Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Is there anybody out there?

To anyone thinking about starting off a literary blog, a few observations and a couple of words of encouragement, a whole two words; watch out for them, they could be anywhere.

It was with a fair degree of reticence I returned to active participation in the World Wide Web back in August. I'd stayed clear of the Internet for eight years contenting myself with my own work and company and only using the Internet for research. A lot can happen in eight years. Blogs existed back in 2000 in all but name but they weren't the phenomenon they have become. Everyone and his dog have a blog these days.

I didn't just jump in to see if I could swim. No, I read everything I could about how blogs worked, looked at hundreds – literally – and wasn't altogether impressed with what I found. I had no real expectations so I can't really say I was disappointed as such but the more I read the more I started to expect to be disappointed. The thing is, every now and then, I wasn't. And that was the start of it. I began to run across interesting blogs. I devoted three whole months to this research.

I don't know about you but I find uncovering new-and-interesting blogs a slog, a chore, a real pain in the wrist. My approach over the months has been quite simply to click on every single outbound link and see where it takes me. Blog directories are okay but I've not run across many quality sites through them. Usually I've stumbled across them elsewhere first. When I do trip over a site that looks promising, I subscribe to it immediately and watch it progress. Or not. It doesn't take long to see if what attracted me to the blog in the first place was a flash in the pan; anyone can have the odd good day.

Often these sites are posting daily but it's what they're posting. Frequently it has nothing to do with what their blog purports to be about and often, if it's not out-and-out moaning about life, it's plain trivia. There is a belief out there where people feel they have to post every single day or they'll be forgotten and very soon they run out of decent ideas. It's simply not true. Periodically I check my list to see how long it is since a site has posted. If it's been over three weeks then I usually delete the entry there and then. It may seem a little callous but I'm looking to build relationships with active bloggers who have something to say. I would love to paint myself as altruistic but I'm not.

What I have learned about on-line marketing is, unlike so many other forms of marketing, one of the best ways to get known is by being a nice guy and, despite an unfortunate misanthropic streak that I've never been able to shrug off, I can be quite a decent stick when I put my mind to it. It's easy to be a misanthrope though when there's no one around to bring out the nice guy lurking on the inside.

So, I started to take an active interest in some of the sites I kept finding myself visiting and, much to my surprise (even though it was a part of the grand plan), people started checking out my own blog. But there weren't many. If I made it into double figures I was happy (or at least what passes for happiness with me) and this went on for several weeks. I started to register with blog directories like BlogCatalog, BlogRush and MyBlogLog. British Blogs, BritBlog and BritLitBlogs made a real difference – I began starting to get a whopping thirty odd readers a day.

It took a surprising amount of hard work to get even to that level. The big jump came when I joined the Entrecard network of blogs. I now enjoy regular daily visits of over a hundred a day but I'm under no illusions that they're all actually reading my blog. My wife talks about it as my "clickership" as opposed to readership. (It's a good term. I googled it. It's not original. So little ever is.) A mention on Ron Sillman's blog did me no harm – a spike of almost three hundred visits that day. We'll have to see how many stick with me. Blogs tend to be read by other bloggers. It's a hard thing to attract the attention of passing trade.

It is one thing to write a quality product. It is another thing completely to think that if you write it they will come. They won't. You need to send up flares and hire a brass band. You can stand atop your blog and wave your best knickers in the air but I can guarantee there are a lot of fancier and skimpier knickers which will get people's attention before yours ever will. Fact of life #973. Get over it and get on with it.

There are a lot of blogs out there with a sticky literary centre. There are students studying for degrees and fighting with their first novels, there are the annual NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) sites and the less well publicised NaPoRiMo (National Poem Writing Month) sites, there are sites where people only publish their own poetry and stories, poetry magazines masquerading as blogs and sites where would-be-writers share their angst with the world. There are also a few sites where their authors want to talk about writing, to advance writing, to promote writing. This last group is the hardest one to find.

I hate tags. I know why they're of use but I hate them all the same. On most sites where my blog is listed it's under tags like 'writing', 'poetry' or 'literature' and they're fine but they're also so generic. I wish I had an answer – a practical answer to the problem to save people having to wade through so much … crap is probably too strong a word, let's call it … irrelevance. There are lots of awards floating around on the net. I ran across one where, once you've been granted the accolade you automatically get the right to pass it on to x number of your friends. It's meaningless really. I'd like to see something akin to a Michelin Star type of award for excellence across a whole range of topics and a directory where I could go, look up 'SEO' for example, and find the 3-star sites in a nice neat column along with up-to-date hyperlinks. Am I a dreamer or what?

Till that day I'd like to take this opportunity to direct you to a handful of sites that I think deserve your attention. I have no idea how much attention they are getting – they probably all get more readers than I do – but all of these have something more to say than, "Here's my latest poem and a photo of what my kid drew in class today." There is nothing wrong with sites like that and I read several of them. I also read a number by angst-ridden students and the fabulous Garfield minus Garfield.

