A conservatory of Ldotter blogs.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Yesterday, at Right Wing News. . .

. . .John Hawkins posted his Top Ten Reasons Bloggers Don't Succeed. And, after reading it, I have to admit I'm guilty of several of the reasons, and maybe all of them. I don't know. All I do know is that when I started this blog back in September of 2004, I had one of the best launches a person could ask for, and built upon that for several months, until life intervened and I was called away from it for about two years.

Remarkably, the whole time I was away, there were still several people who checked in fairly regularly to see if I had updated. When I decided to return to blogging a couple of months ago, I checked my hit numbers and was astonished to see that I had amassed over 65,000 despite not having posted anything of consequence in my two-year absence. That was pretty encouraging, to say the least. If nothing else, it seems to mean that I have a fairly solid core of readers who will at least make the effort to type my URL in the address bar.

The first reason Hawkins gives for blogger failure is that they're just "not very good". On this measure, I think I'm probably respectable. I write fairly well at times, but there are other times when I can't seem to string together a coherent paragraph to save my life. Part of the reason for that is that I could very well be the most angst-ridden writer in the blogosphere. One demonstration of my angst is the fact that I do not, under any circumstances, ever proofread my writing until after I've published it. Whether I write a quick ten-word wiseass remark, or a 3,000-word essay, I refuse to go over it until I've gone ahead and hit the "Submit" button. The reason for this is that, if I started proof-reading and making corrections and changes prior to publishing, I'd never finish a piece and nothing I wrote would ever get published.

Another one of the reasons Hawkins gives for the lack of success of most bloggers is that they're simply not consistent. I think it goes without saying that this applies to me. Here, I tend to fall back on excuses, really. Jobs, social life, and all that. There's no better way of putting it than to simply say that my priorities are screwed up. However, I must point out that, in my defense, what first pulled me away from my regular blogging was the fact that I was working on a local judicial campaign, and once you've committed to a political campaign, nearly everything in life beyond food, water, shelter and clothing gets set aside. This was most emphatically the case with the campaign I was working on. It started out as ours to lose, which we quickly proceeded to do, only to stage the proverbial miraculous comeback and survive the primary. From that point on, it was 18-plus hour days and seven-day weeks. My only time at home was spent sleeping and doing laundry. By the time the campaign ended, I didn't even have internet access at my home.

Another reason for blogger failure, according to Hawkins, is that they simply don't cover interesting material. This, too, has proven to be a big challenge for me. Often, when I've gone a full day, or two, without posting anything, it's not for lack of trying. I will sit and scour the web for hours and hours only to come up empty-handed. Which, if you look at it objectively, is quite absurd. There simply is no excuse for anyone who can't find something interesting to write about on the Web.

But, the problem for me isn't so much that there's not anything interesting out there to write about. It's more that I'm never quite sure whether what I find interesting is going to be seen in the same way by those who read my blog. In that sense, I'm constantly at war with the reader. It could be that I have decided to limit what I cover based on my need for the approval of those who have stayed with me over the years, rather than simply doing what I want to do and hope that some new folks will find their way to my humble abode. This is something I definitely need to work on. It seems I'm a square peg trying to pound myself in this round hole of a blog.

As an illustration, I'll point out that the single most viewed in all of my hundreds of posts over the years is called "In Defense of 80's Metal". Somehow, it managed to find its way into the Yahoo directory on the subject.

So, it seems the challenge here for me is to somehow strike a balance between my passion, which is politics, and all of my other interests -- while still maintaining a predominantly political blog. I've actually been toying with this idea for the past week, or so, and trying to figure out just how to approach it. It first struck me that this might be a good idea when the publicist for the early 90's pop metal band Trixter contacted me to let me know that they have a new album set to be released in the near future and asked if I'd like to do an interview with the band. It strikes me as an interesting idea and I'm currently working on it.

Uniqueness is another of the qualities Hawkins cites for blogger success, and that has always struck me as the single most important key to success, and the one that has vexed me from the very beginning. How on earth do I stand out when there are literally thousands upon thousands of blogs out there that take the same basic view of politics as a libertarian-leaning conservative? The only avenue I could ever see was to do it with the writing. Unfortunately, In my case, this has proven to be a self-perpetuating obstacle. As the most angst-ridden writer alive today, I often find myself battling the self-defeating thoughts of inadequacy, which in turn lead to a lack of motivation, which in turn, leads to inconsistency, which in turn leads to the atrophy of the writing chops, which feeds the whole cycle. On the bright side, if they ever devise a way to convert self-doubt into energy, I could be the basis of the long sought-after perpetual motion machine.

It's possible that I could break this cycle if I can just figure out how to quit trying to force my square peg self where I don't belong. So, from now on, I'm just going to try to get back to basics and do my thang, as the kids like to say.

Finally, Hawkins points to the various areas of promotion as a cause for failed blogs, and that has undoubtedly been the case for this one. When I first started, I had a great place to self-promote at Lucianne.com, but it soon became apparent that it wasn't practical for her to allow all of her posters to post links to their personal blogs, and even less fair for her to allow me to do so when others couldn't. At that point, it just seemed to me that it was going to have to be a strictly word-of-mouth operation. And, at first, it seemed to be working pretty well. I was getting all manner of tips from readers and picking up the occasional link here and there. But, at that point in time, the blogosphere was still experiencing the pangs of growth in the explosion of the medium following the Rathergate scandal.

But, the idea of actively "promoting" my work to other bloggers always struck me as the wrong way to go about it. I always figured that, if the writing stood up, and people found it interesting, my readership would eventually develop itself. And, there's some element of pride -- of the foolish bent, I suppose -- that has kept me from reaching out to other bloggers to promote my own. For some reason, it always struck me as a little shabby to email better-known bloggers to ask them to read what I've written. Oddly enough, I would never think that of someone else who had done it, and would be the first person to congratulate another blogger who had managed to succeed in landing one of those coveted links we all crave at some level by simply writing one of the biggies and asking them to give their work a once-over. In an honest moment, I suppose I would characterize my thinking as somewhat arrogant in that regard, and something I obviously need to give more thought to.

But, it's not entirely pride that's kept me from seeking out the imprimatur of the blog capos. There's the silly romantic notion that it's somehow better to struggle and dwell in obscurity while you slowly build a reputation, brick by lonely brick, as a reasonably talented blogger who finally broke free from the pack when he at long last got his one big break. And, also, there's the silly notion that it's somehow more satisfying to one day look back on your body of work and say to yourself, "Well, I might have accomplished jack squat, but at least I did it on my terms."

Whatever becomes of this blog over time, I do have to say that it's an enjoyable pursuit, on the whole. It could be that I simply don't have what it takes to break through and leave a mark on the blogosphere. Odds are, that's the case. But, if nothing else, I'll honestly be able to say that my failure wasn't for lack of trying. It could be that it's for lack of trying hard enough. But, thanks to John Hawkins, it won't be because I didn't know how to do it. And, for that, he deserves thanks.

Now, I have to hit the Submit button. Wish me luck!

UPDATE: Hey! John Hawkins at Right Wing News was right! Linking out works! Many thanks to Mr. Hawkins. Now I have to get to work.

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