I pretty much stopped writing on this blog about a year ago, and never wrote up why.
Last year I relaunched Wordyard as “The Wordyard Project” with a new design, lots of energy, and a focus on the topic of identity and personal authenticity in digital media. I felt like I had a lot to say that I’d stored up during the years I spent editing Grist, and I began writing. I had fun! In particular, I was obsessed with writing one piece I’d been thinking about for ages — about Lou Reed, the song “Sweet Jane,” hearing Reed play that song at the Web 2.0 conference a decade ago, and how all of that related to life on the Internet as I’ve lived it for the past 20 years.
So I wrote that piece. Then I kept writing. But I lost steam. It seemed to me I was repeating myself. Looking back at the posts from that period now, I don’t think I was. But that’s how it felt.
That was the personal dimension. At the same time, in the wider world, I understood that blogging was a very different beast in the mid-2010s than it had been a few years before: not “dead” but less and less an environment where writers were congregating and software developers were innovating. I didn’t want that to be true, but it was: The conversational aspect of blogging had largely been assumed by Twitter and Facebook. If you aimed to build traffic on a blog today, you had to treat it like a publishing venture — keep pumping out lots of posts and promote them tirelessly on social media.
All of which, at that point, felt to me like more repetition.
One of the first things we learned about publishing online from the earliest days — when Hotwired ruled, Suck.com flourished, and Salon (a “Web ‘zine”!) fledged — was the imperative of repetition. I remember my colleague Andrew Ross talking about how the Web was a little like radio. He meant you could be a little more casual; you could, when news broke, just ring up an expert for a quick Q&A without waiting to assemble a more definitive story. He was right. But it was also like radio in the way you needed to remember that people were probably tuning in and out all the time, and you were going to have to repeat yourself a lot to be heard.
I’ve been writing reviews and news stories and features and columns and blog posts all my life. There are times when cranking it out is effortless, and other times when it just feels impossible. When I go through a spell of those impossibles — as I did toward the end of my days writing theater reviews, and again toward the end of my years as Salon’s managing editor, and again in autumn 2014 — I know that the best thing for me to do is to move on, change things up, try out something new. That works. But when I do it, I’m also always gnawed by the suspicion that maybe I’m just running away from what I Should Be Doing.
It’s a tough one: On the one hand, as David Byrne once sang, “Say something once! Why say it again?” On the other hand, that song is titled “Psycho Killer,” and maybe the narrator is…unreliable.
So I put Wordyard on hold, where it’s been ever since. Around the same time I also started writing some reasonably ambitious pieces for Steven Levy at Medium’s Backchannel, and those kept me busy, and felt rewarding in a different way, and let me focus on simply writing as good a piece as I could without also thinking about how to get people to come read it.
Am I going to return to any kind of posting schedule here? I honestly don’t know. I’d like to. I’m a big believer in the IndieWeb movement’s “POSSE” principle — publish on your own site, syndicate everywhere — meaning, you have a site that you own and cultivate and then you share your work in all sorts of other venues as you wish. I dream of software to make that even easier than it already is. (I like what the folks at Known have accomplished in this direction already.) I have all sorts of ideas for experiments in this area. Let’s see how far I get.
In the meantime, what I am doing today is taking that “Sweet Jane” piece and reposting it on Medium, where maybe a somewhat different bunch of readers might see it. It still says so much of what I want to say.
- November 12, 2015 @ 06:17:42 [Current Revision] by Scott Rosenberg
- November 12, 2015 @ 06:17:43 by Scott Rosenberg
I don’t know of any good writer who hasn’t had doubts about what they’re doing and why. My 2015 has been similar to yours in that I publish, and write, far less than in the past.
I always advise less experienced writers to create a schedule and maintain it – writing is work and work benefits from structure – scheduled publications of anything is necessary to build an audience – but for people who really struggle I tell them to stop. “Why are you killing yourself over this?” I ask. If it’s really that hard to get motivated where does the belief that this is worthwhile for you come from? And now that I’m writing less I’m asking myself the same questions.
