Why I Blog – 2016

Blogging feels old these days, to me at least. 

It feels like writing a letter and folding it up in an envelope and licking the envelope flap shut (it tastes horrible) and then running to the post box to find that you forgot the stamp and then running to the post office and buying a stamp and posting the letter…

And then, a few days letter, it comes back stamped ‘Return to Sender’.

Technology and general interest seems to have moved on from blogging. These days, people tend to give and receive their opinions and stories and fun directly on their favourite social media platform. They don’t need to be clicking some link to take them off to some alien-looking cul-de-sac-of-a-site to hear the verbalised bellybutton fluff of yet another self-obsessed idiot with too much time on his hands.

I know this because it’s how I roll myself. Although I persist in writing this blog, I don’t tend to seek out other blog posts. If I ever do (with a couple of notable exceptions) I find people trying to get away with the minimum effort in some vain expectation of the maximum gain. Rehashed content and hundred-word-posts that promise the earth and always provide considerably less than that. Maybe that's part of the reasons why blogs die. Visitors have probably been burned too often. Too many well-meant clicks have resulted in being seriously underwhelmed and constantly disappointed. There is also a tendency in modern social media to meticulously tailor the content it chooses to share and this seems to mitigate against the accessibility of the old-fashioned blog. 

But it’s not just that. Who is a good enough writer to command a returning audience, week on week on week, for years on end? Not many, that’s for sure and I’d be the first to admit that I’m no Clive James. It always seems to have been the nature of the beast that people would form a habit of reading and then ‘un-form’ a habit of reading. It’s natural, nobody could argue against it. Also, with the act of writing a blog for years, some repetition is bound to creep in. I’ve probably written this same post ten times over the years and forgotten all about it. 

It’s understandable that the blog would fade and flicker and naturally go out. That’s what blogs do. It’s the nature of the beast. So why bother? Why continue in being a part of what has become such a dull grey kaleidoscope? 

Every few years, I’ve asked myself this question and the answers have always been quite different. Once upon a time, the blog would reach quite a respectable audience, a casual readership who would often react and respond to stuff. There often seemed to be a sort of reciprocal learning involved and a feeling that there was at least a small appetite for the work being done.

As that feeling inevitably faded, there was a replacement feeling that the weekly stories and thoughts were more of a scrapbook, to be looked over in years to come, to provide a quite colourful snapshot of how one’s mind worked back in those days. 

When I ask myself today, why am I sitting here writing this, the answer is once again changed. The situation has certainly changed. With each blog post being significantly less well read than the last, the whole endeavour is now nothing more than a tiny candle stub guttering in a saucer on a draughty shelf. 

So, again, why do it? Why not stop today? To continue may actually be a bad thing. To constantly rehash tropes and patterns and, in doing so, use up energy that could be valuably expended elsewhere.

Here’s what I see when I ask myself the question about why I keep going.

I see a gym.

I am not a muscular man. In truth, I have only one significant muscle. It might not matter to anyone else but it matters to me. It’s this muscle that makes me strong. It is, of course, my writing muscle. Those lucky people with lots of big muscles need to work them to keep them in shape. They put in hard hours and they don’t need people to turn up and smile and applaud them while they are doing it. If they didn’t do it, the muscle wouldn’t be ready when they needed it to haul something or to lift something heavy. 

And that's the reason. This is my gym. The place I continue to come, to work out my only useful muscle.

Except it’s not. Not really. It’s really more just one key piece of apparatus in that gym. I write a lot and the blog is only one part of it. It's that scary-looking treadmill thing in the corner. The slightly dusty thing that can still give you a good work out if you push it hard enough. 

There may be newer bits of equipment. Hell there may even by a sort of vegetable juicer than would provide the same effect with less effort. I don’t really care. I know I need to work my muscle and this shitty old blog regime does it as well, and sometimes better, than other more popular devices can. 

Some weeks I'll have a thought that’s going to be hard to get down. Some weeks I won’t have a fucking clue what to write. But, pretty much every week, I get my thousand words down and they have a start, a middle and an end and I work to make those words as real and as thoughtful and as coherent as I can.

And if you ever come and ask me to write something, you'll find me trim, I’ll be ready. That one little muscle is wiry and good and I just need to keep working it to keep it that way. That one little muscle kind of defines who I am, to myself if not to anybody else. So I’ve got to keep pumping.

And, hey, I don’t need you to come by every week and watch. That might actually be a bit weird and embarrassing for us both. If you’re passing, maybe give me a wave. I’ll wave back and be really pleased to see you.

But then you’ll have to please excuse me 'cos I’ve got some work to so.

And the work can’t wait. 


seoirse mac enri said...

Hi Ken, I agree blogs are on the wane, imo, because of overkill. There are blog spots that are excellent, quirky off centre, interesting.Others seem to wax lyrical on what the author deems relevant to a large audience, rather on what that audience might actually enjoy, getting bums on seats so to speak especially if they got a few ads floating round the site.
John Lennon was once asked about his writing, books & music, he replied he wrote for himself
if it interested others, so much the better.

I guess you blog cos you like writing ,I couldn't blog myself , as I tend to waffle a bit...
I can understand feeling why go on, I run/ran a few forums, you put a lot of work in, answer lots of questions, with little or no thanks, & just returning to forum when new problems arise. I now only work on one, just because it's an interest & despite the cons ,still like to help.
I do enjoy reading the blogs , I'm sure others do too, which would be more evident if you were to stop..'Where's Ken's Blog?' 'What Happened?' Hopefully these questions will never be asked. I think you interest a lot of people with your writings and musings on a variety of topics if it makes you happy, keep doing it Ken, the audience is still here..
all the best GH

Ben said...

