The 1000th Post: To Be or Not To Blog

Heard you didn’t miss me.  I’m back anyhow.

This is the 1000th blog post of The Domino Theory and I wasn’t sure if it would be the last one.   I took a month off to think about it. Or to put it more accurately to not think about it.

Nobody called,  nobody wrote to ask when I was going to publish again because nobody cares if there’s one less blog in the world.   All this blog is and ever will be is me sharing my thoughts on a topic most people already know about. I’m not breaking news. I’m sharing one man’s opinion and the value of that opinion waxes and wanes depending on how receptive the reader is to what I have to say.

Blogs come and blogs go.  Those that endure do so because the blogger finds ways to keep things fresh and interesting to them.   If they are lucky so will their readers.

This blog was supposed to be a means to an end. The intention was for me to keep my writing tools sharp by keeping busy between freelancing gigs. I never got into journalism to make money because unless you become a brand like Bob Woodward where you make your reputation on one or two good books and squander it by writing increasingly bad books, there’s no money in journalism. At least nobody I know is living comfortably off those wages.

I could do nothing but write about police shootings and racism and never run short of material.   The trouble is  how depressing it is to dwell all the time on blood and bigotry.   It’s not much fun to read either.   This will never be  the place to come for  your Kardashian/Jenner updates, but even I need to lighten the mood at times.   I recently read for my monthly writer’s group a personal story about a friendship which ended badly. It was a substitute for a blood-and-thunder piece I had written about the shooting of Walter Scott. One woman told me, “I was a little scared when I heard you were reading this month. You can be pretty intense sometimes.”

She’s right about that. But too much intensity wears you out.

The other night I came across a Word Press site from blogging expert Lorelle VanFossen and her post, How to Know When to Stop Blogging.  It rang true from the first sentence, “Blogging isn’t for everyone, and everyone doesn’t need to blog. There are times when you should stop blogging, and there are times to take a rest from blogging.”

As I approach the eight-year blogging mark, those are words of sage advice.   VanFossen had more of particular interest for me.

Stop blogging if you don’t have a purpose: Honestly, you don’t have to blog if you don’t want to, and if you don’t know what to blog about, don’t. If your blog has no purpose, stop blogging.

Your blogging purpose doesn’t have to be specific, but it does need to exist. A blog purpose is the reason you blog, the definition of your blog, and why your readers come back to read your blog. If you are blogging about your daily life’s activities and affairs, then that’s your purpose. If you are blogging about a specific industry such as online technology, space, transportation, or ice skating, that’s your blogging purpose. If you are blogging about a specific rare area of science, math, or research, you’ve found a purpose for blogging.

If you blog because it fulfills some deep inner need to express yourself, and it makes you happy and motivates you to get up in the morning, and that feeling lasts longer than 3 months, you’ve got a purpose for blogging. Keep blogging.

Vague, empty blogging just because it’s something to do, or because everyone else is doing it, is useless and a time waster. Stop blogging.

Pretty much this.   Taking a 30-day blogging hiatus did not offer any great revelations. Did not break through a wall of writer’s block. I had no epiphany. No startling insights. None of that. I just needed a break. I took one.

I did not reflect and I did not recharge. I am not renewed or refueled with a brand new sense of purpose. Whatever it was which made me angry or amused or confused or happy or moved to plant my butt in a chair and start typing until what was trying to get out was set free still does.

VanFossen’s parting shot is direct.  “If you are bored with blogging, or bored with what you are blogging about, or your blog writing bores you, it bores your readers. Stop blogging and find something else to do.”

That “something else to do” is to write more, blog less. Writing more means going back to freelancing.   Writing more means recognizing its okay to blog less.     Writing more means writing more stuff that means something and less to fill space because I’m not updating enough.

Too much time spent thinking about writing is not enough time spent writing. There are stories to tell and if I want to read them I’m going to have to write them.    This blog doesn’t have another 1,000 posts in its future, but I’m curious to see how many are left.

