Still Crazy After All These Years ~ or Why I Am Still Blogging

Still Crazy After All These Years ~ or Why I Am Still Blogging

Today is the second anniversary of my first post here at Zen and the Art of Tightrope Walking and the last few days have been full of thoughts concerning why I blog.

Why does anyone blog? I guess to answer that question you might need to do a comprehensive survey because the chances are people blog for some very diverse reasons. I chose to blog because I felt I had things to say, and I sought dialogue with others. Unlike those who begin a blog with a ready-mixed agenda and function, I really didn’t know what I was doing or why. At the start, I had no clue about building a platform for my books, or any of the things I have since read that writers’ blogs aim to do. I just wanted to talk to people and to have them talk to me.

It’s said that at fifty you get the face you deserve and I think the same is true about blogs. When you let a blog develop without forcing it into a mould, it can become something that reflects you very clearly, and the readership self-selects too. People who enjoy what you write come back, they subscribe, they comment, and in many cases, they become real friends.

In two years I have posted over 460 posts, some of which have sunk into obscurity, and some of which still get numerous daily visits. My most popular post is the one concerning Susan Howatch, second most popular is About Me and coming a close third, Miracle at Mont St Michel. If you haven’t had a look at the astonishing photograph on that post, please do; I promise you it is genuine and unaltered.

A short way down the list of popular posts is Strangers and Pilgrims, about the novel I released into the wild last year. It’s doing quite well so far, but if you’d like to see this unusual and genre-defying story for yourself, it is available from Amazon and also as a download. The reviews at Amazon speak for themselves. I’m not very good at blowing my own trumpet, but thankfully others are happy to do so for me. Those who have read it have found it to take them on a journey that stayed with them long after the last page was read. I’d like to think it has changed lives in a small but significant way. Anyone who buys a copy and posts a review between now and the release of my next novel will get a free pdf of that new novel.

I’ve posted a number of short stories, which are currently being gathered into a book ready for distribution in the Spring. This will be available as a free download and also as a hard copy. If you fancy being one of the first to get your hands on this unique volume, please get in contact (details on the Contact Me page).

Anyway, finally, I would like to say a massive big thank you for all my readers, many of whom are now my friends, and express my deep gratitude to you for making blogging such a worthwhile experience and a journey that has taken me to places I never dreamed I’d ever go.

Thank you. I love you.

Black Holes and the (Meta)physics of Popularity

 

Black Holes and The (Meta)physics of Popularity

Have you ever stopped to question how something becomes and remains popular? Has it ever baffled you beyond words why a singer or a film or a book gain a massive following, and yet has left you cold, and unable to see its appeal? Have you ever finally succumbed to peer pressure and bought the latest must-read book, that must-have music and found yourself wondering why the blazes this has somehow hit the big time when you can see few redeeming features in it?

I bought the novel Twilight about two years, to read while away on a trip, and was seriously disappointed. I got to the end and was unable to see why it has become a global phenomenon. It is poorly written, and unoriginal; someone has described it at Jane Eyre with vampires and werewolves. The characters are flat and unrealistic, the plot thin and predictable and it doesn’t even scare. While I am fully aware I am not a part of the demographic for which it is intended, I am also aware that a hefty section of the fan base comes from women of my age and background. I remain baffled.

The same applies to certain of the big blogs, which will remain nameless and linkless for reasons I hope will become apparent as I go on. These are the blogs that have hundreds of thousands of hits a day, who have subscribers in their tens of thousands, and every post draws hundreds if not thousands of comments. I’ve had a look at such places and come away baffled by why the numbers are so high. They don’t usually offer anything that strikes as wise or clever or helpful or really anything out of the ordinary; the self help ones seem to repeat the same type of information you can find anywhere. There’s nothing there to keep me coming back. And yet people do. They come back and read obsessively and comment and recommend and re-tweet.

These are the blogs I call the Black Hole Blogs. They inhabit the same universe as I do, they occupy a tiny space(virtual places are virtually without geography) and yet they have such immense mass that they draw in everything. Other blogs speak of them with awe and reverence and even a little fear. There’s always a danger they will swallow up all the readers who have an interest in that subject, and once those readers go past that event horizon from which exit is impossible, they are lost to lesser blogs.

It’s the same with best-seller books and authors, and blockbuster movies and chart topping music. Once something reaches a certain size, the size alone is what draws people in. How many of us went to see Avatar, because everyone we knew had been to see it? It’s a very average movie, with recycled themes. I was disappointed (I saw it in 2D so perhaps that is another factor) and couldn’t see what the fuss was about.

In the end, I do question whether popularity is more about herd mentality than it is about the quality of the product itself. Nobody wants to be the odd one out who doesn’t watch a certain reality TV show (insert whichever is current) or hasn’t seen the in-film or read the in-book. Every time a Harry Potter book was launched, commuter trains were packed with adults reading the latest offering from JK Rowling. Before that The Da Vinci Code was the in-book. It doesn’t matter in the end about the quality of the product, if the marketing gets a certain number of people to buy into the adventure(music, book, film TV whatever) then a strange cascade effect takes place.

There are plenty of times where the popularity is deserved. A great book, a superb film, a fabulous album can just as often reach the heights. And yet, so too does total and utter rubbish. It baffles me. It’s beyond  simple issues of taste and choice.

