I launched this blog one year ago yesterday with a long and somewhat dense essay on the work of novelist and critic Marilynne Robinson. The post likely heartened the lit majors and frightened away most casual readers who had perhaps been hoping for some friendly daily diary entry or witty reflections on my cat. (Note to readers: love my cat, don’t do cat columns, though in the interests of reportorial honesty, I should probably mention that the dude keeps jumping up on my chest as I type these words, conveniently wedging himself between my eyes and my laptop, my chin resting on his nose as he purrs like an industrial machine. This makes it quite comfy for him but exceedingly difficult for me to see my screen.)
(So does this now qualify as a cat column?)
Anyway: soon after launching the blog and circling around what it wanted to address, sound and look like, I got a fine piece of advice from a colleague: “Write about exactly what you want, don’t worry about who’s reading or what they want, and after six months or a year, evaluate.”
Taking his advice about my wants to heart, selfish me proceeded to break most every one of the Best Practices in the blogging world.
“Keep it short—always under 500 words,” they thunder. (Tried, almost never succeeded.)
“Narrow niche, something only you address and are an expert in!” they implore. (It’s a generalist blog, addressing the wide, un-nichey world of humanities stuff, religious stuff, arts stuff, human heart stuff.)
“Make it practical, useful, simple,” they emphasize. (Sorry, reading this blog will not increase your net worth nor improve your skin tone, and it may occasionally compel you to hold two contradictory thoughts in your mind—and then add a third…)
So now it has been a year, and following the advice of my colleague, I’m moved to do a little self-evaluation and also ask you out there, “So, how was it, and what do you want?”
Not to worry—no formal questionnaire via those annoying pop-up windows. Your name will not be entered in a drawing. But I would very much appreciate you responding to one, some or all of the following basic questions, or to questions I haven’t even asked, either via email to me at email@example.com or in the Comments section below.
Please don’t worry about bruising my tender feelings with anything you say. We’re adults, I know everyone has varying interests and is squeezed for time in any case, so I’m just thankful you have read thus far and care enough to take a few minutes to let me know what, if anything, this blog does for you.
And as befitting a generalist blog, some general questions. No compulsion to address them all, or in any particular order.
• Approximately what percentage of posts do you read?
• What chiefly determines whether you will read a given post? (Subject matter? Available time? Whether your cat is between you and your screen?)
• What do you like best about the blog? (Assuming you like something…)
• What do you like not so much?
• Do you sometimes wish I wrote shorter? Simpler? About a narrower or wider range of topics?
• I average about 1.5 posts per week. Using the Goldilocks metric, is that too much, too little, or just right?
• What, if anything, would you like more of? Less of?
• Assuming you’ve read something of this over the past year, would part of your New Year’s resolution be to continue doing so, swear off it altogether, or something in between?
• Any advice or imploration or encouragement you want to convey to me as I consider whether and how to continue with this venture?
Thanks so much for your assistance. When people ask me “Why do you do this and for whom?”, I usually answer 1) So I can find out what I think about something I’ve been pondering, and 2) About 60% for myself (a blog as the ultimate Selfie!) and 40% for some assumed audience or other.
Those percentages may vary 10% in one direction or other, but point is, you, dear reader, do matter. So now it’s your turn to matter even a little more. (Though not before I issue an apology for the fact that this post, too, despite my initial intentions otherwise, easily exceeds 500 words. Aw, crap!)
As always, my deep appreciation for the photographers whose work always brightens up this page (even when the subject matter is challenging and dark):
Rotating banner photos at top of page courtesy of Elizabeth Haslam, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing, see more at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lizhaslam/
Cat-on-my-chest shot courtesy of Robyn Hidas, all rights happily shared.
And just to finalize and formalize this as an official “About Cats” post after all, get a load of this! (So many funny cat videos, so little time…)