 

To Blog or Get A Dog?

Yes, more of this. Definitely.

This is a Seinfeld blog post.  It’s nothing but a guy bitching cause he’s got a bad case of the winter blahs, ya feel me?

It has been one unbearably long, bitterly frigid, rotten winter. Not in the sense of the power’s out, the heat’s off, there’s no food in the fridge and I’m freezing to death here in the dark kind of tough. Just in the way when you step foot outside you think, “Damn, will I be glad when all this snow is gone and I can walk in the park without risking breaking my fool neck!”

Maybe it’s because I’m sick of looking out the window as I write and starting at streets, sidewalks and people all covered in a blanket of white flakes. It’s like watching too much porn. At first it’s kind of exciting, then it becomes routine and finally it’s just boring as hell.

So, part of me know this is just cabin fever, the winter of my discontent and weariness over a host of other issues on the job, family, money and health matters that writing is usually a release from, only not so much lately. Nothing feels exciting or fresh. Music, food, books, company, sex, it’s all ho-hum, so what and what’s on TV tonight? If this keeps up I might fall nod off standing up.

Even the old faithful of Washington politics, celebrity stupidity,  a high-profile racially motivated killing and weeping over the sad end of the San Francisco 49ers season doesn’t move me to write. Damn, Old Man Winter anyway!

I blame some this on blogging.  I’m good at it, but it’s not always agreeing with me.

When I started my blog in 2008 there was no plan I’d still be at it in 2014. The blog was only supposed to be something to mess around with in between freelancing gigs. It never was meant to be the be-all and end-all, but that’s what it is now.

And I’m kind of tired with it. It’s not that I don’t have things to say. It’s that I want to say those things in a different way and maybe in a different place.

I’ve written 907 posts, racked up 632,682 views, got 2,406 comments and deleted an ungodly amount of spam. I’ve been Freshly Pressed three or four times and in a week or two I’ll have 1,000 followers of my blog.   Like it matters.  Those are just numbers and while numbers never lie, they aren’t the whole truth either.

Blogging is mostly fun, but good blogging is hard work and finding something to say every two or so days that’s good is very hard work.

If I’m not psyched and pumped to get to the keyboard and look at it with the enthusiasm of unclogging a toilet, maybe I’m making what should be casual fun into hard work.

Dog Dance

Dog Dance (Photo credits: Giphy)

Caring for a blog and feeding it regularly with fresh content is becoming a grind.  So maybe  I might want to get a dog. If I have to invest in something that requires time, attention and my best effort maybe a four-legged companion that is always glad to see me no matter how full, empty or frazzled my brain is on a given day.

I love dogs, but I haven’t had one since my kids were kids, but the model we got was a little defective and didn’t work out too well. I’m thinking about trying again. The wife isn’t as crazy about the idea, but I don’t think she’ll go to war over the idea.

But she’s not delirious with joy either.

No dis of cat people. I’m a dog man, myself. Always have been. Cats can be playful but it has to be on their schedule..  Dogs?  Dogs bring the playful like water from the tap.

In my current winterlude of lethargy and lassitude, I positively crave a little playful.

I want a dog. I think I NEED a dog.  Until this miserable winter is over I’m sure not motivated to blog.

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Blogging 101: How to blog when you really don’t want to.

  

"Hi, I'm Vida Guerra, model, actress and singer and I have NOTHING to do with this post."

 

This post is a cheat.   It’s the equivalent of Seinfeld.  That was a television show about nothing.   So is this.   Here’s all  you need to know about blogging;   we’re all learners in a game where there are no masters.  

America Online had a hypothesis they called the “10/40” rule.   You had 10 ten seconds  to grab the attention of web surfers and if they didn’t find anything that interested them they bailed after 40 seconds. 

