Audience Participation

As we enter the second year of operation here at Coping with Sanity, I can’t help but wonder how the heck this blog lasted a whole year when all of my previous journaling experiences dating way back to junior high died after a month or so. The answer came yesterday after thinking about why I got back into posting regularly after a period of random and lengthy absences. Sure I was swamped with work and didn’t have easy computer access and my communication with just about everyone dropped like a lead monkey, but that wasn’t it.

At first I stopped posting regularly because I really didn’t have much to say and I hate when bloggers post about how little they have to say or apologize for not posting more often. I built this temple of narcissism and I’ll visit it whenever I please. But after a few weeks my brain started bubbling again with topics. I got a few of them down on the blog but most of them were never used because I was mostly too lazy. Hence the downfall of said previous journaling projects. So what brought me back this time? Well, now that I’m not working temporarily and not going to school yet I have lots of free time. I’ve managed to re-establish contact with most of my friends and feel more in control of my life. But that’s not really it either. It’s the hitcounter.

During my blogging peak I was getting many more hits a day than I ever expected, sometimes even more than Dave White. Most of that was due to being linked on Sarah’s site and several other popular mystery blogs. I also like to think people enjoyed what I had to say. But after going two weeks to a month between posts several times in a row, my hits dropped to only 10-15 a day, sometimes even less than that. I still get a spike here or there when I had a good post or came up in the Next Blog rotation, but nothing like the good old days.

So recently, when I started popping out posts every few days I saw a gradual rise in the number of hits I was getting. I had a couple of posts that really spiked the numbers past what I even remember hitting and then in the last week or so the numbers have settled back around where they used to be. This made me want to post more. Sure, I had more to say and more time to say it, but that had never stopped me in the past. Then it it me:

The reason blogging lasted longer than journaling is because blogging gave me an audience.

I may have started off writing for myself, but I moved rather quickly into writing to be read. I love it. I’m addicted to it. This is why I wrote short stories and sent them to online magazines, so I could be read and quickly. I liked getting email about the stories and about my other writing so I wrote more. I wrote what I wanted and never felt like I had to write to a market or anything, but I still had the desire to be read, and more importantly, read and commented to. This is where blogging’s real brilliance is.

I started blogging at the perfect time. I’d made some new friends in the online world and was a frequent commenter on several blogs which culminated in a guest blogging stint for Sarah. So when I finally started my own blog I had visitors. I even had comments. If that immediate connection to the reader’s wasn’t there I don’t think this blog would have made it through its first month. As time went on, my audience grew and changed. Instead of the few writer friends who made up my initial audience, more and morw writers, aspiring, professional, and in between came into the fold. People I counted as heroes and inspiration popped in to comment now and then. All because of my little journal.

So here’s my question: is writing for an audience going to corrupt me?

Eh, maybe, but I already found out that it changes how I write, if not a little bit what I write and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. The most popular period in this blog’s history was during my musical theater class adventures. I wrote the first post as a way to vent about a frustrating class, typical blogging behavior, but when people responded so heavily (not necessarily all positively) to that post I decided to make it a regular feature for that semester. Blogging changed in response to audience. I was still being me, I was still writing in my voice but I was selecting topics based on audience reaction. Not corrupted yet.

A bigger change came when I found out my mother was reading my blog. I’m still not sure exactly how she found it but once she found it some things changed right away. My endless freedom of expression was suddenly ripped from me, if it had ever really been there. Suddenly there were things I couldn’t talk about and things I couldn’t say.

It brought up an interesting dillema because most of the really nasty hardboiled stuff I’d written had gone undetected but I knew eventually there would be a novel and my parents would see that novel and without a doubt there would be objectionable content in said novel. So I was forced to reconcile my writing with my broader audience and I think I settled into a happy medium. My blog is still me and nobody is exacttly picturing me as a boyscout, but I’m not as flaggrant in my vices.

When they meet me for the first time, people I’ve only known online say I’m the same in person as I am on my blog and I think that’s the best testimony that I haven’t been corrupted by writing for an audience. There’ still time yet, though. Especially if Rickards and Swierczynski have their way.