The Future of Collected Miscellany

Once more into the breach…

As the one or two people who read this blog with any regularity know, I have been struggling with whether to keep going. Traffic has gone down year by year. No one leaves a comment or links to this blog. On occasion a publisher might retweet or tweet a review or an author might say thank you for a review, but for the most part this site is visited by those led here from Google searches with a small trickle from social media.

My motivation and energy for posting, let alone quality posting, had all but disappeared. Largely because of the above. I admit, I struggle when I get no feedback or interaction; when it seems like no one is listening. I was hanging on mostly because I still like getting books from publishers and having a website where you post reviews helps with that.

As the end of 2020 approached, I thought it presented a good opportunity to make a clean break one way or the other. So I began to think about what I wanted to do.

The biggest motivation for me to keep this site going is the realization that social media and other distractions had undermined my ability to concentrate and focus on writing. And in 2021 I want to prove to myself that I can do the hard work necessary to write engaging and thought provoking book reviews and cultural criticism.

I also felt frustrated that I had read a great many books without coming away with much insight, opinion, or reaction. I was too passive. Writing is one way to force yourself to pay attention and get more out of reading.

The question was then whether I had the time and energy to make it work and how I would go about setting myself up to succeed. I decided that I owed it to myself to try. I didn’t want all the years CM has been around to simply disappear with a whimper.

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Blogging, Instant Gratification and Perserverance

As I have noted previously, one of the reasons I have struggled to post regularly is the feeling that no one is reading or very few.  Perhaps it is egotistical to want to have a large audience if you are going to write but I am just being honest.

On the political side I have written for online magazines and blogs that have significant traffic so perhaps that also colors my approach.  Even this humble site once had a much greater audience and higher engagement.  Alas, I have let it slip away.

So then the questions becomes whether that is worth attempting to reclaim.  If larger audiences is the goal I could always work harder and submit pieces for publication.  But to be honest that is a more work and more stress.

The fun of blogging is having control of what you write and when; and in some sense creating an identity that is your own.  I can write what I want here and don’t have to worry about editors decisions on publication or schedule.  Writing for publication is a job with the stress that comes with it.

Now maybe it is a job you love and so do it for fun.  And on the flip side blogging can begin to feel like a job if the pressure builds to the point where you feel like you have to post, have to tackle a particular subject, have to do certain things to please an audience or keep your traffic, etc. So the motivations and rewards are complex.

But one of the valuable lessons of trying to restart this blog, or the regular posting to the blog, is the discipline it requires.  If it were easy I would already be doing it.  Instant gratification and constant distraction is one of the reasons I am participating in a digital declutter project this month.  And using this break to focus on something more substantive like regular writing is also part of it (with the perhaps ironic caveat that the writing is digital).

Part of me sort of expects instant success.  I post a blog or two, review a book, and then wait for the traffic to flow in.  That is not how it works.  I do not have the recognition or connections to quickly reconnect with a large group of people simply by posting a few times.  It will take a blend of quality and quantity to start to draw readers in and maybe even build a regular audience outside the good souls who read and comment here already.

And that is part of the challenge I set for myself.  To see if I can build up the habits, focus and discipline necessary to find success blogging again.  Can I effectively and engagingly express my perspective and opinion on books, sports, culture, etc. in such a way that people will want to read it and will return to read more.

Perseverance plays an important role in successful blogging.  There will be days you don’t feel like writing or don’t feel like you have anything to say.  But writing is a discipline and requires pushing through and writing anyway.  Excellence requires commitment.  Now maybe many bloggers are not really aiming for excellence but my point is that if you want to draw more than just a few friends or acquaintances you will need to work even when you lack motivation.

And that is what I am working on across a number of fronts.  So however you found your way here, I hope you will come along on the journey and maybe even leave a comment or two.

The slow death of a blog

Sorry for the melodramatic title but it feels accurate somehow.

But I have to admit I am just not feeling it these days. I haven’t posted a review in nearly three weeks and only six times this year.

I don’t know if it’s being busy at work, my kids getting older, or what but I have seemingly lost the motivation or desire to post book reviews or blog posts.  I haven’t stopped reading, as you can see from my Goodreads feed, but I am having a hard time writing reviews.

I also don’t know if this is just a phase that will pass or if this is truly the slow death of this blog.  But at some point you have to ask yourself is this really worth it anymore.

And to be brutally honest, the one remaining motivation to keep this site alive is the access to book and authors.  I had a moment of nostalgia recently when I recalled the heady days when I would interview authors, receive advance reader copies (aka ARCs) of hot forthcoming books, and enter into the latest debates ranging across the lit blogosphere.

Lately, however, it won’t surprise you to know I do none of these things. Some of my favorite author’s, authors I have covered extensively in this space, release books and not so much as a how do you do from publicists. As the kids say these days, this briefly gave me the sads.

Now to be fair, as hard as it may be to believe, I still do receive review copies and emails from publicists.  And recently, I have received a couple of books from favorite authors and have  not reviewed them in a timely manner. So the blame is all mine.

The fact of the matter is that keeping a blog going is hard work.  It takes energy, focus and time. I just don’t have much of any of those things right now.

So, what does all this mean? Heck if I know. I just felt like putting some thoughts into pixels and figured I would ruminate on how this blog has kind of gotten away from me.

