Friday, November 15, 2013

My Mid-Blog Crisis

Perhaps you've noticed. I hope you have, but fear you haven't. It's been a while since I posted here. In fact, I've gone 0-for-October, some of September, and half of November. If a blogger in an infinite sea of them stops blogging, does he make a sound? The answer is a resounding no. But for those of you who are wondering, I do feel the need to explain my absence.

I seem to have hit a wall. There are several reasons. I will try my best to articulate them below. But as one of them is DOUBT, I am no longer sure that I can. Here goes...

Trolls: The internet is crawling with nameless, faceless, spineless cretins who will twist your words, call you names, take you out of context, and not give a shit they're doing it. They disagree with you and degrade you. They call you a bad parent and a worse person. They do it, of course, anonymously. I used to be better at ignoring these people, rising above them, or shutting them up with my own brand of non-anonymous snark. But it's tiring. And unnecessary. I have better things to do.

This is my hobby. It's supposed to be fun. A release. Like running. Except when I'm running, I don't encounter asshole hecklers telling me I'm fat or slow or have bad form or ugly sneakers. If they are there, I don't notice thanks to my earbuds. Good old earbuds. But alas, there are no eyebuds for the internet.

I'm not here to fight. I'm not here to battle the trolls of the web's middle earth. This isn't about having thicker skin. I am the youngest of four in a no-holds-barred loud-mouthed Italian family. I got thick skin. It's about exposing myself and my family to unnecessary ridicule. For a hobby. Because, like my friend recently wrote here, too many people are unwilling and unable to just scroll by something with which they disagree.
Worse, trolls even come non-anonymously. As other bloggers who will pick apart your every syllable and spin it to their liking. They hate trolls but are trolls themselves. They see a post getting a positive response, or a lot of traffic, and they look for ways to shoot it down. They want to pick fights and call it "dialogue." They think just because you put your opinion out there, you want to hear a counter argument. I actually take the opposite approach to the internet. If you're sharing your opinion it's because you think it's worth sharing. If I choose to read it, that's on me. The writer could and should care less about my opinion. Unless he or she asked.

Time and Money Blogging, for me, doesn't pay the bills. It was never meant to and never will. The little money I do make from it definitely isn't worth the trolls. My real job as a big-shot television news producer supports our family. So that's a blessing that has afforded me the opportunity to blog as I wish. And lately, I wish not to blog.

My real job also consumes a lot of my time and energy. I work odd (early) hours and try my best to be an alert, attentive, involved dad when I'm home. That means my time to blog is limited to after Peanut goes to bed (when I'm an hour from bed myself) or on my commute home (when I normally take my power nap that allows me to be the alert, attentive, involved dad I want to be in the three hours I get to be with Peanut every day.)

Right now, for example, I am sitting in Starbucks writing this instead of watching Peanut in her dance class. I have found myself increasingly less willing to sacrifice time that should or could be devoted to home, family, work, or myself. I guess I'm growing up. And...

Peanut's Growing Up too. She is not going to be this age forever. That has been true her entire life. But it seems to me lately that she is getting older faster. I am becoming more aware of the passage of time, and having less time with her because she's - we're - so busy. I can't slow down time, but I can make better use of my own time and my time with her.

Also as a result of her growing up, I am becoming increasingly aware of putting her life and her picture on the internet. My Director and I have had this discussion in the past, especially when DKL started to gain the modest popularity it once held. So I took steps to maintain a certain level of anonymity. I shared pictures that were only germane to the post and protected them the best I could. I didn't use our real names and I didn't write about certain topics that we felt were none of anybody's business. But you don't have to be a web sleuth to discover these things.

I'm Too... Ordinary  I'm just an average guy with an average blog sharing stories about what he thinks is his extraordinary life. Problem for me is, the bloggers with the more colorful history or language get most of the attention. I have never attempted or contemplated suicide, don't battle addiction, haven't lost a child or spouse, never had a family tragedy outside of my dad's fatal heart attack almost 11 years ago. I'm moody, but not really angry. So I don't feel the need to rant for rant's sake. I swear in real life but not around Peanut and thus not on the blog because I don't want that language attached to images of my daughter. (This post aside.) I'm not pushing any dads' rights agenda or looking for better representation of dads in media. We're not adopting, struggling to conceive, or victims of miscarriage.

God bless all of those people I just described. I'm just not one of them. I don't know if that makes me less interesting, but it definitely makes me ordinary in the blogosphere. Which is fine. Ordinary got me pretty far. I realize I may have offended some of the people whose lives and blogs I described above. That was not my intention. Just the way I see it, or have been seeing it for a while. Maybe it's jealousy. Maybe it's just reality. Maybe it's both.

I'm also not selling merchandise, passing off other people's work as my own to generate more traffic here and on social media, and am not generally full of shit. I am also not scouring the web looking for other people's posts to debunk like the blogger trolls I mentioned above. Who has the time?

What you see is what you get. Love and life, with a side of snark.

So I am faced with the decision: change, make stuff up, or continue to languish here in the middle-class (upper middle class?) of the blogosphere where a small yet passionate following is the best I am going to do in this genre. (Not that that's anything to sneeze at.)