Personally I don't like the word 'blog' – it's an unattractive word. It's the kind of noise your baby would make if you dropped it inadvertently into a vat of treacle. (I really must get my imagination tuned). I think of what I write more as a newspaper column. It's not a diary by a long chalk. The style is relaxed and a bit flippant at times but that's the kind of articles I prefer. Give me a …for Dummies book any day over a dry textbook. People have preconceptions about what a blog is or should be. I think they're changing. And I think it is a good thing, a necessary thing. Even if I didn't, this is the future and, although I may not exactly want to embrace it, I'm not averse to standing next to it for publicity photos.

Here are a few blogs that you may or may not be aware of. Some of them are listed on the right but this is a proactive attempt to highlight the quality of writing that's out there. It's hard work producing stuff like this. Especially when you don't get much in the line of comments. Check out a few of these. Subscribe to them. Tell them they're doing a good job. What they're on about today may not be your cup of tea but you don't want to miss what they might have to say tomorrow. They all exhibit, what Geof Huth (see below) describes, as "real thinking".


Art Durkee, who describes himself as a "wandering musician, artist, and writer, travelling across the face of the earth and sharing what is encountered", writes thoughtful posts and isn't afraid to take his time over a topic as he does with this four-parter on experimental poetry:

Moralizing vs. Experimentation 1

Moralizing vs. Experimentation 2

Moralizing vs. Experimentation 3

Moralizing vs. Experimentation 4


Allen Taylor is an opinionated chappie. A veteran of Iraq, an experience that has clearly affected him, he has written extensively about his time there. One of the main focuses of his blog has been a call for a unifying "school" of poetics which he calls the Millennial School of Poetry. Its precepts, for want of a better expression, are laid out in the following blogs. It's a brave attempt which not everyone will agree with but, as a basis for discussion (or just something to make you think about your own work), is a good thing. He is also not averse to tackling the sometimes awkward subject of religious verse.

Poetic craft is of utmost importance

There is no room for prejudice in poetry

Form is just another element of poetic craft

Creativity and poetic craft go hand in hand

In poetry, no subject is taboo

Poetic Language Cannot Be Too Archaic

All poems are individuals

There is no acceptable method to writing poetry

All convention should be shunned


This is a blog run by John Miedema who lives in Ontario. John is an exponent of the stately art of slow reading (not to be confused with close reading – see my blog on the subject here). It's not the only thing he blogs about, which is good, but who ever imagined anyone could have so much to say about something we take so much for granted?

Slow Reading – A Series

VSR - Introduction

The Facets of Voluntary Slow Reading I: The Voluntary Aspect

The Facets of Voluntary Slow Reading II: The Meaning of Slow

The Facets of Voluntary Slow Reading III: What it is Not, What it is

The Facets of Voluntary Slow Reading IV: 10 Reading Techniques

The Surfacing of Slow Library: OLA Super Conference 2008

Slow Reading is Green Reading

Results of a Search on Voluntary Slow Reading

Voluntary Slow Reading: Table of Contents

From here you'll find links to a further fifteen articles that he's currently posting.


Andrew Philip, a fellow Scot, writes poems that are often strange and beautiful. At least so the blurb on his website would have you believe. He is very passionate about the medium but in particular on of the most unappreciated poetic techniques: rhyme. His involved series, Reasoning Rhyme, is fascinating but don't expect to get through it in half an hour.

Reasoning Rhyme: Prologue

Reasoning Rhyme: The Intolerable Wrestle With Words

Reasoning Rhyme: Making It New

Reasoning Rhyme: More Complex Phenomena

Reasoning Rhyme: Supplement on the Features of Consonants

Reasoning Rhyme: To Begin at the Beginning: the Role of the Onset 1

Reasoning Rhyme: To Begin at the Beginning: the Role of the Onset 2

In Denial?!

Reasoning Rhyme: Tiel Aisha Ansari's Objections 1

Reasoning Rhyme: Tiel Aisha Ansari's Objections 2

Reasoning Rhyme: Lightness that Drew Me: Rhyme in Gaelic


Terry Heath is a busy guy. He doesn't post a great deal on his literature site but that doesn't mean he's away twiddling his thumbs. What he does upload is well-written. He's posted detailed articles on Hardboiled Crime Fiction, Film Noir and The Canterbury Tales. His current preoccupation is The Great Gatsby. So far he's posted the following:

A Feminist Critique of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

A New Criticism View of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

A Psychoanalytic Criticism of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

A Marxist Critique of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

Indeterminacy in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby

Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and Northrop Frye’s Theory of Myths

Geof Huth

It's hard to know where to start with this guy. Basically if you want to know about visual or minimal poetry Geof Huth's websites are a good place to start. (The link above is actually to his Blogger profile which lists all the sites he's involved in). I've picked five posts pretty much at random because this is a site to get lost in even if you haven't a clue about visual poetry or perhaps especially if you don’t have a clue.

An Introduction to Visual Poetry Written on the Fly



The ten laws in this article are a great guide for writing any kind of poetry.

Catechism of Visual Poetry Doctrine: Faith (1 – 12)

Catechism of Visual Poetry Doctrine: The Visual Poet’s Creed (13-15)

Ten more blogs are promised to cover the whole 'catechism'.

Oh, I did mention at the start a couple of words of encouragement didn't I? Here they are: BE REALISTIC. The thing about optimism is that it's only time before you'll get tripped up. If you're a pessimist, you may think nothing will ever disappoint you but you'll also set your expectations a tad on the low side. Pessimists are not renowned for seizing the day, grasping the thistle or living in the moment. If you're a fatalist you've probably already given up before you got to this paragraph.

