s post will be. In short, it’s just like any other kind of writing, which often comes down to muscle memory. And while the amount of work involved every day is relatively small, as in everything else, the effects can be large: at this point, I’ve written enough on this blog to fill two novel-length books. And while my readership has never been huge, the fact that many of you drop by on a regular basis has been enormously gratifying.
I’ve also been lucky enough to have two of my posts on Freshly Pressed over the past twelve months. There are a number of other sites that discuss various strategies to get featured there—the one on the WordPress site itself is especially useful, as is this post—but even now, I’m a little mystified by the process. My first such post, on the tenth anniversary of The Fellowship of the Ring, benefited from being on a four-quadrant topic, but last week’s post on Breaking Bad and the bottle episode was pretty narrow in its appeal even by the standards of this site. The moral, I guess, is that you really only need to appeal to one person, the editor who happens to be making selections that day, and that person’s tastes can be hard to predict. Once your blog is past a certain level of readability and accessibility, it often comes down to the luck of the draw, and the fact that I’ve done it before doesn’t make it any more likely that I’ll do it again. (Incidentally, the resulting bump in traffic is generally only temporary—although those of you who stuck around are now my new best friends.)
But it’s also worth noting that I’ve never posted anything on this site with the thought of attracting the maximum number of readers, or with an eye to getting Freshly Pressed. (Well, almost never: I secretly hoped that my post on The Hunger Games and the changing face of the box office would get picked up, but I don’t think anyone even saw it.) I’m happy enough when I can come up with something to write five hundred words about on any given day, regardless of whether or not anyone else will care—although it’s important to note that once I come up with a topic, I go through all the steps of correction and revision that I would for any piece of work that I expect to see in print. As a result, looking back on the posts from the past two years, I find that I’ve revealed more about myself than I ever thought I would, giving me a record of my thoughts and experiences over this interesting time that I’m profoundly grateful to have. Along with the skills that you naturally develop by writing like this every day, that’s really all anyone can ask of a blog like this. And I’m glad that so many of you have followed along this far.