Today is the third anniversary of my blog. I still don’t know what possessed me to start writing in this thing on December 23, 2004. I had never heard the word “blog” until a few days earlier and I wasn’t really sure what a blog was. I’d only read one or two of them but I thought I’d give it a try, never dreaming I’d still be writing in it three years later.
Here are a few lessons I learned along the way:
Blogs give you creative freedom. I spend much of my work life as an editor on other people’s manuscripts or writing for hire on topics that I don’t choose. I love this work but my blog provides a much needed outlet for writing about whatever I’m interested in at the time. I often find myself droning on and on about obscure or arcane topics and it never even occurs to me to wonder whether anyone will be interested in reading my posts (until later, that is—see below). I cling steadfastly to the control I have over this blog and find it extremely satisfying. I wouldn’t be against working on a commercial blog, one with a specific audience in mind that is created with the aim of making money, but this blog will always be a place where I can write about whatever the hell I feel like—even blogging itself, a subject sure to send readers scurrying to the next URL! It’s a funny balance, because part of me clearly craves attention (why else would I be blogging?) and yet as I sit down to write, I really only consider what’s of interest to ME at that moment—it’s a narcissist’s dream! Is it taking time away from other creative projects that could ultimately generate income? Possibly, but it’s also provided sparks for ideas that I never would have had otherwise.
Blogs make you more neurotic than you already were. Three years into blogging, I would love to report that I have a completely healthy attitude about people commenting on my blog. Didn’t I just say how much I enjoy writing for myself, without obsessing about what I believe the “public” wants? And yet there’s a part of me that still judges each post I write based on the number of comments I receive. I have blogger friends who receive more than 50 comments on every post, no matter what the topic. In three years, I’ve only had one post that generated more than 50 comments. So what? Why do I care? I appreciate the people who comment, but I also appreciate the readers who don't. It really shouldn't matter. This is my 349th post, I’ve received 3,429 comments to date, and I’ve had 658,420 hits. But don’t by impressed by that last number since the majority of those hits are from Google searches that inadvertently lead people to my site. (In the past twenty minutes, I’ve gotten hits from people searching for christina crawford, wilco trivia, amy winehouse brother, hairbrush spanking in the 50s, kendall hailey today, support our troops christmas decorations, diane keaton nude, carolyn jones topless, white college dudes and their black girlfriends, flying monkey bolsheviks, and scarlett johansson breasts.) I know that when I read other people’s blogs, I only leave a comment if I have something to add, no matter how much I enjoyed the post. At least my insecurity never impacts what I write about. If it did, I wouldn't have recently followed an insanely looooong post about Jewish pogroms in 1880s Russia with an insanely looooong post about the Armenian genocide. Oy.
Blogs are private spaces (commenters are not protected by the First Amendment!). As much as I just said how much I value comments on my blog, I never hesitate to zap ones that I find offensive or freakishly bizarre. This isn’t about people disagreeing with me, I have no problem with that, just the crazy nuts who write things that are so obnoxious I can’t bear to house their ravings on my site. Included in this category are a smattering of neo-Nazis and actual Nazis who have commented on some of my posts that touch on Hitler and the Holocaust. I’ve had several folks, including the grandson of a high-ranking Nazi official, extol the virtues of Adolf Hitler, explain how he got a bum rap, and scream about how the Holocaust has been grossly exaggerated by Zionist activists. Fascinating stuff, you Nazi fucks, now get off my site. I then receive outraged emails from these people accusing me of censorship and violating their free speech. Huh? They are free to write whatever they like, no one is threatening to have them arrested, but I am under no obligation to pepper MY blog with their crazy bullshit. I’ve seen such complaints on many blogs and it saddens me how some people have so little understanding of free speech issues. Maybe I should count my blessings about the number of comments on this site. Quality, not quantity, right?
Blogs put you in touch with amazing people. By far, the most rewarding thing about having a blog is the online community that develops and the people that you connect or re-connect with. I am so grateful for all the friends I’ve made as a result of this blog. There are people I’ve met who I feel I’ve known my whole life, other people I feel so close to from reading their blogs or their comments on my blog that I can’t believe I’ve never met them in the flesh. I’ve discovered several new branches of my family tree, gotten in touch with people I haven’t spoken to since Lyndon Johnson was in office, and made connections with fascinating people of all ages, backgrounds, and beliefs. And yes, a handful of Nazis and other psychopaths, but you can’t expect it all to be good!
I read somewhere that the third anniversary is supposedly when a couple becomes aware of the durability of their relationship. That’s why leather is the traditional gift for these celebrations. I think that’s true—after three years I feel very grateful for what this blog gives me. I may have to battle the pre-Christmas crowds today and go buy a leather cover for my MacBook. Thanks to all of you for stopping by during these past three years!