Since I've started my blog I've seen several blogs fall flat on their faces. In one case the author had unrealistic expectations about her ability to commit to a daily blog; the other expected everyone else to do all the work for them. The thing is both blogs were good ideas. They could've lasted under different circumstances. The first lady managed to build up a bit of an audience who ended up chasing her up to see what was happening. The second sat there and waited and waited… but no one came. Kevin Costner has a lot to answer for. Roughly 98% of all blogs fail according to Terry Heath who sums up what blogging is all about quite succinctly in his post Where Have All the Bloggers Gone?

  • Blogging is writing
  • Blogging is marketing
  • Blogging is doing the same thing over and over

A realist realises that marketing is not a dirty word. A realist realises that content is king. A realist takes an interest in his readers. A realist knows that it takes time to write a decent blog, to edit that blog and to proofread that blog. A realist makes sure that all those things get done. A realist does research. A realist doesn't believe the first thing he reads or hears. A realist tests things, does dummy runs. A realist double-checks. A realist doesn't hope or wish or guess or pray. A realist has a plan. And a Plan B. A realist might not know but they have a pretty good idea. Realists don't always expect to win big but they know when to cut their losses. Realists get a good night's sleep. Realists take backups. Realists count their pennies. A realist is a businessman and business is business. A realist lives in the real world where postage costs money, phone calls cost money, time is money and a shark that stops swimming drowns. And sometimes a realist gets lucky but that's just gravy.

And if all of that hasn't put you off, I look forward to reading what you have to say.


Andrew Philip said...

Good post, Jim. Several interesting links there I must follow up (oh where do all the hours go?). Many thanks for the plug and for your comments on Tonguefire. I've never reached 300 hits in a day, but live in realistic hope!

Dave King said...

Wow! Difficult to know where to start after that encyclopaedic canter through blogworld. It will atke several blog lightyears to follow up the links alone. Your remarks about your early searches rang a few bells though, exactly what I found when I started looking for original poetry on line. I have not so far bothered with blog directories, but in view of your experiences I think I might give them a whirl. Thanks for that, Jim, a thoroughly useful blog - and not just for newcomers. Excellent.

Art Durkee said...

Thanks for the mention.

Blogs, the final frontier.

I actually hate that word "blog," but am forced to use it by general consensus. I avoid it or use creative alternatives if I can, till you get the blank stare and have to give in and use it.

I agree with many of your comments, although I'm a bit more upbeat and a lot less cynical. Then again, I worked in print marketing for what seems like a lifetime before going freelance, and I shed a great deal of my cynicism when I left. I haven't replaced it with optimism, I've left it fall away into a kind of Zen detachment. It doesn't affect me either way if folks don't read my stuff and comment on it, as I don't write for approval, or to provoke. I've written extensively about getting the bloody ego out of the way, which is an endless topic, I think, because it's a practice in itself.

What I appreciate are thoughtful comments like yours and others'. I don't even look at hit counts, honestly.

I started the Dragoncave as a holding place for finished pieces (as opposed to my Road Journal, which is more like an actual journal, but still lightyears away from being a daily diary). A place to hold finished essays while I revise them, collect them, look for patterns and displacements. Later on, I started including finished poems, and photos. I guess I think of it as a place to hold polished pieces, relatively speaking. They still undergo revision once posted, though.

I simply don't have the time or attention to go through hundreds of blogs daily. I have a short list, and follow links from there. So I'll be checking out your list as posted, to see where it goes.

Thanks again.

Jim Murdoch said...

Thanks for the comment, Art. I know what you mean about writing for yourself but the thing is there are so few sites out there where you can read the kind of stuff you produce. It's a shame that more people don't get a chance to read it. When I was young and there was no such a thing as the Internet I found a magazine, which I've mentioned before, called Poetry Information and it was an utter revelation to me. It's long gone but the need hasn't. The big problem is the medium we're working in. It's a ruddy quagmire, in fact I feel a neologism coming on: BLOGMIRE - yes, that's a good word for it. (Actually I just googled it and it's not a new word. Blast.)

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading your post. What struck me the most was bloggers feeling the pressure to post something new everyday to acquire (or keep) their readership. Or clickership. I do feel that pressure. Thanks for a reminder of that ever-present battle of symbolism over substance, quantity over quality.

Andrew Philip said...

I'm always pleased to see a comment on a post of mine, doubly so if it's thought-provoking. Notwithstanding my comment above about clickership, I value comments much more than raw figures. I'm not a numbers man; it's the sense of connection and the discussion that I enjoy, so I'm thoroughly pleased when people coming back to comment on further posts.

Anent the pressure to post daily, I felt some of that at first but got over it reasonably quickly. For one thing, I simply don't have the time, energy or space in my life for it at the moment. Nor do I think I have something worth saying every day. Even so, I am contemplating starting a third blog focused on spiritual/theological reflections. I must be nuts.

Jim Murdoch said...