I am going to try and post some reviews of the books I have read. Maybe, I will shake it up and post a video review or a podcast or something. Perhaps a change like that might break the slump.  Stay tuned … or not.

Wherein I complain about too many books, not enough time, and a lack of inspiration

There is something ironic, in a “rain on your wedding day” kinda way at least, about my predicament. A number of interesting non-fiction books have been published recently and kind publicists offered me review copies of said books.  I accepted these offers under the belief that my interest in the books would match my ability to read them.  Alas, I am now seriously behind in the reading of these books. At the same time, I am struggling to find the inspiration and/or energy to post reviews of the books I have read, and enjoyed, and thus attract some semblance of readership to this blog.  Which is what causes publicists to offer me books to read. And which, when it really comes down to it, is the only real remaining reason I have this blog.

[OK, to be fair, I do still enjoy reading and discussing books.  But I am very busy with a job, and a family, and an inability to not be distracted by shiny objects on the internet, and this makes it hard to post regularly and of such a quality as to attract readers (Lame excuse? Perhaps, but still true). So I guess getting free books is not the only reason I blog here but some days it feels like that]

That clip art is retro and hip, right?

Writer's Block, Book Burnout and Podcasts

So content has been rather sparse here of late. Sorry about that.  I have started a new job and it is seemingly sucking all the energy out of my brain.  When I get home I just don’t have the inspiration to write reviews.  Add in the fact that I have been reading some complex non-fiction and I just procrastinate and put off trying to write anything.

I periodically get in a funk like this where nothing quite seems to “work” for me and I find myself reading three or four books at one time looking for something that will connect or get the juices flowing again; something that compels me to write because I want to get my opinion down rather than writing because I haven’t written anything here for a while. You have heard this before if you have been reading me for any length of time (I guess I am sorry about that too …).

What makes these episodes even more awkward is that I don’t have a lot of other hobbies. I don’t watch a lot of TV or movies nor do I play video games or have a lot of other distractions. So when books and reading are not working I really feel lost.  Maybe I should get some exercise or something. Go outside and breathe the fresh air … Nope, mostly I waste time on Twitter and Facebook.

Do you have these episodes where nothing you read seems to connect and you don’t feel like writing anything?

I have read a couple of short stories and some mythology  for young adults but haven’t been able to work up the energy to write about these books but will try to do so soon. These funks come and go.

The good news for you, dear reader, is that in an attempt to break out of this funk I decided to return to the podcast format and interview some authors. This week I will post interviews with Joseph Bottum, author of An Anxious Age, and talk with one of my favorite authors, Olen Steinhauer, about this latest book The Cairo Affair. Which what kinda ties the title of this post together in case you were wondering.

So I hope you will forgive the radio silence and come back for the podcasts with these interesting authors.  And, as always, thanks for reading.

Who do you write for when your audience disappears?

***Welcome Instapundit readers. Funny, I should mention avalanches of readers only to receive an Instalanche.***

This is the question I find my self asking these days. This blog has long been visited mostly by those searching the internet for books and authors. Something like 90% of the traffic is new visitors with the vast majority of that coming from Google. As my life grew busy with work and children I spent less and less time reading and interacting with blogs; particularly lit and book blogs. And in a world dominated by social media, my reading comes less from specific places I visit on the web as links I click on. Add in the mass proliferation of blogs, including book review blogs, and I have lost any sense of community or connection with a particular group of people or readers. And as noted, the traffic dwindled down to just what Google delivered (and a few dedicated and loyal readers).

And then Google took even that away. I am not sure what was the trigger but something changed in late November and the vast majority of organic search referrals from Google disappeared. The one thing the blog used to have going for it was decent search engine juice. I used the book title and author in the heading for each post and so those seeking information on a book and/or author often found this site. And then suddenly they didn’t. Looking at Google analytics and other sources it seems pretty clear to me that the largest chunk of this site’s traffic has disappeared. The site has dropped off search engine results and is getting 97% less impressions and thus no traffic.

Continue reading

Who do you write for when your audience disappears?

***Welcome Instapundit readers. Funny, I should mention avalanches of readers only to receive an Instalanche.***

This is the question I find my self asking these days. This blog has long been visited mostly by those searching the internet for books and authors. Something like 90% of the traffic is new visitors with the vast majority of that coming from Google. As my life grew busy with work and children I spent less and less time reading and interacting with blogs; particularly lit and book blogs. And in a world dominated by social media, my reading comes less from specific places I visit on the web as links I click on. Add in the mass proliferation of blogs, including book review blogs, and I have lost any sense of community or connection with a particular group of people or readers. And as noted, the traffic dwindled down to just what Google delivered (and a few dedicated and loyal readers).

And then Google took even that away. I am not sure what was the trigger but something changed in late November and the vast majority of organic search referrals from Google disappeared. The one thing the blog used to have going for it was decent search engine juice. I used the book title and author in the heading for each post and so those seeking information on a book and/or author often found this site. And then suddenly they didn’t. Looking at Google analytics and other sources it seems pretty clear to me that the largest chunk of this site’s traffic has disappeared. The site has dropped off search engine results and is getting 97% less impressions and thus no traffic.

Continue reading