Rory: Are you still going to school too?
Dean: Part-time, but everything's good, I've got a five-year plan.
Rory: Five years? Cool... I've got about the next two-and-a-half hours planned... then there's just darkness... and possibly some dragons.
— Gilmore Girls: ‘The Incredible Sinking Lorelais’
I am not big on reflection. Like most people I can’t pass a mirror without taking note of what I look like. It’s not vanity. I just want to make sure I don’t look like a tube. Retrospection is something I shy away from too. I have no problems with introspection—I’ve lived inside my own head for years quite happily—but although that’s where my past hangs out we tend to keep to ourselves. I’m not big on anniversaries either. I remember my wedding anniversary but since it’s so close to Christmas we never make much of a fuss about it. Birthdays have become a moveable feast.
I have been churning out these blogs for five years now. My first was on 6th August 2007. I never mentioned to anyone when I reached my first anniversary and most other years by the time I’ve realised that another year has bitten the dust it’s too late to do a post. What would I say anyway? I’d say, “It’s been x number of years,” and you’d go, “Yay you,” and that would be that. So if you feel like going, “Yay you,” don’t let me stop you. I should probably go, “Yay you,” too for sticking with me for however long you’ve been following me. If, of course, this is your first visit, all I have to say is that you’ve got a helluva lot of catching up to do. Helluva lot of catching up. Over 450 entries. Over a million words (and that’s a very conservative estimate).
The Caslon Analytics site had this to say about blogging:
Several studies indicate that most blogs are abandoned soon after creation (with 60% to 80% abandoned within one month, depending on whose figures you choose to believe) and that few are regularly updated.
The 'average blog' thus has the lifespan of a fruit fly. One cruel reader of this page commented that the average blog also has the intelligence of a fly.
The Perseus report … indicates that 66.0% of surveyed blogs had not been updated in two months, "representing 2.72 million blogs that have been either permanently or temporarily abandoned".
That page was last updated in 2009 but even then the author acknowledged that the young were moving away from blogging in droves. It makes sense. If you don’t have much to say—i.e. if you’ve not a deep well of life experience to draw from—then Facebook and Twitter are much easier waters to navigate.
Looking around at the blogs I follow most have been going for years and a few even longer than mine. The oldest is now nine years old. Almost all of them are maintained by individuals who have well and truly passed the bloom of youth. I doubt many are under forty. Dave King is in his mid-seventies and has blogged regularly since December 2006. Over 1250 entries! And showing no signs of flagging. But many others have slipped away quietly and their loss has barely been noticed because if there is one thing the Internet can’t stand it’s a vacuum.
There are a number of reasons why blogs fail. For some real life takes over and that’s great. If only we all had real lives. Mostly the problem is finding stuff to talk about because few of us live exciting lives. As I wrote in a recent comment, “I read, I write, I watch TV. I’m no Stephen Fry.” I made the decision early on to not talk about myself if I could possibly avoid it. I value my privacy, yes, but the real reason was I didn’t think I could entertain people. I’m no Erma Bombeck either. Nor am I much of an expert on anything and those topics I do know a few things about were quickly exhausted which turned the focus of the blog into one of discovery which was fine; I like learning new things. I research things that interest me and write about them. But research takes time and if you’re going to post twice weekly (which is what I started doing) then that’s setting the bar quite high but I did manage that for quite a bit. But a while back I cut back to once every five days which took the pressure off and gave me a bit more time to do other writerly things.
Now I’m looking ahead rather than looking back—I said I wasn’t big on retrospection—and wondering where I’m going next year. This does require a little looking back on where I’ve been, thinking about the goals I set and what I achieved. I never had a five-year plan per se but five years on is a reasonable point to assess progress. I started this blog because everything I read about being a writer in the 21st century said, “Get a blog.” So I got a blog and I blogged—regularly but not so regularly that I bored my readers and burned out myself—and I kept self-promotion to a minimum because I hated following blogs where all they talked about was their ruddy books. And what do you know? I actually sold a few books. Not a huge amount you have to understand but enough to justify going back to the printer for a second run. Followers increased steadily if not rapidly and it looked like I’d ticked all the boxes. For quite a while now—assuming the stats are to be believed—there has been very little growth on this blog. Oh I pick up the odd new follower but mostly it feels as if I’ve levelled out. In fact I’ve just had a look at my stats for the last month and it’s as close to a straight line as you can get. And it’s been that way for months. I’m starting to think that investing so much energy here isn’t necessarily the best use of my time. Most of my hits come from search engines anyway and are rarely to the latest post. I’m also beginning to wonder whether or not even posting every five days is still a burden on my readers because one or two have admitted privately that they don’t always read everything I write. I don’t feel bad about that because I don’t have the time to read everything all my friends write; not properly anyway.
Anyway from now on, for a variety of reasons, I’ve decided to cut back again. This will give me time to think about guest blogs which I’ve only done a couple of times up until now. I’ll also be able to spend more time looking for new ways to promote my writing elsewhere. I’ve just, for example, sent out about 200 poems and stories. The last time I did a mass submission like this was two years ago and that’s no way to get read. I don’t think I approached this project with unreasonable expectations. I did the research—a lot of it—and followed what seemed to be the best advice. What I am starting to realise is that a lot of that advice was never going to work for me because of the kind of writer/person I am. I always prided myself on the fact that I was in this for the long game. Five years is nothing. I could still be here slogging away in another twenty-five. Where else is there to go?
To all my regular readers let me just say a sincere thank you for sticking with me. Starting on Sunday 12th August this will now be a weekly blog. The ratio will be three book reviews to one literary article. Not sure what I’ll do on the months with an extra Sunday. If I have news of reviews of any of my own books I may chuck in the odd ‘Aggie and Shuggie’ midweek but we’ll see. There haven’t been many reviews of Milligan and Murphy to shout about. Hopefully my short story collection will fare better. It will be called Making Sense and is a group of stories all revolving around the senses, not simply the five physical senses— ophthalmoception, audioception, gustaoception, olfacoception and tactioception (aren’t they great words?)—but the other ‘senses’ we all rely on to make sense of the world we find ourselves in: sense of humour, sense of justice, sense of impending doom etc. Not set a date for the release but it won’t be until spring 2013 at the earliest.
So lots to do. If you’ll excuse me I’d best make a start. Daylight’s burning.