Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Elephant in the Vortex

I've been mulling this post since Nathan Bransford's February 16th post: Have Blogs Peaked? I suppose it took me some time to sort my thoughts from all the insightful and well-worth-the-time comments. Maybe I was diving for a deep well of honesty. While I don't have the most barn-burning, gut-busting or niche-perfect blog I know, I can speak from a fair amount of longevity: five hundred posts in five years. Not quite the three-per-week who-the-heck-made-this-a-blogging-rule rule, but a decent enough marathon.

What began as advice from my agent became an ancillary pay-off to the publicity-before-published theory. The Vortex did serve to promote my thus-far twenty-seven page tentative dip into the publishing pool, but it also became my primary outlet for immediate writing gratification in an industry that is glacial, at best. I tested my voice, gave myself permission to stray into humor and developed a network of blogger and writer and reader friends I wouldn't trade for all the hairs on Fabio's head.

Of late, I've let them down.

Disillusion as a blog writer set in. I wondered if readers favored content over predictable frequency. Did I lack "brand" focus? Were smart phones and feeds to blame for the serious drop in comments? Did I need to continue the bribes of gift cards and my "brand" of woo-woo DVDs to keep readers dedicated? Should I bother changing headers and sidebars when most readership is via feed and there's very little click-through? When a fellow author's blog became a public knife-throwing, the bloom was completely off that rose, as in flattened by a John Deere. In a double-gravity chamber.

Disillusion as a blog reader set in, too. My cost-time ratio shifted. I no longer delighted in blogs that seemed an endless string of promotion platforms. I grew resentful of captchas I couldn't decipher, hopping from blogroll to blogroll, pages that loaded any slower than, well, yesterday, and the disappointment of inconsistent posting. Stones, I know.

Disillusion doesn't end with me. Blogrolls are becoming boneyards of well-intentioned bloggers-past. Some think only in 140-word characters now. Some found the cost-time ratio too high. Some founded group blogs to share the burden. Some swore off blogging altogether. Websites such as Skribit even offer blog features that troll readership for content ideas. Have bloggers reached such a drought in fresh content they'd tap into the same hobknockers that Beiber-bash on YouTube for direction?

One theory is that we are nearing a saturation point with social media and wish to find balance again. I like this theory, though industry predictors indicate that future bloggers must incorporate multiple social media formats into their blog to thrive. Does this mean rainbow Alphabits-style icons after each post? After every comment prompt? How many different ways do we need to say, "Dude, you gotta check this out"?

The best advice I ever heard on social-media platforms for writers still holds true: pick one thing you do well and do it well. Twitter is for talkers. I'm quiet. I listen. Facebook is for social butterflies. I scan shelves at parties because antiques and books say so much more than small talk. Blogging is forethought and revision and unavoidably vulnerable. Even towing a tight line of platform, truth cannot hide. And if you've been around The Vortex for any length of time, you know it to be true of me.

If you haven't been here long, I'm glad you're here. Pull up a feed and stay awhile. I can't guarantee three posts a week; I can't even guarantee that kind of commitment to the Y gym. I can't offer flashy sidebars with the latest wikis; I'm too busy editing novels to learn the latest techie trends. I can't guarantee life-altering reading. What I can promise is that you'll be part of something honest and well-intentioned and completely me.

What is your opinion on the state-of-blogs? Have they peaked? What do you see as the future of blogging?


the walking man said...


I have a cell phone. It makes and takes calls nothing more. I have a facebook page I look at once a week and though I can force myself to write in under 140 characters I have never twitted.

I write on my blog what I write best, poetry and sometimes social commentary. I Started after being given the same advice you were. I usually post every day but I have also erased everything off mine 5 times since 2005.

I can only answer your two questions one way...I don't care why others do it, I do it because I have time to kill and am not going to become voiceless again.

I keep growing my blogroll when I find a blog of note and want to read that persons thoughts on the world around them.

Just do what you will, no one can offer you your answer other than yourself.

Be Well

Pamela Cayne said...

Once again I am smacked in the face with the knowledge we are indeed sisters under the skin. I have been fighting this same blog battle for a while yet (and struggling and whining) and take great joy in how you lay it out here. I swear to the Universe that there will be some point we are in the same room together so I can buy you the biggest drink in the world.

Charles Gramlich said...

I definitely thinkg that blogging has hit a kind of saturation point. I'm blogging myself less and am also finding certain things frustrating about the process. having to type in the same captcha phrase twice islikely to send me into apoleptics. But over all I've decided to push ahead with it and keep it going.

Todd Wheeler said...

All the different digital missives create community, some much smaller and some much bigger. Some with more noise than light, and vice versa.

I'd rather read a trickle of well thought out words from a few well regarded friends than a torrent of stream of consciousness statements of 'look at this!'

Jen FitzGerald said...

I don't tweet, I don't do facebook or myspace, although I have both for family/personal reasons. I do blog, but that's more to keep my mother up-to-date on the family than anything, tho like the walking man, it's also my soap box for the occasional rant about what's going on in the world. I have a LiveJournal account where I am most active online and within a group of like minded individuals.

Do what is most comfortable for you. Also there was a post at by Carrie Vaughn on this very thing that you might find interesting as well.