Doubt All of these thoughts have formed a big old cloud above my head, in my head, Is my writing good enough? Is the topic good enough? Is my time and effort worth the potential aggravation? Is this even fun anymore? What's the point? Who even cares? I start a post, and don't finish it because one of those thoughts creep into my head.

And One More Thing:  I hate all of the bullshit that promoting one's blog has become. Sharing it multiple times at different times of day, putting the link in the comments to beat Facebook's algorithm. And feeling the need to share something funny Peanut or My Director said or that I did in a tweet or status update not because I think you'd enjoy it, but because I need to keep getting "likes" so my interaction stays up and you keep me in your news feed. Fuck all of that.

Really? Now I'm putting our life into a status update as way to promote my blog? What the hell is wrong with me? This sucks.

Sigh...

I have a folder in my personal inbox titled BLOG REAX. In it, I keep emails from friends and family who instead of commenting on the blog, email me or forward me emails from their friends and family to whom they've sent the blog. I often visit this folder when writer's block hits, or I need inspiration for whatever reason.

This is part of one, from a friend's mom who is no longer with us. It is my favorite. She was a teacher, and I hold the opinions of teachers - good teachers - in high regard. She wrote this not knowing I would see it, which makes it pure and honest:
"He is a phenomenal writer. He knows just how to invoke certain emotions in his reader. (That’s code for I usually tear up several times a blog.)" 
I always go back to that one. And lately when I have, I worry it's no longer true. That for the above reasons I haven't been or won't be invoking emotions in my readers. At least, not the ones I intended to invoke.

So I don't know. I don't know if I can bring back that lovin' feeling. Chances are I will eventually write again. You can't keep a good narcissist down, after all. Maybe getting all of this off my chest is what I needed. I will also admit that I do sound like a whiny baby in parts or all of this diatribe. God forbid if the trolls get a hold of it.

Honesty. Real life. The good and bad. With love and humor. That's what you had come to expect when you came here. Now? I even debated whether to publish this post. Took me days to decide. See? Doubt.

7 comments:

  1. The sincerity I hear in your written words has always been what has attracted me to you as a writer.

    The honesty of your words are heard...
    Your character as a man can be seen...
    The love you have for your family is felt.

    You do have a gift my friend. Always be this guy... cause he is awesome

    ReplyDelete
  2. Justin, I have been reading your blog now for what feels like an eternity. (or at least since we've reconnected). Never have I judged you on what kind of sneakers you've worn or what type of music that you've posted about. Either way, Im going to read what you write anyway, not because we are friends or because we went to high school together, but because your blog is worthwhile and I can relate as a parent, a hard worker, and someone who has a director as well! In closing I will say this whether you lack desire to write often, or post on a daily basis, your daughter, your family, and anything that comes along there-after will always have something amazing to look back on, most people cannot say the same, what you've created is a photo album in spoken word, and because of your writing style, which "evokes emotion," if i may quote this lady, (bless her soul), your family will always have something to refer to, when you are long gone. I've respected your blog since I discovered it, and look forward to all of your entries. No one can ever take that away from you...
    PS...let the haters hate! and use them as motivation, because you are doing something AWESOME!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Your honesty and your words inspire me to be a better writer. Your relationship with your wife and with your daughter inspire me to be a better mother. Your friendship makes me a better person. Don't worry about what everyone else thinks, because they are the ones that are losing. They are missing out on the chance to get to know an amazing man. Thank you for just being you. xo

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  4. I was wondering why I didn't see any posts from you Justin! Just the way you've expressed yourself here is proof of your effective way of getting to folks in a real way. Take as long a break as you need and I hope you get back to blogging when your'e ready. Enjoy your family! They're the precious part! I've taken blogging breaks too and emerged refreshed. Totally get what you mean by wanting it to be relaxing! Do it for yourself and your kid/family and don't let people dictate how you feel! Ok, no more preaching:)! Trust you're still the main chef :)!You know, your meatloaf has become a family favorite :)!!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I wish I was in a bar full of bloggers and you had just said the above in an impassioned speech as everyone looked on. I would raise my glass to you and give a heartfelt "Hear, Hear." Then I'd buy you a beer. However, this is a digital reality, I can only agree with you in a less emphatic way.

    "Really? Now I'm putting our life into a status update as a way to promote my blog? What the hell is wrong with me? This sucks." That sentiment is a well deserved slap in the face of so many in this community, myself included. Thanks, I needed it.

    I love your blog, I always have, your kindness toward me has been incredibly important to me and what I do. You have made an impression on this world, in the lives of others and on mine. You have done - and are doing - a great job.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I hear you. I decided when I started that I would write when I had something to say and not to feed a forced schedule because--like you--I wanted my page to be something I was doing for fun. So when I went quiet on my page for almost 2 months earlier this year, I wondered if it meant I was headed towards the end--Now I don't think so.

    For what it's worth, I enjoy your page. Hope you'll keep going--and that it stays fun for you to do it.

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  7. I'm glad you shared your thoughts. At some point, most bloggers hit this mark. What was fun and soul-enlarging becomes a job, a competition of sorts. In the teacher-blogger world, i'm discovering that the Facebook Page For The Blog is now a 'thing". *sigh* No way do I have time for that :-)

    Happy Holidays...I'm tweeting your post.
    Chrissy ReadWriteSing

    ReplyDelete

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