by Richard Taylor : 2022-08-07
When I finally decided to give up writing fiction, in the traditional sense, it was quite liberating. That was some time around 2012. I dabbled with a few different forms of writing and eventually started a blog (it's rubbish BTW) way after blogs stopped being cool. From time to time I go back to it... and quickly remember why I shouldn't bother. Instead, when I feel the need to write about something opinionated, I put it in my diary. This time I also decided to write this article about why I think that... which you could argue makes this kind of a blog post rather than an article... so be it, I'm making an exception because I think it needs saying out loud.
The thing I liked about publishing a blog was that it was there on the internet instantly and I could see how many people were reading it. I was writing it as my character Eddie Shore so it was also a way to live out part of another life, without spending a year writing a novel. But, from time to time, there would be something that made me so mad that I just posted what I thought, whether it was in keeping with the character or not. Usually not.
Most of the time I didn't care how many people were reading my blog. But sometimes I would care and would post links to Twitter and other places. Then the hit count went up and I was happy.
I thought my blog had something that at least some people wanted to read. It was mostly movie and book reviews... but fairly obscure ones; so not the sort of thing you would find on other blogs or review sites. And it was done in character so it didn't have to pretend to be objective or unbiased. If people liked the kind of movies I liked (or my character liked) then they might find the blog interesting.
I could write whatever I wanted. It didn't matter.
As soon as you have a blog there is an urge to put stuff on it. And keep putting stuff on it. You don't want to be one of those people who start blogging and give up after 7 posts. You have to create to maintain your legitimacy.
When you start churning out material to a timetable, the quality soon drops. No-one has enough creativity to maintain high quality output indefinitely at a regular pace. But also when you are churning stuff out, you want to be sure that people are reading it. What's the point in all that writing if no-one reads it? So you put more "effort" into "marketing" your stuff. More links. More clickbaity titles. And you need more "followers" on the trendy social sites.
Fundamentally, all the hits your blog gets from "marketing" are bullshit. Most of them are probably automatic loads by robot accounts that will do something nefarious with the content. Most of the rest are people who see the content for a few seconds and move on because your title didn't describe what you actually wrote (on purpose).
Your content isn't as original as you think. There are so many people posting so much on the internet, that the probability of someone else posting something very similar to you is very high. Only a very small number of people have something truly original to say... and you will probably never find those people amongst the noise of everyone else.
You can't write whatever you like on the internet. Or rather, you can but you'll regret it. That clever piece about your unrequited love for a coworker might seem like genius today, but in 10 years time when she's CEO and someone you pissed off sends her a link... not so much. And that's if you are lucky. If you are unlucky then something that you don't even realise could ever be offensive to anyone might get picked up by a group with a cause and you'll be their next target on the road to justice.
People have been writing diaries and personal journals for hundreds of years. There are lots of reasons for that, but fundamentally it helps people to "sort out" their thoughts and make sense of recent events. For me it also satisfies my need to write. The diaries of some great people get published posthumously as historical records; most are never read by another human being.
Blogs came along as a way to "share" your thoughts with other people. Which was cute when there weren't so many people on the internet... OK, I'll say it, and when most people on the internet were smart. Now everyone is on the internet so, by definition, the average IQ is about 100. Just as you choose your words differently in different company, you have to change your writing for a different audience. For personal stuff, like your opinions, the effective audience has shrunk to one... just you.
So now I keep my opinions to myself (apart from this one) and put it all in my diary. I know that the reader is interested in it, because I often read back to times in the past I have forgotten. I know the number of unique readers is exactly one. I don't have a timetable and only write when I want to; the reader doesn't mind that at all. I don't do marketing. I can write exactly what I want... and that does matter.