In blogging terms, there is a possible collateral benefit of being associated with a Black Hole blog, at least in the minds of the smaller bloggers. Commenting on such a blog may bring readers to your blog, may even attract the attention of the Black Hole blogger, though in practice, I suspect that the majority of this kind of blogger may at best skim through their comments and only reply to those who are already a part of their network, if at all. If a post is getting hundreds of comments, or thousands, it would be a full time job reading the comments alone.

If you only equate success with numbers, then allying yourself to the Black Hole blogs and aiming for their level of ‘success’ is a futile and probably deadening exercise.At best you’re going to be a pale shadow, accused of copying them or be swallowed up by them and get no readers of your own. But if you leave aside concepts of numerical success and examine things based on their own intrinsic worth then a very exciting universe emerges, one where you can make discoveries for yourself.

Be a pioneer. Find books that make you go, “Hmmmm!” when you read the cover and turn over the first pages with the excitement of a Dr Livingstone of the literary world. Don’t wait for recommendations from the media for what films to see or music to buy; go out and see what you can find. Don’t mindlessly obey those little prompts you get at Amazon, “If you liked X then you will like Y”. Avoid automatically buying another book by a famous author simply because the words NY Times best-seller is printed in bigger letters than the book title.

Look for blogs that intrigue and excite you because of what the author says or does, not because it is endorsed by a celebrity or because you think you may get traffic as a result, or because you are convinced that something that has gotten 10 million hits somehow MUST have something. It might, but it no longer needs YOU. Go and find the blogs that are out there that are languishing for lack of hits, but whose author has talent and insights, and encourage them with your comments.

Open your mind to the small, the independent, the quirky and unpredictable things of the world, those mindblowingly undiscovered places and things and people and writers and musicians and artists. Open your eyes to see beauty and talent, open your ears to new experiences in music and find out for yourself what you like without being brainwashed that it is whatever product the sellers happen to be selling at the moment.

In other words, don’t be a sheep. Be a wildly alive explorer and see what new worlds within this one you can find and share.

There is no map but the one you create for yourself. So go and explore and steer clear of Black Holes. I’m looking forward to reading your Captain’s log.

Back from Beyond

After losing so many dear people from my blogroll either to deletion, going silent or being made private, I am delighted to report that my great friend J is back with his blog Journey of Life. He’d been forced to make the blog private for a number of reasons but a change of circumstances and a change of heart has restored his blog to its previous accessibility.

There are a number of dark links still on my blog roll which I will clean up soon, and will be adding a few more too as time goes on. These days I am cautious of adding or deleting for various reasons but a blog roll reflects the changing face of virtual life and I am probably due a makeover soon.

Anyway, go over and say hello if this is a blog that is totally new to you or go and renew friendship if J’s is one of your former stopping places.

I can’t express how pleased I am with this restoration of the lost.

Awards

I’m gonna be the Grinch today. Sorry.

I have been offered a few blogging awards lately and while I appreciate that someone might have thought it nice to offer me one, it pushes a few of my buttons. First, I love having visitors and their comments mean more to me than awards. Second, the awards have a horrible resemblence to the chain letters than plagued my childhood; you have to send them on to another 10 or 15 other blogs you like. I get them in emails these days. I had no problem ripping up chain letters and I have no problem with pressing delete with chain emails. But I do have a bit of an issue with ignoring or rejecting awards because someone somewhere has thought to send me one. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings but I really don’t want them. This is not why I blog and they don’t mean anything to me except hassle and a kind of circular, inward looking need for approval. If you like my blog, then thank you very much, please keep visiting and commenting. I like dialogue and awards simply seem to end it with that embarassed shuffle and awkward thank yous.

Please don’t send them to me.

I shall be my normal un-Grinchlike self now until the next one arrives.

Thank you.

New Friends

I’ve just added a couple of new friends to my blogroll.

First, there’s Brynn at  http://cocreateyourlife.wordpress.com

And most recently, I’d like to welcome Brother Anthony at  http://harriedmystic.wordpress.com maybe adding to your blogroll but they are utterly different; I suggest you have a little visit and see how you find them.

It’s always good to make new friends, because I feel that often we learn more from friends than we do from books.The sharing of experiences, the comfort of finding kindred spirits, the counsel we get and give within good soul-friendships are what can help us make great strides in our journey.

If there’s anyone you think I should add; or if you’ve been here a while and would me like to share your blog, please let me know!

Getting new readers

Just a tip for getting new readers.

go to http://alphainventions.com and enter your blog details there.

This system basically is a browsing site for blogs; I find that some of my regular readers have come from this. People have a peep and some stay and comment.

If you’re finding your stats seem to be very low, and you want to get more coverage, this is a good way to start.

Hate mail…

I’ll never understand people. Never, not till I live to be a hundred and ten.

Today I just had my first hate mail sent to this blog. The spam catcher got it but I check the spam as sometimes it can be over zealous, and I was a bit shocked.

I won’t bother saying what they said, but it’s clearly by some mindless juvenile, who is probably doing the same to everyone he/she can find. The barmiest thing is they gave a link to their blog to prove how much better it was…Obviously no intelligence whatsoever; or wanting to pick a fight.

I hit that most useful of buttons: delete.

But it’s left me baffled about people again. It takes effort to bother sending mail of any sort so why send hate mail? It seems utterly counter-intuitive to me.

It goes back to the idea I wrote about in Love and Hate: love and hate are not opposites at all.  I suppose I should be flattered that he/she bothered, but I’m not. I’m saddened and a little irritated.

Oh well!