Today is this blog’s third anniversary. I have written a post every week for three years, which some would say is enough hot air to raise the Titanic. The topics have been far-ranging. Some posts were funny, others serious. Some political, a few absurd. Posts about warm subway seats and and a phrase from Virgil’s Aeneid come to mind. Then there were posts meant to be funny that weren’t.
Throughout, I have kept one principle in mind: write what I want, not what’s trending. This goes against what content marketers say, but then I don’t know what a content marketer is. I’ve never played Pokemon, either.
My favorite posts were “Love Hurts” (5/15/2016); “Mending Wall” (4/3/2016); and “Slip of the Tongue” (7/26/2015). Readers liked “People Are Strange” (3/12/17) and “Uncertainty Ain’t What It Used To Be” (1/29/2017). April 2017 saw the most traffic with more than 2,000 views. Total views were 18,000, which is not a lot but a start. Followers are now more than 1,700 from around the globe. “Hissy Fit 101” (4/2/2017) was popular; “Johnny, There!” (2/14/2016) was not. Apparently, people have forgotten Rita Hayworth. I am stunned but will recover eventually.
I added “Mittwoch Matinee” on certain Wednesdays to promote books and shows as well as to offer music and entertainment. I will expand that to include interviews, especially of readers and other bloggers. You may even hear from a comedian or two.
Here are three things I have learned while writing this blog.
First, when you’re writing under a deadline with a short word count (650-750 words), you learn pretty quick what matters and what doesn’t. There’s no room for showing off. You’ve got to make your point, develop it, and leave the reader with something memorable. If you’ve ever lived in Tokyo or had to pack a moving van, you know what I mean about space. Most of the hard work doesn’t go into writing but thinking, reflecting, and planning. Images and YouTube videos should not just support the text but enrich it, even move it beyond itself. I try to make the blog a multimedia experience, not just an opinion piece.
Secondly, tell a story. I have not always followed this advice, but I keep it in mind as I develop topics and begin writing. As I tell my students, everything is a story, because humans are storytellers. What else is language for? It can be hard, though, because a blog, like teaching, has to tell a story to someone, who then must hear it and respond. Storytelling is an event. And, of course, words are everything, which is why each post goes through 25-30 edits. No exaggeration there.
Third, be genuine. Someone asked me the other night what my most genuine experience in life has been. The question stopped me cold. Later, I figured out that it’s not the number of genuine experiences I have had that counts but my growth as a genuine person. It reminded me of the adage about the fight in the dog, not the dog in the fight. I would like to be mostly genuine by the time I die, but that leads to another question: What is genuine?
I should say something about commitment. It takes a lot of it to meet a deadline week in and week out, especially one that is self-imposed. But then anything worthwhile requires commitment and the discipline to follow through on that commitment. Many people know what is required to succeed and commit to doing it but then lack discipline. I have been guilty of that over the years and had to learn the hard way not to give up.
But when does discipline become so obsessive that you end up beating your head against the wall? Here, as in many things, I turn to W.C. Fields, who said famously, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.”
Pretty good advice if you ask me.