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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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…)
Well, I can’t seem to remember to check in unless you remind me in my email. But every time I do read, I have very much enjoyed whatever you have written. I like the reflective pieces the best, the ones about what you are thinking and about how you consider your life. I also enjoy the photography, and I must admit I watched and enjoyed the cats playing ping pong. Don’t stop.
As far as the frequency, once a week is more than sufficient…perhaps because of some misplaced “deadline” pressure from your past, you feel compelled to keep a strict schedule, I do not know, but think that once a week is more than enough.
I do appreciate the eclectic stream of topics, some I am interested in, others not. I appreciate the “spiritual” ones, which do not dwell on a specific Jesus or God as a real thing. You and I probably share a similar view on organized religion, but I think you lean to a deity, versus an atheist viewpoint, but it is fun to hear both sides. I also like the reminiscences from our shared past,
I read all the blogs, and would love you to continue pretty much as you have. You are a great and interesting writer, a TRUE SUCCESS (a fact that neither of us could have imagined in seventh grade, when we first crossed paths). Keep it up!
I read hardly any blogs. Although we are good friends for 30+ years, I would much rather talk face-to-face. I have read several of your blogs, though, and find they pull my eyeballs along enough to finish them. That’s a good sign!
As we’ve discussed, I haven’t found how to change the color of the type which is very light on my screen. This makes me push my big snout up against the screen, hardly the refined position for long term reading.
I think the “500 words or less” advice is very good for writing or speaking. As a science columnist, I strive for that myself. I cut cut cut until the essence comes through and can’t be avoided. Ruminations such as yours are more difficult; you can’t explore the subject without using more words. I’ve no solution here.
The subjects you choose to elucidate are pretty interesting. I’m more into science stuff and differ in opinion on some minor topics, but you certaintly know how to paint a picture with words. I’d welcome a book of your blogs any day!
I don’t read any blogs except for yours! (I haven’t been invited to read any other blogs, nor have I stumbled across any that I considered interesting to read!) I read probably 50% – only 50% mostly due to lack of time! I truly enjoy them because they give me insight into what you find meaningful/important and I respect your choices of what is meaningful and important! I also love (having been an English major) your use of words and correct grammar (in a world that no longer is concerned with or appreciates the meaning of “correct grammar.” A pet peeve of mine that indicates how old I am becoming!) : )
So I would “vote” for continue on! Your blogs are meaningful, interesting, relevant, and enjoyable!
I get to read about 70% of your blogs, it is one of the only blogs I’ve every followed. I read when the timing of it corresponds to having time, and the placement of my cats might matter too. I wouldn’t ask for any changes. I like that you write what you want and what you are thinking about. The videos and pictures are always an enhancement for me as well. I will continue to read them as time allows. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
I read every one of your blogs… the only one that I do! I like the fact that your writing gets me to think about stuff that I typically don’t think about – it is very interesting and thought-provoking. I also enjoy the photography. Mostly, I admire and respect your commitment to this blog and I encourage you to keep writing about what you want to write about. And a cat post or two – love the video! is always welcome. I would add that as long as this is working for you, keep at it and I’ll keep reading. Thanks!
Not good on percentages but I think I’ve read most of your blog entries since I discovered your site. Using a RSS reader makes that possible because if you only write an entry a week I’d probably forget to check back if you didn’t magically appear in my program.
I’ve enjoyed several of your entries, but I tend to favor those with literary references, probably because I’m a retired English teacher.
Enjoy reading your blog, not always in agreement on some topics, but always like reading your perspective. The post with all the pictures and comments was a special treat! Hope you continue writing!
Now that I have left my position at Western State Colorado University I look forward to more regularly reading and interacting with the thoughtful reflections on this site. As a longtime friend, and one who has long admired your insights and reflections, I am delighted and appreciative that you have committed to this venue to stimulate and challenge us all with a vast array of important topics.
I hope you’ll continue your blog; I like the length, usually, and once a week or so feels like a gift.
My favorite things about it are that you don’t have a particular focus, you combine thoughtful observation and research, you care about the arts, and that you’re letting your open and slightly quirky mind play and sort out ideas, to this reader’s benefit.
I read about half of your blogs. The others go unread or just skimmed mostly due to lack of free time. The most interesting for me are those which introduce me to literature or other references & thoughts that I am not familiar with. But you need to write about what interests you. Otherwise, where would your motivation come from?
My thanks to everyone who responded here and via email. I’ve paid close attention to what each one of you said and continue to turn all your responses over in my mind. It will help shape where this project wants to go (sometimes it feels like I’m just holding on to its tail…). More responses and feedback are, of course, welcome—that’s an ever-open door. Here’s to 2014!