One of the strange things about blogging as a medium for writing is the pressure it puts on content production. Nobody judges an author by how many books she manages to put out in a five year span, and the newspaper columnist operates on a fixed schedule of one or two pieces a week. But when it comes to blogging, the more you update, the better. The goal is to make people check your front page at least once a day, and preferably several times throughout the course of that day.
Up until this week, I observed a regimen of 5-6 posts per week, minimum, except when extenuating circumstances made that too much of a hassle. In college, that wasn’t so hard. I was a liberal arts major (a vocation that largely consists of looking rumpled and overworked but receding guiltily when an actual overworked person from the business school or biology department walks by). Plus, my interests were pretty standard precocious political junkie nonsense. Looking back, it’s amazing how entertained I could keep myself just writing dozens of permutations of the same post about what a terror Sarah Palin is. Especially when I was producing most of NYU Local‘s election 2008 coverage, I could chase after every single campaign story the mainstream media presented as politically significant and never get bored. When boredom became so much as visible on the horizon, I could just do posts kvetching about why something wasn’t really news, and that would hold me over.
The trick of maintaining that level and style of content production lies in being fairly predictable — if not predictable to others, then predictable to yourself. I could dash off three NYU Local posts in about an hour because I already had the arguments for each one laid out in my head. They were there before the news I was ostensibly reacting to even occurred, and I was just waiting for events to go with them.
Writing like that doesn’t interest me anymore. It strikes me as lazy and uninteresting. Plus, as I’ve learned a little bit more about policy, history, and political science, I’ve come to comprehend what a vanishingly small percentage of the things I used to write about were significant events. It’s hard to get all that jazzed about dueling campaign narratives when the state of the economy and name of the incumbent party trump all of that. But you can’t just write, “The economy sucks and the president is a Republican, so Obama is going to win” each and every day, so I helped manufacture white noise.
There are other ways to write about these things. If you’re an expert in a particular policy area, you can cover that. (I am not, sadly, though I’m trying to educate myself on American foreign policy and civil liberties.) Failing that, you need the time and patience to grapple with a challenging subject and let an argument unfold. Now that I’m pretending to be a grown up (which involves not just holding down a grown up job but doing other strange, alien grown up things, like exercising and occasionally cooking for myself), I have less time for that than ever. I can’t do one post a day if I’m also going to do the homework needed to form an intelligent opinion on the subject of that post. (Incidentally, this is something I wish I had realized a couple of months earlier.)
More to the point, I can’t bang out a post a day without having that entire post laid out in my head from beginning to end. Writing like that saps all the joy out of the process. There’s no discovery involved, self- or otherwise. The process of actually getting your thoughts down becomes wholly performative. I’d like to get away from the whole genre of blogging as delivery of a prepared statement.
So in that spirit, this blog is going to be updated a lot less frequently. I’ll try to keep it above once a week and hope that I don’t hemorrhage too much readership. The quality of the writing will go up, though, I think. It’s going to become a little more essayistic, like this post, though I promise that this isn’t going to become a blog solely dedicated to navel-gazing on the process of blogging. The subjects will vary, but the overall mission is to make this blog more about writing and less about evacuating.
We’ll see how that goes. But even if I still suck at this, at least I’ll only suck at it two or three times a week, tops.