You’ve written so many good works and have earned a reputation that will live on no matter how long you go between posting here, or anywhere. The stakes are different as are the motivations.
I don’t think there’s ever a good answer for important questions like “was it right to quit, or should I have kept fighting?” – we can’t know, not for sure. And that I suppose is part of what makes writing, and life, both frustrating and amazing.
I’m glad to see that you’ve posted about where you are as the many bloggers and writers who look up to you have this challenge ahead of them and it will help them to see your perspective. Thanks for posting.
@scottros Huh; that’s why I haven’t been posting to my own blog much, either. Interesting.
Wow! Scott R., this is so great to read from you. Also, thank you Scott B. for your heartwarming comment. I’d like to add another Scott, C., to this.
First of all, please just always keep this domain. I’ll keep subscribing with my trusty RSS feedreader. I *know* you will post here again, whether in a day, or a year, or 5 years, and I will be happy to see that post, too. Wordyard is not on hold. You’ve just changed your posting frequency.
You’ve been such an influence to me in my own blogging and the way I understand whatever blogs are. I’ve had mine since 2006, and let’s see, if your book was out in 2009, that counts as an *early* influence, seeing how — amazingly — my humble site is approaching 10 years old. And I was such a latecomer at the time. (Actually, I just can’t believe your book is 6 years old. It only came out yesterday.)
I’ve struggled so much, too, with That Thing I Should Be Doing. I vacillate between writing and software and writing about software and never know. I almost never feel like I’m doing exactly what I was “meant” to do.
Yet still things roll along, and I know you’re rolling along, too. I guess we’re doing what we need to do, even with the doubts. And it’s all very good, except couldn’t it be better? See? Doubts.
One thing that has combined the writing and software in a way I’m proud of: having had the chance to work with you on the WordPress revisions plugin, which it appears you’re still able to use today! (I hope you contact me immediately with any bug reports.)
There I saw your passion for a journalism feature that we really need: a change log. I’ve also seen your writing passion in “Say Everything,” and “Dreaming in Code,” and in this place.
Please do keep us updated on what you’re doing. Right now I’m heading over to Medium to see what you have there, and to subscribe however they do that, either via RSS or email (my oldest, most trusted favorites), or snapchat or rumors on the street or whatever.
You’re right that twitter and facebook are where the conversations are. I’ve long since accepted that my own blog will receive very little traffic or community (especially since I’ve turned comments off), but… maybe it’s my slide into midlife that makes me really start seeing how that’s not a bad thing. I can still write, and you’ve just reinforced the idea of having my own POSSE, however derelict or neglected it might be.
But, we’ll not apologize for it! As I notice you didn’t here, and thank you. Apologizing for not blogging is the literal actual worst.
This has grown very long, and you’re welcome for providing so much free content, given that you’ve just given up on the whole enterprise, I’m joking, but I want to go on further to say again +1 to Scott B. for your comment, both for your support of Scott R. and for speaking to all writers/bloggers and our doubts and frustrations.
I think I’ve heard +Kevin Marks praising Known on +TWiT shows as well. As fond as I am of Google+ I think if I was a professional I’d still want a canonical site that was under my control where I could curate my work and hopefully my engagement comments etc. That’s just too valuable to leave to the caprice and inscrutable takedown policies of a social network.
See https://withknown.com and http://known.kevinmarks.com for more.
+Paul Miller The problem is getting people to go anywhere that isn’t one of the big social networks.
Sania@SEO Course in Delhi
That is the reason I haven’t been presenting on my own web journal much, either. Intriguing.
I haven’t as much either but I very much want to. And I’m going to. It is a pleasure to read this post on your site. And Facebook has such a corrupting / manipulative influence on what we see because our posts there don’t get to everyone who “follows” or who is our “friend” there.
It’s just good to remember there’s a world outside those walls. It feels like that moment in Logan’s Run, peeking outside to come read this.