Lately I've been preoccupied with the fact that I haven't written a new post in over two months. I had previously been on a twice monthly kick since spinning up my site, and I thought that was a pace I'd try to maintain. I suppose all it ever takes is one slip.
I took a break at the end of December because of the holidays and everything. I just found myself unable to find the time, motivation, or topic to write. There were too many distractions. No matter, I thought. A lapse at that time of the year is natural. I was sure I'd pick things back up again in mid January. But here it is the end of February and I'm just now getting around to a new post.
I have this sense that it'll become a problem—of what caliber I can't say—if I don't maintain a regular posting schedule. It's a hard feeling to shake, even though I know it doesn't stem from any external pressures on me to produce content.
None of your business
Writing, like any form of content production, is a creative endeavor. It's not always easy to create. Sometimes you just don't feel like it. Sometimes you lack the spark of inspiration. Creativity isn't something you can force on yourself. Still, I can't tell you how many times I've heard the advice that writing should be done every day if you're serious about it. It doesn't matter if you feel at the time that you have nothing worthwhile to say. Part of developing the skill means sometimes powering through for the sake of practice.
Many web authors commit these types of daily writings to their personal sites and blogs. In the long tail of the Internet, I've seen lots of posts that could be described as off-the-cuff or dubiously meaningful to anyone but the author. Neocities is positively littered with such work. This is to be expected in a personal journal or diary, but a blog is neither of those things. It's not that blogs can't or shouldn't contain personal content. It's just that they are, ultimately, published on the Internet so that others can read them.
When I think about what I post on my own blog I have to recognize that even though I tell myself it's mostly for me, it's really that I'm writing for an audience. However imaginary. That's why I'm selective about what I post.
This is the dichotomy of a personal blog. You may intend to treat it like a journal or diary, but it's still a blog. If it were truly, 100% just for you, you'd be content writing where no one else would be able to read.
That's show business
It's 2021. Blogging kind've seems like a dead medium. It's not, but its heyday is long past. Especially now that it's so easy to produce and publish video content. Even so, it seems that much of the most visible/discoverable blogging still being done is highly commercialized.
I joined r/Blogging to see what the community is like these days. I thought I might find some like-minded individuals who just enjoy writing about their ideas and futzing with web development. What surprised me was the number of threads focused on promotion and SEO. Many, if not most conversations revolve around the path to monetization. Few of the members appear to be interested in writing and publishing for its own sake. I find this dismaying, but it makes sense, right? Regardless of your stated intent, blogging is at its core a ploy for attention.
The rub here is that attention is a highly competitive market. And when you know there are bloggers who are trying to figure out how to claim an unsaturated niche topic, optimize their SEO, and drive traffic through social media promotions, it feels kind of hopeless to be competing with them as the guy just trying to write something interesting.
I recently listened to an Electric Underground podcast episode in which the host, Mark, chats with Mike from Resonant Arc. The episode was somewhat therapeutic for me because they talk in-depth about many of the anxieties I have about putting myself out there through content creation and Internet publishing. They also address the concept of the audience. At one point, Mike describes how a content creator may come to have difficulty maintaining their brand. He notes that audiences expect brands and their underlying content to be consistent; that's why they return to it. Consistency comes in the form of both posting regularly, which provides the incentive for audience engagement, and in staying on-topic. But this can be hard on creators. After all, they're people with their own diverse interests. It's not easy to stay motivated and produce content pertaining to the same topic all the time. But to compete for an audience's attention and have a successful (read: highly trafficked) blog/channel/whatever, there's a lot of pressure to do just that.
There's this concept called the "digital garden". It's something of a revival of the driving force behind a lot of GeoCities-esque personal websites of the ancient (mid '90s to early 2000s) Internet. Digital gardens are websites that authors use to express ideas purely for their own interests. Unlike blogs, the purpose isn't to build an audience. Updates are just as likely to be made for the sake of rearranging existing content as they are to publish new. Such sites might regularly see changes to look and feel, and they certainly don't have to conform to any particular UX or web design standards.
A lot of sites on Neocities could be labeled as digital gardens. I host my site on Neocities. Would it ease my anxieties if I thought about it that way? Can a blog still be a component of one? Is it even reasonable to assert that a digital garden isn't meant for an audience? I mean, it's still being published to the Internet.
Family business to attend to
Unlike so many members of r/Blogging, my goal isn't to monetize my site. I'm taking steps to ensure the majority of my pages don't load anything besides content I host myself. I have no intent to serve up ads. As I mentioned at the end of my article "A pseudonymous identity", my goal is to create a space in which I can stitch together aspects of my interests that would otherwise go unexpressed or would be relegated to topic-specific message boards. I also want to continue learning a thing or two about web development. My primary interest in attracting attention is as a catalyst for dialog with others.
So why not just post my ramblings on social media? On Reddit? Two reasons: control over content and digital content preservation. I want to know that I can move my stuff to another web host if needed. I want to know how it's put together behind the scenes. I want to be able to make my own design decisions. I want to know that it's available right where I put it for years to come. When I meet somebody, or when I interact with my kids when they're older, and they express a particular interest, I can maybe say that hey, I had some thoughts on that. Check out this article I wrote. What do you think?
Perhaps a garden is the wrong metaphor for my website. It's more like a tiny deserted island in the ocean of the Internet. Articles like this are messages in bottles. But I actually like it here; I'm not trying to get rescued or anything. There's no urgency to toss out more. There's no pressure to get them floating into the main shipping lanes. I'm not building a raft or setting ablaze driftwood that spells out "HELP" in the sand. I'm just hoping somebody recognizes that I'm out here and that I'm worth visiting. That'd be nice. In the meantime I won't sweat it. I'll take a nap in my hammock. I'll take a stroll on the beach. I'll putter around with my shell collection. It's really quite a peaceful existence. Why the worry?