So what do you blog about when there’s nothing you really want to blog about.  Here’s some subjects I thought about blogging about today and couldn’t work up the passion to write an entire post about.   Lawrence Taylor arrested for rape . Obama’s next likely Supreme Court pick.  JaMarcus Russell being cut by the Oakland Raiders.  The NBA Playoffs.  The flubbed bombing of Times Square. Pam Grier’s new book.  The oil spill in the Gulf and the weak attempts by the Right to call it “Obama’s Katrina.”    An appreciation of Living Colour’s “The Chair in the Doorway” or why Kevin Smith is the most overrated director in Hollywood today. 

Some of these  topics interest me more than others, but none of them inspire me to write 600-800 words about it.  The thing is it’s been four days since my last blog post which is three days longer than I usually go between blog posts.   What’s a blogger to do? 

Stall. Play for time.  Fake it.  That’s why I stuck pictures of the many curves of Vida Guerra on this post even though it has nothing at all to do with her. 

The Domino Theory  is three years old in June.   No presents are necessary and I’m trying to give up cake, but I’ll indulge myself by slamming two cans of Diet Coke instead of one.   Even I didn’t know I could b.s. that long.   Sometimes I even surprise myself what I get away with.   On the serious side,  it’s been more fun than work, but easy reading comes from hard writing.   That means there will be days like this when I have to write something even when I have nothing burning on the front stove. 

"Hi! Me again. Still not in this post."

 

I read a lot of blogs by other writers, both amateurs and professionals.   Know what I’ve learned?  There’s not a lot of difference between the two.  The professionals write better, but a lot of them come from the structured environments of print journalism.   It might be harder for a professional to learn blogging because so much of what blogging is has nothing to do with journalism.  

What I’ve learned is blogging ain’t for sissies. It’s damned tough trying to find enough to feed a blog on a regular basis or at least some days it is. At other times my cup runneth over and I have more subjects to write about than I have hours in the day to write it.   I spent three days on an essay for The Root and when I was finished with it I had no interest in writing anything else.   Blogging is just a matter of sitting down in front of a computer and letting fly with whatever is rattling around in your dome.   Journalism requires stuff bloggers don’t have to worry about such as proper sentence construction, coherent and linear writing, fact checking, sourcing,  word counting, editing, revising, and more editing.  It helps to spell right too. 

These days occur when I say, “Dammit, I DON’T want to update the freaking blog.”  At other times I can’t rest until I get to it and let fly with whatever has severely pissed me that day. 

I look at the graph of my page hits and the stock market has to be easier to predict. It drives me mad to spend time and effort pouring my heart into a topic I think is really interesting, proof it, publish it and….nothing.   Even the crickets won’t pay attention.  Nobody reads it. Nobody comments on it and nobody gives a crap. 

But let me post some trifling throw-off that I barely bat an eyelash  over and WHAM!  I’m got readers all over it like ants on a lump of sugar.   There is absolutely no rhyme or reason to it.   All I do know is  when I blog about Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, the Tea Partiers, porn, Will Smith or Lady Gaga,  whatever readership I have that’s what gets them to pay attention for 10 seconds and decided to hang around past 40 second.   I guess if I wanted only to blog about a dozen subjects or so I’d be set.  

I’m a journalist by trade so the freedom to write what I want is a bit intoxicating at times, but it also means I can cough up some real junk too. My blog turns three years old next month and going through the archives I find posts that make me say “That was pretty good” or “What the hell was I thinking?” 

I think both my blog and writing have become a bit soft, so I’m trying to write more often about what actually means something instead of the lightweight stuff. Without the structure of an editor or regular publication, I need to push harder and challenge myself as a writer more.   If you don’t use a muscle it withers and entropy sets in.   That includes the intellectual and writing muscles.   They need regular and rigorous workouts. 

When they don’t you get posts like this consisting of a writer expounding about the process of writing.   That, and rick-rolling the innocent with gratuitous eye-candy photos of a Cuban-born hotty struggling to find a bikini that fits. 

"Gee, a woman in her underwear really can get guys to read anything."