Thanks for the feedback, Mrs. Mecomber, and you're quite right. We have of course brushed by each other due to being members of Entrecard clicking madly on anything to get enough credits to be able to buy an ad. I'm not totally against the system but I barely glance at most of the sites I click on. There have been exceptions and I've run across a few gems (there's a site that posts a photo of New York every day that I think is pretty decent) but mostly I'm not interested. I'm looking to contact people interested in writing not someone trying to flog me time shares in the Philippines. The big problem for niche sites like yours and mine is working out how to make contact with our demographics and somehow hanging onto them. In my case most of my readers are also writers. In your case you're looking for people interested in upstate New York. If I'm having a hard time attracting readers (not clickers) you must be having an ever harder one. Keep at it.

And, Andrew, regards your second comment. Yes, your nuts. I wonder if there's anyone out there who's blogged themselves to death? If not I expect it's only a matter of time. As a reader myself I know what I want and that's variety within my broad range of interests. So I subscribe to a lot of different blogs all with their own take and that's great. A quality post once or twice a week for a site like that, a post that takes time to read and think about, is quite enough thank you very much.

Ken Armstrong said...

This is a very interesting read Jim.

As a new blogger myself, the big question I take away from your post is, "why am I doing it?"

This is not asked in a defeatist, 'I'd-better-stop' frame of mind but rather as a genuine interrogation of my motives - what do I want from it?

I'm going away to think about that and might write something down.

Thanks for the fodder. :)

Anonymous said...

I really relate to what you said about "clickership vs readership" and I do realize that some of the folks visiting my site simply click the widget and move on without reading a thing, but at least once a week it seems I get a comment from someone I've not heard of or from before, who states they will read a book I have reviewed and that makes it worthwhile to me. And maybe having a clickership is kind of a first step on the road to building a real readership?

Jim Murdoch said...

Well, Ken, I believe it's a writer's job to get his reader's to think so I guess my job is done. It's a good question to ask, "Why are we here in the blogosphere?" I look forward to see what you have to say on the subject.

And, Alan, I too have landed one or two readers through Entrecard but I do have serious concerns about the ratio of effort to effect. I'm not done with it yet but I have to say I think their new credit structure is going to cause some problems but it'll take a couple of weeks for all the ads bought under the old system to run off. We'll get a better idea then.

Anonymous said...

being new at blogging and poetry I appreciate the info..thankyou

Jim Murdoch said...

Thanks for the feedback, Robert. I've had a wee luck at your two sites. I liked your poem Old Boots in particular. You develop the metaphor quite well. From scanning your work I would offer one suggestion and that would be to try working with shorter forms. The problem with a computer screen is that you never run out of 'paper' and it's easy to ramble. I'm a great one for saying what I have to say and getting off the page.

Waterrose said...

Glad that I was among the clickership and stopped to read your commentary. Now I have to get clicking so that I can afford to advertise on your blog...

Rachel Fox said...

As a fairly lo-tech writer (with a hi-tech him indoors..oh the the hell do you get accents on blogs...ah well...) I have to say I'm still undecided about blogs (and it is a horrible word). Are they (a) just something else to waste your time when you should be doing something more worthwhile or (b) a really good way of learning, sharing ideas, discussing interesting subjects..?
As I seem to find myself saying more and more these days... I find them a bit of both. I have only dipped toes into blogland (I spend too much time staring at the screen already and as a music nut I find MySpace more varied, more relaxed and less likely to keep me up at night twitching) but there are some great writers using blogs to say interesting things so I don't feel I've been wasting my time with it completely. However I have not even looked at all those directory things and clickers and what not. I see blogs as a sideline to other writing not as anything vital (is that very old-fashioned...I was one of those people who saw the pc for a long time as a clever typewriter...still am probably..). I find blogs a bit like the features and columns in newspapers - a whole load of waffle and nonsense but every now and again a moment of real genius, a really well-made point or something new I really need to learn.
Mostly I read blogs and on earth does this person work, read all the books they claim to read, write all this and have a life away from the machine? I am amazed by some people's capacity for work and life and it does sometimes make me feel like an idle waste of virtual space...then I go and listen to some loud music and feel a lot better! White Stripes for breakfast anyone?

Unknown said...

I commend you for your tenacity, and hope that you keep at it.

Back from an intensive in Poland. No hospital this time. I will have to check if I am past the three week threshold on posting on my blog.

I see the media as a tool and the manner in which anyone chooses to use it, the motivation or purpose, can vary.

I have a very active -- daily -- participation in a listserv community that I began more than 10 years ago -- not focused on writing per se but a wholly other thematic core. In one manifestation my blog affords me a new venue to engage with that community. I also see the blog as a whole lot easier of a billboard site for a writer than to maintain a web page. Been there, done that. For me my blog is a place where people can come to find me as a writer (as opposed to other roles in life). And I also establish there links to other blogs that I want to have one central place as a directory to go read them (in this for my personal use it becomes a news hub that I share to whomever), when time and curiosity permits -- or that others could go to find other people who put work and thoughts where I would read.

I am not so particularly interested in being read by bloggers, or clicked through, for me the online activity is primarily an endeavor to interface with a non-blogger, non-writer set of the world and through a blog make access available to my personality/thoughts, quirks in the background. For example I am much more intent on getting a story or a poem published at an e-zine and having the blog available if folks want to know something else about the brand identity that goes by my name.

Even when I do not comment on your blog posts I do read them. So as I say, I sincerely hope that you keep at it.

Andrew Philip said...

