On Blogging and Self-Efficacy

09Feb10

As those who previously followed it know, Poliology’s been dead for about a year now after a couple attempts to relaunch it. This happened for a several reasons. One is simple: writer’s block. More on this in a minute. There were other factors—at the time, Obama had only been in office for a few months, the health care debate hadn’t really taken hold of the media, and in general news was slow. The problem with news being slow when you’re a blogger, specifically one concentrating on politics, is that you don’t have much to blog about, especially if the limited stories out there aren’t particularly interesting. Other problems with the blog were starting a new job, and the stresses that come with that, and I wasn’t really available during the day; the irony of that is Paul Levy, BIDMC’s CEO has his own blog, granted it’s about his job.

The most serious problem, from a creative point of view anyway, is that you begin to feel that you’re not adding anything to the discussion. I’ll admit right now that the number of sites I read regularly is somewhat limited. It’s something I try to work on, but I often find that the discussions are redundant; I tend to find someone I like, maybe click on a link they bring up every now and then, but otherwise it can be hard to branch out. I never got paid to blog, of course. This factor lessens the feeling of responsibility professional bloggers have. No one was pushing me but myself; those who know me know that I often need the deadline or other imperative to keep up my level of personal responsibility.

The problem with Poliology was that I was an amateur trying to do a professional’s job. I tried to almost exclusively stick to political blogging, so I was already limiting myself. As I said before, if there was a lack of stories, my inspiration fell. Considering my opinions are informed pretty much primarily by others in the blogosphere, this led to a frustrating redundancy; I was simply regurgitating a lot of what I read about popular stories. I don’t live in DC, so I couldn’t really do much independent reporting. I work business hours, so it’d be extremely difficult to set up serious interviews. One’s ego must be pretty huge for that to last long—I went on for almost a year that way, I don’t know what that says about me.

On the ego issue, I found myself writing to try to get as many views as possible. This was a flawed idea. See, I don’t go randomly searching wordpress for news, why should I expect other people to do that? I never thought I’d make a living on blogging, so why should I be concerned about something that primarily concerns advertisers? I don’t know why I didn’t originally see it that way. But what it boiled down to, the page views were simply a way to feed my ego; a quantifiable property that let me know how important my blog was.

There’s a contradiction there though. I basically never promoted my blog, and I cringed when other people did. Truthfully, a big reason I stopped playing guitar was that I no desire to promote myself. I had no desire to join a band and talk about how awesome I was even though my band sounded like thousands of others in whatever genre. For some reason, that form of egotism really bothered me, but the cheap satisfaction of seeing how many random people may have even accidentally clicked a link to my blog was ok. It didn’t make sense; and I’m coming around to seeing that there are people that promote their work, and then there’s assholes who promote their work. Just because the assholes promoting their work outnumber the non-assholes doesn’t mean the non-assholes can’t do their thing too. You just have to trust yourself not to be, well, an asshole about it.

Anyway, taking us up to where I am now, I’ve grown creatively frustrated without a real outlet. I’ve thought about starting to blog again for awhile now, but I didn’t know how to approach it. I thought to just do another blog focused on following English Football as an American. This was too limited though. I knew I didn’t want to go back to exactly what I was doing with Poliology because I didn’t want to announce again that I was coming back even though I wasn’t. Maybe my distaste for Brett Favre has something to do with that. As I’ve told some of you, I’ve been thinking of a career very far from politics. So initially, it made just about no sense to go back to Poliology.

But after thinking it over for a little while, I think giving Poliology one more shot is the way to go. It will not be like it was before, I’m going to try to not obsess over linking and embedding and blockquoting and adding snark and putting up as many posts as I can a day. It was counter-productive. But I do think that politics, or at the very least, the news, is something we all share. And one way I can stop myself from sounding like everyone else is simply to talk about what interests me at any given moment when I have time to write. The altruistic outlook about this approach is that maybe someone will read a story about why Rahm Emanuel should be fired (not for the r word, btw) and catch a story about how Real Madrid rose to their status thanks largely to dictator and “Guernica” inspiration Francisco Franco. Or maybe a reader will be able to inform me further on a certain subject rather than just hate me for being a liberal (which is what most of the comments were in regards to before).

So, here we go again. I know I said I wasn’t going to commit to anything, but I’ll probably have something up about the meeting the man I linked to last before Poliology went silent—Ta-Nehisi Coates. I hope you’ll read, comment, and enjoy. I’ll try to be better about posting links to new material on Facebook too.

-Dan

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