September 02, 2011

Literary Entropy

It's a funny thing; when I started this blog--THUNDERJOURNAL--back in 2002 (officially), I had all the writing confidence in the world. After all, I'd been writing for newspapers and magazines for a whopping four+ years up to that point, so of course I thought I knew everything and assumed people would just be in awe of my literary wordplay.

Plus, I was 27, which is an age not yet tempered by the fierce forge of experience and exposure to the wider world. It's funny how you can tack on nine or ten years and all of a sudden doubt borne of nascent wisdom starts to creep in.

After years of slogging through seemingly endless blog comment thread wars, dodging, parrying and thrusting my way through largely pointless and time-consuming argumentative tit-for-tats, it gradually sunk in that some people simply will never agree with me. That, strangely, also breeds doubt, even though those people are nevertheless clearly in the wrong and always will be. It's disheartening to know I'll never sway some people's minds, no matter how deftly I can turn a phrase.

Okay, I'm kidding, mostly. Still, back in 2002 - 2005, at least the comment wars were largely limited to people who inhabited a familiar blog sphere of influence. Now, I take an ill-advised trip through comment threads appended to news articles, and the ignorance, ad hominem attacks, strawmen and just plain tired old arguments that were tired and old years and years ago, grates on the enthusiasm.

Also, you know how I had newspaper and magazine writing experience back in 2002? It really doesn't help the old confidence to know those mediums are mostly dead and dying. Sure, I still write for both, but the old dreams of writing for TIME now strike me as the equivalent of wanting to know how a VCR or Victrola works.

Writing for the diminished online attention span is disheartening in its own way. After years of coming up with fun ways to turn a clever phrase, it's soul crushing to have search engine optimization (SEO) rules--whatever the hell they may be from week to week--looking over my shoulder, reminding me to write like an automaton so whatever I'm writing has a shot of maybe, possibly hitting the top 20 Google search results. Writing should be fun, not a factory.

All of this has stacked up over the years, resulting in a sort of debilitating writer's block, although "writer's block" isn't really the right term, because I have plenty of ideas to write about. However, I hesitate to write them down because I just don't have the same confidence, which is weird when you consider I'm writing freelance articles for a living.

Every time I confront a fresh article, I have to sweep all this mental baggage under the couch and plow ahead largely without thinking, because if I ponder on something too long, eventually I'll find myself staring at a blinking cursor, unable to write the next sentence.

Posted by Ryan at September 2, 2011 12:14 PM | TrackBack

Right before I read your post, I decided against leaving a comment on another blog - because why bother? Like you say, will it change anyone's mind? Probably not. But I'm glad you're keeping on with the blog, and I hope the next year is better than this!

Posted by: Beth at September 2, 2011 02:47 PM

this is not something i've thought about as directly because i don't write for a living, but now that you mention it i think it must be true for so many people. i mean, i know getting caught up with SEO has burned out a ton of bloggers who started writing to write.....and then google ads and income-generating opportunities came along and all of a sudden you don't want to write what you want to write - you need to write what you think people want to read. or people who went from personal blogger to blogger-for-hire....ugh.

even as someone who has never monetized my blog, with the tentacle-like reach of the internet now, i'm a bit more self-conscious about what i end up saying. :/

Posted by: amyleblanc at September 18, 2011 11:12 PM
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