Rachel said: "Mostly I read blogs and on earth does this person work, read all the books they claim to read, write all this and have a life away from the machine? I am amazed by some people's capacity for work and life and it does sometimes make me feel like an idle waste of virtual space".

You and me both. Maybe I need to crank up the volume a bit.

Rachel Fox said...

Hi Andrew
I do like it when someone agrees with me! Is that bad too?
I forgot to say about blogs...I wish 'Seinfeld' was still on so it could do a 'politics of blogs' episode (I loved them on whether to kiss a person on meeting them and, if so then how many times). what point is it rude when a person has not added you to their list of good you take the hump and not read them anymore..? Are you bigger than that, accept your place in the scheme of things and move on..? Do you say to yourself 'well, really... who cares?' Help, Jerry, Elaine, George (and the other one that I never liked so much...) - what should I do?

Jim Murdoch said...

Thanks for dropping by, Waterrose, even if you did have an ulterior motive. The good thing about Entrecard for me has been that I've run into a few sites that I'd never see normally. The downside is that I have too much to read as it is to take on much new. As it is I'm quite harsh with the sites I do subscribe to. One has to be.

Rachel, the way I get an accent on a blog is to type my comment in Wordand then paste into the comments box. It's a thing I try and get right especially names like Dalí (not Dali).

I think like most things blogs can be both a waste of time and an invaluable resource. A lot of the time in the past I would be doing research and come across what I thought was an article but what I've not learned was actually a blog. The thing is, and this is part of the point in my article, how to find the gems in the blogmire. You use the analogy of a newspaper column and that is very much how I think of my blog. I use the mechanism of the blog because of its advantages – this, for example, the comments box (very handy) – but I'm not sure I subscribe to the blog mentality which I think of very much along the lines of the mobile phone mentality; I suppose it's my age.

As for the time it takes to keep all this up I have no idea how the youngsters do it, those with lives. I don't have a life. I have work. I've never been very good at getting the two to go together. As for The White Stripes, I loved "7 Nation Army", especially the video, but I've not heard much else. Their album covers are cool too.

Gabe, no, you're all right, I've not deleted your blog. Actually for some reason my RSS reader doesn't like your blog and I have to remember to go in manually. You're doing the same as me, you've customised your blog to your own needs. It's the right thing to do. It's something I've always done with software, see how far I can bend it to suit my own needs.

Andrew as regards doing all the things you mentioned. The simple fact is I don't. I don't do anything as much as I'd like or as well as I'd like. I regard every post I make as the best I could do given the time constraints. Not one of them has been perfect but it's a different kind of writing to what I'm used to. I sat down once and worked out – God alone knows how I did it – that I'd devoted an entire twenty-four hour day to writing the first sentence of my first novel and I'm still not happy with the end result.

And Rachel, your second comment reminds me of the horrible topic of Netiquette. Does one have do respond to every comment made on ones blog and, if one does, how little can one get away with? It's a tiresome area for me. What I do hate is where I comment on some site and it doesn't drop me a wee e-mail to tell me there's been an additional comment made. I have a lousy memory and ten minutes after posting a comment I'll have forgotten all about it. I'd hate to be thought rude for not responding to someone's comment but there must be more than a few times that's happened.

Unknown said...

I am into White Stripes though I have not been keeping up very well since their CD w/ Loretta Lynn. Did read the latest issue of Rolling Stone with Jack White, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger re the new movie Shine a Light. Suddenly I remember that I was one time introduced to Bianca Jagger in a back room of a building in Soho, Manhattan, where she was editing film for a Nicaragua documentary.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Jim. Thanks for the mention. You know, when I first started blogging I thought it was something you had to do every day. For the most part, every day is better in terms of marketing because it is a numbers game. But the more posts you write, I've learned, the more chances for failure you have and it's difficult to write a great post every day. I think, now, it's a matter of whether you want to settle for a certain number of mediocre posts while maximizing your marketing value or lessening your marketing value in lieu of quality. I've come to respect those, like you, who write less often but always write something worth reading.

I like the word "Blogmire." Funny you should mention your discovery that someone else thought of it first. That's usually the case. My word to those just starting out: Figure out what you are all about before you start, then stay true to that.

Jim Murdoch said...

That's good advice too, Allen, but although I had an action plan when I started it wasn't till I started actually writing the blog that it started to come into shape. I know I did a lot of planning before I started but you can be too cautious. Refine as you go along I say.

Rachel Fox said...

'Black Math' is my favourite brain-rotting White Stripes track. Although using the pc so much probably has the same effect in the long run...
As for gems...that e.e.cummings snippet about feelings and poetry you used a while back..that was a quote that I might never have seen otherwise and I keep musing on it. A gem indeed...and your blog has more than most, I think. Does that make up for 'not having a life'? I'm not sure I believe you about that...what is a life anyway? Ridiculous hippified magical non-scientific answers only please!

Molly Brogan said...

It seems to me that you have a wonderful following! Nicely done. I too, hope that you continue on as I enjoy every word. - Molly Brogan

Art Durkee said...

What I've settled into with posting is that I never try to post every day. Actually, I never tried to do that. When I started the Road Journal, I explicitly stated that I wouldn't be doing that.

