15 September 2010

My Life as a Blog

This my 150th post, an appropriate point to reflect on the “the blog so far,” and where I may be going with it.

Today is 15 September, my 111th day of blogging. I published my first post on 27 May, and I have been averaging around 1.35 post per day. Not bad for a beginner.

Although I’d been following quite a number of blogs over the past two years, and I thought that I had a good feel for the process, much about blogging has been a surprise. For one thing, I hadn’t expected to become so caught up producing Daily Digests and Weekend Roundups, which have dominated the blog so far.

In fact, I initially didn’t intend to do them at all; at first I thought I might publish simple lists of links once or twice a week. When the blog began, I subscribed to around 65 RSS feeds. Harvesting and reading items from these had been my morning ritual (in lieu of a traditional morning paper) since 2008, and I thought that I might simply pass on to my readers links to what I’d been reading.

But as I began to write the digests, my own interest in the topics I was writing about blossomed. To take just one example: although I had long thought in a rather unfocused way about the future of publishing, the very process of using a blog to publish my own writings drew me into reading and thinking more about the broader consequences of digital publishing: What happens to traditional models of publishing when publishing itself is no longer a scarce resource? (And publishing is now essentially free.)

Traditionally, publishers have acted as gate-keepers or “filters,” allocating the scarce resource of print to writing (and writers) they felt worthy or potentially lucrative. This gate-keeping function has collapsed, although the “legacy media” have not quite figured this out yet. The need for filters has not disappeared: in fact, there’s a hell of a lot more chaff than there used to be. But legacy publishing houses and “brand name” print periodicals (like The New York Times) no longer play an essential (or even desirable) role in doing that filtering.

But this is a topic for future posts.

The blog has brought me back in a serious way to writing, a necessity of life for me, although recently a neglected one. For me, writing is the natural and necessary continuation of thinking. To have a bright idea and to scribble it in a pocket notebook while walking in the Arboretum or riding the Orange Line is only the beginning of a process. What seems like a brilliant insight on Peters Hill may become transformed into something entirely different (and, with luck, something richer) in the process of being put into a form that can be communicated.

Blogging quickly became a part-time job, and I quickly realized that time management was going to be a major problem. It was, however, a problem to which I couldn’t immediately see a solution. I enjoyed putting together the Digests—but it was like publishing a small magazine single-handedly every day, and I usually ended up not having time to work on anything else. Yet I had a continual stream of ideas of things to write about:  in fact, last month I made a list of over 30 major posts on a variety of topics that so far I simply hadn’t found time to write.

I had done considerable preparatory work on several of these. For example, I wanted to write reviews:  of the Glyndebourne Don Giovanni (I have pages of notes on this); of artist Deb Todd Wheeler’s show Blew (which I went to see twice, taking very copious notes); of Robin Kelley’s biography of Thelonious Monk; of Ben Yagoda’s Memoir: A History, of Louis Menand’s The Marketplace of Ideas; of the film Io sono l’amore. I wanted to write on composer Edwin Geist; on the Boston Public Quartet; on “fandom” as a business model; on Robert Johnson and musical biography; on the history and reception of the “Mozart Effect”; and many other things. Also neglected were two prospective series that were the principal motivations for starting the blog in the first place:  Confessions of a Recovering Musicologist, and Reflections on Life with BDD.

The frustration of chronically not having the time to get to any of these grew to the point that it became clear something was going to have to give. And that meant I was going to have to stop publishing a mini-magazine every day.

Thus, as regular readers will already have noticed, I’ve scaled back the Daily Digests and Weekend Roundups to daily Readings. I rather like the new format (which may not look that different to some of you):  the Readings seem much more manageable than the Digests. I’ve set out in the Readings with the intention of providing just single-sentence links to items I’ve read during the day (although I sometimes add a bit more). The Readings require less editing and less formatting, and overall, the format gives me the time I need to begin to write some of the other things I am itching to write.

One pleasant surprise: writing this blog, as modest as it is, has already put me into contact with people I wouldn’t have otherwise met, from all parts of the world. I’ve even had occasional responses to what I’ve written from much more prominent bloggers. Neuroskeptic, for example, made an especially deep impression on me:  the writer of that blog responded to something rather snarky I’d written with wonderful graciousness. Since that time, I’ve aspired to be like that, too.

Writing this blog has so far been tremendously educational and broadening. Since beginning the blog at the end of May, I’ve nearly doubled the number of RSS feeds that I follow (currently 127). I’ve begun to follow music news again, and I’ve added several feeds from the German-language press, as I came to realize that I could serve as a “filter” for German-language news (particularly arts news) to some of my readers who don’t regularly follow these papers.

So this blog now enters its adolescence.  In the near future, I intend to write introductory posts for Confessions of a Recovering Musicologist and Reflections, and I have in the works reviews and posts on diverse topics (including, perhaps, some of those mentioned above).

If you have any thoughts on this blog so far, please feel free to comment or to write to me privately.
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