Hi Ken. I like the gym analogy.

A few years back, I remember saying "blogging is writing". There was a time when some of the bigger blogs convinced readers that they, too, could blog. Anyone can start a blog! That was the line.

Yes, it's relatively quick and simple to start a blog. It's also relatively simple to buy a musical instrument. That doesn't mean it's going to be easy to master it - nor does it mean everyone will be good at it. I think it's fine to try - but it's also fine to be good at some things and not others - and also, to enjoy or actually want to partake in some activities but not others.

I've worked for a newspaper for the last 2 years. The sheer quantity (and quality) of writing that journalists do in a typical day, or week, is mind-boggling. I have a lot of respect for writers.

And while I have writing skills, I don't have what it takes to write write any consistent frequency. I've tried and failed too many times - I know this. My blog is mainly professional posts now - talking about projects, processes, basically what I do at work.

Ken Armstrong said...

Thanks, George, I do enjoy it so I'll probably keep on a while. I've been saying that for God know how many years now. :)

Hi Ben. You were also a fine blogger, maybe it's about being a fine person too. :)

hope said...

Hi Ken! (Waving enthusiastically).

We blog...because we can. What else are those of us who love words suppose to do with them all? :)

Karen Redman said...

I read very few blogs these days ... and, sadly write even fewer. I always read your blog because it arrives in my email in box like clockwork and I invariably enjoy your writing. I visit a few others occasionally but they're lazy. I am aggravated by the fact that I know darn well that the people who post them can write beautifully but instead they post links to other sites and I come away feeling cheated.

I often get the itch to write something but currently I don't seem to have much to say.
You DO. Keep on saying it, Ken.

Jim Murdoch said...

In a couple of months I’ll’ve been blogging for nine years. I never set a time limit on it, a time to assess whether I’d been a success or not, but it’s fair to say things didn’t pan out the way I’d hoped. And I’m not alone there. In that respect I think the whole online experience has been a bit of a let-down if I’m being brutally honest. We know it’s a virtual world and yet we treat it like the real world. It’s not. Different rules apply. In the real world we have one or two friends who we maybe see once a week. We rarely talk about the meaning of life or anything deeper than what we’ve been watching on TV or what we plan to watch on TV or what we can’t find the time to watch on TV because there’s so much damn TV being made at the moment. We maybe go for a curry and talk about our wives.

When I first started getting comments on my blog I was flabbergasted I knew there was a comments box but I never really expected anyone to say anything. At the time I got excited if my readers made double figures; six was the norm for a long time. But I soldiered on because everything I’d read said if you were a writer you needed to blog, be interesting and be interesting on a regular basis. I can’t pretend for a moment that didn’t intimidate me because I’m really not that interesting. I bore the pants off of me if I’m being honest. But I faked it for a while and encouraged by the occasional comment or two I got into my stride which for the longest time worked out at a thousand words a day, every day. This was the dream. I was a real writer. Real writers write a thousand words a day.

At the start everyone and his dog had a blog—was that the golden age of blogging?—and it was hard to keep up but I treated the whole thing like a job; hell, it was my job. The first couple of books sold. Not in huge numbers but enough to encourage me; this was the way to go. And then the rot set in. I started reviewing books because I couldn’t keep up with the pace I’d set but I enjoyed it and people kept sending me free books. I mean free books, Ken! Free books! Others who didn’t have as much time as me started to struggle. We were all running out of stuff to say. Writerly stuff. The same subject kept getting rehashed with very little (if anything) new to add. And we started to ask ourselves: What are we getting out of this? And the answer came back: Not a lot.

But there was something. And something’s better than nothing. And so we imagined that behind the one or two comments there was an army or lurkers who simply hadn’t the time to comment or couldn’t think what to say. The stats from Google Analytics still showed hundreds of visitors and Google wouldn’t lie. Not true.

There’s a scripture in some Bible that, unusually for me, I can never find but it says something along the lines of “Let your feet be rare at your friend’s door.” Friends are great but I’ve had friends live with me and the greatness wears thin after the first three or four weeks. One of my friends stopped blogging and started e-mailing me instead. We maybe exchange an e-mail once every three or four weeks and although we don’t always have a lot to say in those e-mails I like it when I see one in my inbox. I think blogging should be like that. I like when I see Ken Armstrong’s posted something new. If you missed a week I probably wouldn’t notice because I rely on technology to remind me you exist but I regard your blog as our weekly chat and sometimes we do talk about TV or films. In fact we rarely talk about writing but that’s fine. Writing’s always been a kind of private thing and I’ll be honest I really prefer not talking about the writing. What there to say? I sat. I wrote. When I’ve written something I’d like you to read I’ll let you know. (In that respect I kind of wish you wrote books instead of plays but what can you do?)

I don’t know when I’ll stop blogging but it will come to an end and unless I make a big fuss about it hardly anyone will notice. Which will be fine. Really.

Ken Armstrong said...

Hi Hope!! (Waves enthusiastically back) :)

Hi Karen: Some day soon, you'll have something to say and I'll be along to hear it. x

Jim: Let's keep going another while, eh? "I never think about the last." (Shane Mcgowan)

Unknown said...

Thank you Ken. I needed that.

Also, I'm a sucker for the self-referential.

hope said...

As soon as I posted here, my best friend, who lives a few hours away,(might as well be across the planet) made an interesting comment concerning distance/work/life keeping us apart. "When I miss you, I read your blog. It makes me feel closer to you."

So, seems there's a bonus I never thought about when it comes to blogging. :)

Bella7 said...

Keep blogging Mr Ken (waves) I read maybe two or three blogs. Yours is ALWAYS my favourite. I enjoy your words and thoughts. As I've said before there's never a wasted one.