What I try to do is post periodically, when I have something worth saying. Who cares about the boring details of everyday life? (Who cares to read poetry about your girlfriend just dumped you and took the dog? Not I.) The art of public confession grows tedious very rapidly.

So, sometimes I won't post anything for over a week, or two. And sometimes I'll post four things within 24 hours.

Different blogs have different purposes and functions. Some really ARE meant to posted to every day; I check out Frank Wilson's and Ron Silliman's blogs daily, because they often post links to interesting things. This is the function of the clearinghouse blog.

The newspaper blogs don't interest me as much as the arts blogs, simply because of the subject matter. News is always dire and apocalyptic. Frank Wilson coined a term in a review of Cormac MacCarthy's "The Road," which I really like: the pornography of despair. That's what most news reporting is. I don't need to be putting that load of negativity into my system on a regular basis. If it's really important, you hear about it anyway, for everywhere.

I like arts blogs, because I'm an artist who also likes to read and write about the arts.

As for how much you can read in a day, or write in a day. That varies widely from person to person. The main thing, I think, is to avoid all comparisons. I happen to be able to read faster than most, and I remember most of what I've ever read, even from childhood. It's just a knack, although it serves me well. But I certainly don't expect anyone else to do that.

And most blogs ARE crap, on a regular basis. I would even claim that most of what I write is crap, or at least could have been better. The nest poem or essay I ever wrote is always the one I haven't written yet. That's just the way of writing. You keep going, no matter what.

This has been a very fruitful comments stream. Thanks for the instigation.

Jim Murdoch said...

Thanks for that, Art. I've never taken much interest in the news either. To my mind, if the world ends I'll know about it.

I only actually read one art blog faithfully, Ami Underground, where this guy posts a few pages from his daily sketch book which he takes on the underground with him.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jim, thanks for the plug. As you observe, it's a wonder I've had this much to say on the subject. With this series, I believe I have said everything I have to say on the subject. In the near future I will be posting a conclusion to that theme. Then I'm going to take a pause, and consider where the blog is going next. I have a few things up my sleeve. Cheers.

Jim Murdoch said...

Thanks, John. There's always speed reading...

Andrew Philip said...

Or medium-speed, stop-start reading ...

Tam said...

A good post, and lots of links for me to look at tomorrow.

What you said got me thinking. About how difficult it is to find decent blogs, the crap we need to wade through to find something that we want to read. The need for a 'michelin star'

I guess that's not really going to happen, with everyone having different tastes, but it should be made a little easier here and there.

I've been linking automatically to everyone who leaves a comment on my blog. An awful plan if ever there was one.
I had a list of nearly 100 sites in my blogroll, most of them didn't really interest me.

I'm going to just have the sites I really like up there from now on.

Doing this is long overdue, thankyou for pushing me into action.

Tam said...

@allen taylor

Figuring out what you want to do before you start is great advice. I'm relatively new and only just figuring it out after about four months of rudderless blogging.

I'm still making changes here and there till I get settled, and it must be frustrating for readers.

Once I've finally gotten comfortable, I hope I can make good with the second part of your advice, and stay true.

Jim Murdoch said...

Thanks for that, Tam. Yes, at first I wasn't nearly as discriminating as I am now. I would like to anything vaguely interesting. Or just pretty blogs. In fact I still subscribe to a blog because the author looks like Helena Bonham Carter and all she's written about in weeks in American Idol. But her photo pleases me. I've seen another photo of her and she's really nothing like Helena Bonham Carter. That was a sad day.

You have to be practical. Go through your feeds and delete the ones that aren't going anywhere. The Internet is a distracting enough place as it is without feeds coming in every five minutes going, "Read me, read me now!"

Rachel Fox said...

I don't use feeds at all...just go and look at a blog when I feel like it. Having messages from hundreds of blogs all the time saying 'read me now'...that must be like having loads and loads of kids, all hungry and it's raining and the TV's broken. Old Mother (or Father) Hubbard syndrome anyone?

Jim Murdoch said...

Rachel, my memory is so bad that, despite this being your fourth comment on this post, I still had to go to your own blog to work out who the hell you were. If I didn't have your blog in my feedreader I'd never remember to check out what you have to say. I just tried to add you again since I'd forgotten you were already there. I've never had a great memory for names – much better with faces – but over the past year of so I've witnessed a marked degeneration and I have to rely on computerised reminders. Which reminds me, it's been a while since I weeded out my news feeds; I'll do it now before I forget.

Rachel Fox said...

Once again computers put us in the shade...they just need a bit more RAM, what options do we have?
I have a poem on how computers beat us every time on my website called 'Never shut down' - you might like it...if you can remember where to look...
And one more thing...I had a friend who used to give famous people soundylike names (Kate Windswept for Kate Winslet was one of my faves). He used to call your lady Helena Bottom Carter...I've never been able to call her anything else since.
And now I am going...back to the kitchen!

Jim Murdoch said...

Ahhhh… Rachel, you're the postcard girl. I remember you! God, I had to dig to find that poem (a hyperlink would've been nice) but I got there in the end. I like the bit about Orwell since Nineteen Eighty-Four had novel-writing machine in it. I take it you were being ironic. BTW, I'd completely forgotten I was going to weed out my feeds till I got your e-mail. I got distracted by a comment on Zoetrope and that was me. Welcome to my world.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post, and yes, I did stay and read the whole thing even though I am part of your clickership. I agree with you on many of your points. I'm new to blogging, about 7 months, and I've sometimes found it hard to keep going. But I remind myself why I do it and I seem to continue.


