Thursday, October 25, 2007
Well. Now it's three years in a row that I arrive at the celebration of my blog's birthday tired and not quite in a writing mood. Fortunately for me this time around, I wasn't up until 3:00 in the morning the night before, although I do find myself putting off some blog maintenance I had in mind, sort of like on my first blogging anniversary. (I will be updating the list of favorite posts and sidebar links some time soon -- just not today as I'd hoped.)
Unlike on those previous two blogiversaries, though, I have been thinking more about blogging, my writing career, and life in general this time around. Indeed, as I glance back at those other two blogiversary posts and the post that started it all, I am struck by how much I have changed as a writer, as a thinker, and as a person over that time.
I began blogging for several reasons, the central ones being that I want to pursue a career of some kind in opinion writing (be that on the side or full-time), but that I was unclear how best to proceed. The friend who, over a sociable pint, first got me to consider blogging, provided an important part of the answer. People have been discovered and managed to achieve national prominence through blogging since the rise of the medium.
Experience and the gradual accumulation of knowledge that comes with it are providing the rest of the answer. I argue from a perspective that is just now gaining greater prominence culturally and in the public debate. The upside is that I'm getting in on the ground floor. The downside is that there will likely not be, even in the best of circumstances, a rapid rise to fame: Most people do not necessarily want to hear what I have to say. In addition, I have learned, I think from Scott Adams, that success even for someone more mainstream does not come overnight. If I recall correctly, he labored for about a decade before Dilbert became a household name.
It is with that as a backdrop that I have been thinking lately about how blogging will fit into the picture of my pursuit of a writing career, including the question of whether to continue at all. (Coincidentally, I was thinking hardest about that very question the morning that news of John Cox and Allen Forkum's decision to stop cartooning struck me like a lightning bolt from my feed reader.) Writing daily takes time and energy, even when it comes easily to me, which, fortunately, it normally does.
The question is: Am I gaining enough value from my blogging to justify the expense? Monetarily, no. Or at least not yet. But as I have watched my audience slowly grow in numbers while continuing to be of high quality, I have received encouragement as a writer. In fact, some people I hold in very high regard either follow this blog or have told me personally -- without my asking -- that they like my writing. Furthermore, one doesn't occasionally get links out of the blue from the likes of City Journal if one isn't doing something right.
Indeed, over the past year, although my output of formal writing has been low (and very frustrating for me), I am undertaking two projects (and may participate in a third) that stand to further my writing career in one way or another, be that improving my approach to writing to the point that I will more consistently produce publishable work, making myself known to a broader audience, or even perhaps getting paid to write something for the first time. All this has been during a year that has been exceedingly busy with no signs of slowing down, but during which I still managed a fairly regular posting schedule.
I would have to say that this year has been difficult on a daily level, but exciting in the long view. Both have been due to my blogging, as has my discovery of a possible answer to my dilemma about whether and how to continue. As I have mentioned quite frequently lately, another blogger, historian Scott Powell, introduced me to the work of productivity guru David Allen, whose methods I have adopted and which have begun bearing fruit for me in the form of a mother lode of time recovered from each day -- and a lower stress level. I have realized both simply by changing some of my work habits according to his suggestions. I now spend less time blogging, but have managed to continue what I regard as an output level sufficient to maintain the value of this blog for myself and my regular readers.
Whether I will be able to continue blogging at my normal pace and pursue these other writing-related projects remains to be seen. David Allen's methods are slowly revolutionizing the way I do almost everything. Thus it is possible that as I continue making my approach to project management more efficient and continue to internalize this new way of working, that I will be able to maintain the amount and quality of output here to make this blog continue to be worth my time and effort.
In summary, this blog gives me, as a writer, value in terms of practice at research and writing, feedback, and networking. I must continue blogging to continue seeing these benefits, as well as a few others I have just thought of, but don't have time to elaborate on. It is not producing income for me or getting me published, although it could do these things eventually. It does cost me time and energy, but I may find that I have more of both than I think (and can use each more efficiently) as I integrate David Allen's techniques into my work habits. In the short term, I am going to continue blogging in order to continue to reap its benefits and in part just to see whether I can. This blog started as an adventure and continues to be one!
Last but not least, blogging has introduced me to an ever-widening circle of really good people, several of whom I have had the honor to meet personally, and it has led to my renewing several old acquaintances, including that of an old friend I had a falling-out with some years ago. This has been the greatest boon of all, and I would like to thank all of you, as well as the rest of my readers.
As an activity, writing is a strange mixture of the solitary and the social. You have all made that second aspect of it very worthwhile to me. Because of that, I will never regret blogging as a person, regardless of where I eventually take it as a writer. Thank you very much for stopping by.
PS: Very last and way far from least, the blogger (pictured at right) thanks his wife for her tolerance (and indeed, support) of his constant blogging, and especially for her (cough) feedback whenever he asks her to listen to him read a post he is especially proud of!
I am the luckiest man in the world and love her very much.
Today: (1) Minor edits. (2) Made feeble attempt to claw my way out of doghouse by adding a postscript after reading this to my dear, beloved, and very tolerant wife!