May 06, 2009

On Reincarnation

Most of the time when authors quit their blogs or scale back to major-announcements-only, they cite waning interest (or energy) as the cause. Makes sense to me--one of the reasons I don't use Twitter, and try to limit Facebook activity, is that the internet is such a huge and limitless timesuck. Most people don't define an exit strategy before launching a blog; it's not like a book MS that finally gets taken up for publication, or a class that you graduate. No one gives you permission to move on.

A blog just...waits. Like a plant waiting to be watered. Except if this plant dies, you can't just surreptitiously pitch it down your building's trash chute in the dead of night, swearing to yourself that you'll do better next time. It's a little more public.

Right now there is a glut of guides to "Being an Author in the Age of Web 2.0!" We're told to use blogs in the following ways:

-Test out drafts of what may be bigger projects (to develop your skill)
-Coordinate and promote book readings (to sustain your career)
-Post mini-reviews or interviews (to strengthen your community)
-Create a storehouse of helpful tips and links (to pull in Googlers)

Okay. Logical. And yet...those blog-posts aren't the ones I get excited to read. I'm not saying they aren't important--they are--but they have to be balanced with humor, revelation, a little bit of risk. Intimacy. The blog posts I get excited about feature the goofy thing someone's kid said, or wall colors for a new house, or a take on the last American Idol Episode, or a stream-of-conscious meditation on the moon, a violin, and fresh honeycomb. The best blogs are, at the end of the day, powered by a cult of personality.

Two of my favorite ladies in the poetry world have recently reincarnated their blogs. Five Feet Above Water became Miss Gin. Home-Schooled By a Cackling Jackal became (or rather, always was) Reb Livingston. In both cases, the original blogs had found a good mix of what the guides would call "compelling 2.0 content" and what I would call "crunchy, sticky, gossipy, snarky real-life anecdotes that make me come back for more."

In both cases, the author decided to change not only her theme but her URL. Oh no! moan the 2.0 Web Gurus. All those lost links! All that wasted traffic!

Part of me agrees--because if your blog is shaped primarily by your personality (versus a definite project), then it should be able to evolve with you. But part of me knows that sometimes you have to honor an impulse. It's like paying a bundle to maintain your same old hairstyle one week, and a week later admitting your profound need to look completely different. Purple hair dye: $70. Fresh start: priceless.

As I embark on a more substantial prose career, I've been wondering how much of that should be reflected on the blog. Maybe I could use this blog as the real diary of a freelancer. Not self-help tips, but the real stuff. Whether one should drink & draft. The critical misstep of downloading Snood. The awkwardness of networking with DC journalists when you don't give a damn about politics. The perils of researching for a book that relies on a medical term not even coined until 1906.

Part of me thinks that could be a fun blog. Part of me thinks that this blog is called "Chicks Dig Poetry" for a reason, and I should honor that. Part of me thinks the more empathetic readers for the blog, the better the readers for the book. Part of me thinks that a little bit of distance adds credibility and import.

If you're looking for a firm conclusion, sorry! Blogs aren't the place for firm conclusions, at least not for me. I see them as organic structures, plants with dirty, messy, unstoppable roots. You can feed them, or tear 'em out by those roots when the time comes.


Reb said...

The blog change was something I considered for a long time, maybe a year. In terms of a promotional strategy, it is a "bad idea" -- Cackling Jackal is linked to from hundreds of places -- and I knew the change would mean that I'd lose readers. It's been almost a week since I closed CJ and it still receives more visits than the new blog. According to Google Reader, the new blog has only a fraction of CJ's subscriptions. Maybe people are checking to see if I change my mind. I'm aware that some readers prefer the old blog.

My decision to start fresh was for a variety of personal reasons -- it was a long time coming and I'm happier with the new blog. If I had an agent, he'd probably have tried to talk me out of the change.

But I'm a poet and I don't know have an agent.

Sandra said...

Hey Reb--

I think the readers will come find you, at least the ones you are interested in having. And I totally understand--and support--starting the new blog, imaginary-agent be damned! I hope that came across in my post.

Sometimes I just get tired of being encouraged to make everything so *strategic.* It's a life, not a ladder.

RIP, Jackal. Viva la Reb. = )

Over & out,

Reb said...

Oh, yes, of course that came through on your post. To be clear, I had many of those concerns myself, which is why it took me a year to cut the cord.

I suppose in a sense I still have a strategy of sorts -- but the goals have shifted.

Collin Kelley said...

Thanks for the hat tip to Modern Confessional and being a regular reader. I have no exit strategy for my blog. It's become my main website and I plan to be posting their until...well...I'm dead. My blog is six years old and continues to grow and gain readership, mainly because I make sure my other social networking on Facebook and Twitter all leads back there. I see the social sites as a point of entry for Modern Confessional.

I've been working on a blog just for Conquering Venus, but I've realized that blog will mainly be a clearing-house to store article, reviews, tidbits, photos, etc. or shared content from Modern Confessional. I don't want to distract people with an entirely new blog to follow.

I applaud Reb for taking the leap into re-inventing herself. I'm already digging her new blog.

Ms. Gin said...

yes, this seems to be the times for changes. i'm focusing on more project based writing and decided to revamp, those i miss my daily ramblings on five feet. though two blogs seemed a bit ridiculous...but you never question is how and can you do it all?!