Jim Murdoch said...

Thanks for dropping by, Mommie. I'm glad you got something out of the post and also well done for sticking at it for seven months. Most blogs, if you believe everything that gets posted, don't last more than three months so we should both take a moment to slap each other on the back.

People in the Sun said...

Hey, happy to be the 38th comment. Now you can tell your wife your clickers sometimes stick around.

But I know what you mean. I see Entrecarders dropping by without leaving a trace and it's probably more offensive than if they didn't come at all.

But some do. And they comment. I still believe.

Anonymous said...

Well, it's all been said and then some in response to this excellent post, Jim. Limping in very late in the day, I'll just add my commendation and thanks for so penetrating an article.

Jim Murdoch said...

Well, People in the Sun I've passed on your comments to my wife and I appreciate your sticking around. I'm afraid I'm quite probably one of those Entrecarders who's passed through your site so quickly I didn't even let it load properly. I'd like to say I feel guilty about that but I don't. To amass 300 clicks in a day is a bit of work but that's what you need to do if you want to get your adverts on the good sites. And it has worked. My focus has always been lit blogs and I just don't have the time to do more than glance as I pass at some of the others though a few with pretty pictures catch my eye from time to time.

And Dick you've got a limp too? God, you're falling apart, man.

RobI think it's important to attract readers. I know we write for ourselves for the sheer love of words and all that but it doesn't hurt when someone says, "Hey, loved the poem, Jim." The blunt fact is that more people will have read my poems and stories on-line than likely ever will in print magazines. Granted a lot of them are writers themselves out there plugging their own stuff but there's nothing like the approval of your peers to add wind to your sails. In that respect it's been most gratifying of late to see the number of comments my blog has been getting. Much as it embarrasses me – because who the hell am I? – I've got an audience, a following. Part of me is very very uncomfortable with all this. I really just want to sit in my office, do my stuff and stick it in the proverbial drawer for future generations to find and make paper aeroplanes out of. Or Origami frogs.

Ken Armstrong said...

I had to come back and say that your 'Kevin Costner' reference was very good.

It has that quality where the reader who gets it thinks he/she might be one of the few who does and thus feels their intelligence is being complimented by the writer.

Poet Hound said...

That was a "wow" of a post, you summed up my thoughts on the majority of blogs nicely. My blog was the result of not being able to find any of the resources I was looking for as a beginning poet. Where and how to submit poems? What ideas could I write about? What poets are out there? So I figured I'd stumble through and create my own version. Like you said, I'm thrilled to reach the double digits in readership. The blogs you mentioned are wonderful and I read several of them, too, and can now add more. Wonderful post, Jim.

Jim Murdoch said...

Thanks for the feedback, Poet Hound. Your blog is a good idea - it's why I frequent it - it's short and to the point and for a daily blog that's what I'm interested in. The bottom line is that if you want to attract more visitors then you have to be proactive. There are just too many sites out there clammering for attention and, even if someone does trip over your site in the dark, how many seconds do you have to hook them? Five? Ten? And then they're gone. Phft.

Art Durkee said...

I guess my philosophy is unusually opposite to most of the themes and assumptions made here. It sounds elitist but I don't mean it to be when I say that I really don't look at the number of visits as meaning anything. The clickership concept is brilliant, though; it certainly does describe the speed and shallowness of much of the Net.

I've always used the geologic term "friable" to describe the Net: it breaks apart fast. There are often sites you go back and look for, and they're gone now. While it's certainly true that the vast majority of websites and blogs do get abandoned within a geologically infinitesimal duration of time—a high rate of conceptual erosion, perhaps—it's also true that anything like this that I get into, that I'm going to devote time and effort to, you can assume I'm in it for the long haul. It's the nature of my own Net-presence that while my interests too are always changing, just like everyone else, I'm pleased to say that I have been building my online presence for over 14 years now, and that they only things of mine that have gone away have been because they were on someone else's server that died.

So, I'm less of the proactive marketing mindset. I used to do that for a living, print media marketing and publishing. I don't like that mindset anymore; I'd rather just put up a website of high quality, and anyone who notices it and sticks around long enough to talk is somebody I want to talk to, also. It filters out the clickership, IMHO.

I'm in agreement with you, though, about the notion that more readers are more likely to read my work in this medium than they ever will in print. And I have published a few poetry chapbooks; but in print, distribution is still the hardest nut to crack. Online, distribution is the easiest nut to crack; in which, the energy goes into making content worthwhile of being distributed.

We're also still in what I call the "gee whiz" period that any new technology or medium goes through: The period of excitement, when a lot of people try things out, then move on like magpies to the next shiny thing. For example, when the first analog synthesizers like the Moog came out, there was a lot of bad gimmicky music made with them; it was only later, once everyone got past the gee whiz period, that genuine music began to be made. I would submit it's the same with the blogosphere.

Andrew Philip said...

Interesting comment, Art. So, what's the blogospherical equivalent of "Switched on Bach"?

Jim Murdoch said...

