I started this blog a year ago with the vaguest of ideas of what I wanted it to be. I knew, and had known for some time, that I wanted to “write,” but because my ex-wife did not support my interests and I assumed (correctly, as it turned out) that writing thoughtful posts would be time consuming, I never pursued writing in any meaningful way. Save for a few topics I knew I wanted to write about, such as
a 30 second solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue; weight loss; Howard Stern’s lawsuit against SiriusXM and Mad Men Season 4, I had no idea what my blog would cover. As it has evolved, the blog has taken on a more political tone and also leans more toward “long reads,” but I hope for those who have enjoyed it along the way, it has been informative, thought provoking and even amusing.
With that in mind, here are some of my takeaways from Year 1:
Good Writing Is Hard. Holy Christ, good writing is hard. For all the grief I give journalists on Twitter (and if you’re not following me, shame on you: @scarylawyerguy), I have gained a deep appreciation for people who write well. It is not just the basic building blocks of grammar, usage and sentence structure that makes good writing hard, but weaving a coherent narrative thread and doing it without being too wordy. For a lawyer, that is not always easy. In our professional lives, we tend toward the overkill and hammer points home over and over. Creative writing requires different skills and honing them requires practice.
Is That A Red Pen In Your Pocket or Are You Just Happy to See Me? I’ve acted as my own editor, and while I usually catch typos and other little gremlins, I have come to appreciate the value of having someone edit my work who actually knows how to and make it better. In other words, I’m in desperate need of an editor. Ok, not desperate, and of course, I would not pay you anything, but seriously, I need someone who knows what they are doing to edit my work and make it better. Money may not be your reward, but when I’m rich and famous, I will totally hire you.
Rich and Famous? As Don Draper observed in his pitch to Dow Chemical, “What is happiness? It’s a moment before you need more happiness.” When anyone asks me why I blog, I tell them I do it for me and because I have thoughts or ideas I want to put out into the world and whether I get anything back from the world is immaterial. For the most part, that is true; however, I will admit, as anyone with enough ego to think that other people would be interested in what they have to say, that I do sometimes dream of being “discovered” and earning my living as a full-fledged, sitting-in-a-bathrobe- with-Cheetos-dust-staining-my-undershirt “blogger” (with the occasional guest spot on TV). So if anyone reading this is affiliated with one of the myriad tentacles of media, publishing or television, hook a brother up.
Content Is King. Not only is writing hard, producing it in volume is even harder. I realized early on that because my writing tends to go long, I needed to pace myself. That is why, by and large, you will see my monthly output is between 7 and 10 posts, but I’m churning out anywhere from 2,000 to 3,500 words per week. That’s a lot of writing for what is essentially a hobby. I did not appreciate how easy it is to fall down the rabbit hole for an entire Saturday researching a subject or how time consuming the editing process can be. That said, any good blog relies on updating to keep people interested. Balancing the need to produce content and good content is a constant struggle.
There’s No Accounting For Taste. That anyone is even interested in what I have to say is humbling, but I do, from time to time, drill down to see what is being read. One of the frustrations of being a writer is that work I want more people to read does not always happen; and conversely, things that are, for lack of a better term, “fluffier,” do get read. People love Howard Stern and Mad Men, not so much Washington Nationals and book reviews. Lesson learned.
Click. Speaking of graphics and page views, in addition to an editor, surely there is some 20-something who needs a few extra bucks (emphasis on a few) who can spruce up what looks like a blog circa Geocities 1999. Part of it is outside my control, for the right price (read: free), Google offers a user friendly, low tech product that does the bare minimum – provides a web presence and platform; however, that “right price” comes at the expense of a look and feel that is basic. Further, because I don’t always use the same font (or the same size), conversions from one word processing system to another end up making some text look odd (particularly footnotes), and the site navigation is assuredly 1.0. What ends up getting lost (I think?) is a reader’s ability to navigate the site easily, particularly by subject matter.
My other frustration has to do with my own ignorance of the Web, and how to promote the site to get traffic. While I am grateful to the folks at Crooks and Liars who have linked to a few of my posts, to the Mad Men message boards on places like Vulture and Basket of Kisses and to Stern Fan Network which drove a lot of my Howard-related readership, I want to learn how to get my readership up. It can be disheartening when I see a post I spent hours on get 30 or 40 page views and not know whether that is due to its lack of quality (which is entirely possible) or my inability to break through in a crowded web-space where there are literally millions of blogs and billions of web pages. Suggestions are welcome.
You, my readers. I want to end on a note of thanks. While my blog is a labor of love and something that brings me enormous gratification, I cannot tell you how much it means to me that people actually read (and in some cases, comment on) what I have to say. Whether or not I become the next great American writer, that *you* have given that most valuable commodity – your time – is truly humbling. So thank you. I am eager to start Year 2.
 Not an actual offer of employment.