Friday, August 01, 2008

Looking for love in all the wrong places

This is a post about blogging, not romance, so if you were expecting more I apologize.

I got to thinking about the topic after tracking a post on another blog to yet another blog whose author had abruptly stopped blogging and given his reasons for doing so.

One of the big issues was the fact he didn’t get much feedback. He’d installed a counter, so he knew he had a couple of hundred readers, but very few of those hits led to affirmation: comments, e-mails. He didn’t know who his readers were or what they thought about what he had written and found that frustrating.

I sympathize --- everyone who blogs appreciates affirmation I expect. I do. So keep those occasional comments and e-mails coming. On the other hand, I’ve also spent all of my working life in newspapers and learned some time ago that any writer whose self-esteem is based upon positive feedback from readers is going to be a pretty banged-up buckaroo.

You can bust your butt on a project that wins accolades from colleagues --- maybe even an award from a professional group --- but nearly all of your readers will just say to themselves (but not to you) “that’s nice,” then move silently along.

I SEE FROM ONE of the sidebars on this blog that I’ve been at it since 2005 --- a long time in the blogosphere. That’s surprising. Usually I get bored with a project after a few weeks or months and drop it.

I started blogging because I like to research and write about local and family history. It’s fun to share that, but hard to find a publisher unless you publish it yourself --- and a blog is ideal for that.

I also like to write. In fact I started life as a reporter, but moved on many years ago to editing --- and when you do that you effectively give up writing. There tends not to be time for both.

I used to compensate with what in retrospect seems a fairly amazing life in letters --- the sort you typed, folded and placed in a stamped and addressed envelope. I still have files of letters from others that I treasure. Then many of my correspondents, older and more attuned to the art of pen and ink (or typewriter or laserprinter) on paper, up and died. The rest of us switched to e-mail.

Now the blog serves as the outlet for that desire to play with words arranged sometimes gracefully and sometimes not into sentences and paragraphs, then see the result in print.

THE BLOG HAS CHANGED a little as time has passed. I started out as “FDM” for some reason, then along the way decided that was kind of silly. Now I’m just who I am, Frank D. Myers of Chariton and Mason City, Iowa.

I planned at first to write only about local and family history, and much of what’s here still is that. But I’ve broadened the range a little for purely self-indulgent reasons.

I'm trying to blog more often, on something of a schedule, because I think it's a useful discipline to do that.

OTHER BLOGGERS I read probably say a lot about who I am.

I don’t read political blogs. I find them excruciatingly tedious. I pretty much know I’m going to vote for the Democrat and I’m not going to change the minds of my Republican friends --- and that’s fine.

I don’t read angry blogs --- and by that I mean blogs that are always angry. Life is way too short.

I’ll always read an Iowa blog because I’m interested in how Iowans think --- as a rule, we’re good, thoughtful people, and there are some really good blogs out there. I wish there were more.

I read a few religion blogs --- almost all written by people who share my views about matters of faith and life. There are an amazing number of angry blogs about religion. I don’t read them.

I read a few gay bloggers. But sexual orientation is a mighty slim thread on which to hang a whole life or a whole blog --- be it homosexual, heterosexual or somewhere in between. So there’s got to be more to it than that to hold my interest.

I usually don’t read blogs devoted entirely to comments on current events. I come with built-in opinions and am capable of forming my own about topics and events I’ve not thought deeply about before.

I’m fascinated by how people live and think in places I love other than Iowa --- so there’s that blog by the dour old Republican rancher out in the middle of Montana and blogs by people who live in specific places in Wyoming, South Dakota and New Mexico.

My favorite blogs probably incorporate aspects of many of the above (including those I don't read regularly) without being obsessive about any of them.

HERE'S AN OPEN COMMENT, an unsent e-mail, to all of my favorite bloggers frustrated by lack of feedback. I enjoy and appreciate your work or I wouldn’t be among the hits your counter records. I love and honor your effort. You’ve opened your life to me and invited me in. Wow! What a gift. Thank you!


Ed Abbey said...

Well put. I do enjoy political blogs but have a hard time finding good ones. By good, I mean they debate rationally instead of name calling and repeating the soundbyte of the day.

I just can't seem to narrow down the focus of my blog. If I do, I find I quickly run out of things to say so mostly I just sit down and blog about whatever is first and foremost on my mind at the time. I don't get the quality of other blogs but I've been able to keep it up for almost four years.

Frank D. Myers said...

The broader the range, the more likely a blog is to keep me coming back.

Geography really grabs me --- how alike we all are but how much where we live influences what we think about, write about and do.