All valid points, Art. It seems we have two issues here, marketing and distribution and they're both big problems. At least you have some experience of marketing. I've just read a lot.

The thing is, the way the world is going writers have no choice but get involved in aspects of writing that many of our illustrious predecessors never had to concern themselves with. It's why getting a publishing deal really doesn't mean as much as what it used to be.

As far as the Internet goes it's all down to who you know. But it's getting to know people that's the problem. What are the Internet equivalent or the parties of the cafés we would go to network? We stumble around in the dark hoping we bump into someone interesting and hoping they have a few interesting friends.

There is a lot of fly-by-night tripe on the Internet but there are also long-running sites. Silliman's blog is a great rallying point irrespective of what you think about his poetry. What I find is that there is so much going on that it's simply impossible to keep track. Small clots of sites eventually form and we're a part of one. Hopefully it will get big enough so that all – or at least some – of those little lost souls floating around the Internet in the dark will drift into it.

Art Durkee said...

Andrew, the equivalent of "Switched-On Bach" may or may not already have happened. I'm not sure I can pick out one particular thing, and I'm not even sure it's happened yet. I'm not sure we'll recognize it till later, either, if at all; history needs time for the dust to settle before "historical moments" can get sorted out. Things that people think are significant in the moment almost always turn out to be ephemera; while things that quietly change the paradigm while going largely unnoticed by the mainstream hype-machine are what endure. "Switched-On Bach" was definitely in the vanguard of that wave.

At the same time, just in the past six months, we've removed the last of our actual hardware synthesizers from the studio, and have taken the leap to using only software synths. The shift to softsynths is another whole new paradigm, and way of working. We still have keyboards around, but they're controllers, not generators. At the same time, I just had my venerable old grand piano tuned, restoring a bit of older technology to vivid and exciting life. (And I already recorded a couple of new improvs for my podcast.)

I would say, perhaps, that what we're all doing here is a start in the direction of being actual content rather than gee-whiz. Maybe it's just anywhere you find serious content, rather than fluff or ephemera, is a step in the right direction. The fact that several people here have indicated here that they WANT this to happen is a powerful indicator. Perhaps.

Art Durkee said...

All very good points, Jim. I think you're essentially correct about publishing deals and Who You Know. It's more about networking than raw talent, and probably always has been.

The equivalent of the café scene? Maybe this. Maybe other comment streams like this. For me, at least, message-board-based poetry-critique sites have occasionally filled that bill, by the wayside also generating enduring artistic and personal friendships. There has been a sense of community from time to time, for me. Perhaps I'm unusual in that I've also made real-space friendships with online artist friends; had dinner together, etc. But then, I travel around the USA a lot, so I've been known to drop in. And the very best critique group I was ever involved with was a real-space group, not an online one; that's where I really learned to critique well.

You're right about enduring sites like Silliman's. (Actually, of all the LangPoets, I tend to find Silliman, and Susan Howe, slightly readable, even though I find LangPo in general unreadable.) Silliman's Blog is a good focus-point, even if you don't agree with him, which I often don't. Ditto most of the other blogs I do link to and read almost daily.

The Insane Writer said...

Great post! I blog because I love to write and share my words with others.

Most of the time, I don't care what others think. I have noticed lately, readers have dropped considerably. I used to have around 100 or more readers a day. Now I have maybe 50 at the most.

Maybe it's because I haven't been able to blog every single day or maybe it's because my choice of topics have made them all run away! LOL Who knows. No matter what, I will continue to blog/write.

Jim Murdoch said...

Thanks for that Insane Writer – (would it really hurt to have a first name?) – I get your point about not caring, and I try to pretend that I don't care either, but deep down I suspect we do. The best way to test that is how we react to comments. If someone you've never heard of comes along and criticises what you've written, if you can honestly shrug it off then you can say you don't care. I seem to recall some remark about you not being a real writer a wee while back. (If it was someone else then forgive me – my memory is very poor). It never stopped you writing though. That we have any readers is a good thing. That what we say affects them is something else; it's fuel to our fire. We may not seek it or need it but I certainly don't knock it when I can get it.

Ceri said...

I just wanted to say that I think you are doing a great job! I am not a blogger but love reading blogs to get ideas about what to read next and also just for interest. For the first time today, I have actually read the articles on your website as opposed to skimming over the posts as I have done on other sites.. I feel a little bit more intelligent!

Anonymous said...

Jim - for a long time, I've known that there were likely gems in the old TTAL posts and I was lucky enough to have a good hour today to read some of them. This one and the less is more posts were great. It's a shame that blogmire was already taken (see your comment about 4 down) but if it's any consolation if you google "endless blogmire" the first site that Google finds is yours!

On second thought, that might not be a good thing.

As always a lot of good links here - Here's to having more than the odd good day.

I hope you have a good weekend.

Jim Murdoch said...

Thanks, Koe. There’s so much to read online and every day I’m burdened with more to read that I’m always grateful for those who take the time to have a wee shuftie through my archive. That’s how a lot of people find me these days though. And the more I write the more opportunity there is to hook a new regular reader. Progress is slow though. What I think I will start to do eventually is repost some of the older articles elsewhere and delete them from my archive, keep the data circling round. And when I get really stuck for ideas I can always recycle a few myself. There’s always more to say than I ever have time to say.

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