Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Jon Swift tradition: The honor really is in taking part

Last month marked the 11th anniversary of this blog, or at least it would have marked it had the occasion not gone unremarked around here. So first, let's set that right:

"Lonely" may be stretching it a bit, but we're certainly not "high-traffic" around here. Haven't been for years. Part of it, as a friend – yes, a friend – told me, is that as a blogger I have "an almost Rain Man-like inability to connect with a steady audience." And that observation was made years ago, before blogs became the brick-mobile-phone of the twenty-first century.

I remember discovering, in the earliest years, that I was getting linked to by CNN's and NBC's websites, which I now realize was more about the mainstream media's befuddled reaction to emerging social media than about their genuine interest in p3. Still, it was a buzz at the time.

I started this blog to write about things related to my old academic field of communication and rhetoric, but its specific focus soon morphed into a discussion of my erudite prejudices about writing and editing, First Amendment (and other civil liberties) issues, and my growing disgust with the Bush administration and its offenses against . . . well, damned near everything, it seemed. But I suppose I began losing some steam once the Thane of Crawford finally left office.

And other things going on in my life probably took some of the zip out of the process, too. One of those was the death four years ago this month of Doctor Beyond, a friend of long standing who was was in many ways the muse, assignment editor,and conscience of this blog. His contributions were so many and so important that I still haven't gotten them indexed yet; every time I start, the sheer number of mentions – and the process of tracking down all the references, by the various noms de blog under which he appeared over the years – always stopped me pretty quickly in my tracks. Rarely does a day go by that I don't think of him and wish we could talk. There'd be a lot more posts here, and probably a lot better ones, if Doctor B were still around.

But long story short: You can't stay angry forever; eventually you have to blink. When you run out of anger, and you're not interested in going down the road of contrarianism for the hell of it, and your readership has dwindled to Google bots and sporadic traffic from a few bigger-foot blogs that generously keep you on their blogrolls, there's really only one fuel to keep you going. No question that I continue doing this largely out of bloody-mindedness, which I suppose is sort of the bastard child of anger, the metaphorical line of coke for the 3am writer. In the age of Trumpism, anti-intellectualism, and denialism of every sort, I'm mostly oscillating between feeling horrified and disgusted, and that's not guaranteed to be a productive place from which to write.

Not that that isn't occasionally fun. In fact, two of the recurring features I've done the most with this year have been A Quantum of Umbrage and The Unforgiving Minute. Draw your own conclusions about that.

And not that there aren't friends of this blog who've generously kept p3 on their readers' radar (hello, Lance Mannion, Steve M. and Yastreblyansky!). Most conspicuous among the friends of p3 is Batocchio, whose long-form blog I first started reading for the (now defunct) Right-Wing Cartoon Watch, as well as the Banned Book Week features – both topics dear to my heart and the subject of several email conversations. Batocchio has also name-checked me more than once at Mike's Blog Round-Up at Crooks and Liars.

But the B's greatest kindness is extending the regular invitation to p3 to find some new readers as a part of the Jon Swift Memorial Round-Up. You can read the background of the tradition, as well as 2015's (self-)nominees here. It brings me a glut of new readers every December, which is a delight. And it's flattering. I just wish, after eleven years, I had some better sense of how to draw more readers like that, and keep them. I don't. Comments would likely help steer me, but for whatever reason those just don't happen much around here. Never really have. (I have my comments set to be screened by me before going up, simply because the overwhelming majority of comments to the blog for several years have been spam, often left buried in some post from several years earlier.)

Last year, when Batocchio contacted me to self-nominate something from among my 2014 posts, I reviewed the year's output and decided there wasn't much that was very good, so I declined. Batocchio thought it was a mistake and said so, but promised to tag me again this year. Since the Sunday Morning Toons review is the one thing I've tried to keep going consistently, I submitted one of those I thought went fairly well. Again, no idea if I struck any nerves or made any new friends, but maybe the traffic it brought me will leave a few regular readers in its wake. One can only hope.

But that moment when the Swift list comes out – I can't deny it – is great fun. Not only is it a chance to find what other bloggers are up to, but there's that giddy moment when you realize that your name – your actual, by-god name – has actually appeared on the main page not only of The Vagabond Scholar, but also Hullabaloo and No More Mister Nice Blog. And maybe even other places. The mind, it boggles, however briefly. There's really only one way to express that feeling:

I have some ideas that have been simmering for a while to make some improvements around here. And my blog-posts-to-write folder in Evernote has about 150 items in it I've not written up and posted (can't really expect regular readers without regular writing). I resolve to do better in 2016. 

If only because bloody-mindedness deserves its day in the sun too.

No comments: