The State (and History) of My Blogs

roofs_of_prizziWordPress says 2012 was my biggest year as a blogger. Though statistics are crass and don’t say much in the end, being “Freshly Pressed” in August helped nearly double my visitors this year. And I have many more followers, for which—I can’t say often enough, Dear Reader—I’m grateful.

But 2012 wasn’t really my best year as a blogger. In 2008, my totals were twice this year’s.

Signals to Attend, derelict satellite, and Haiku Streak (the Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria of my blogs) are my fourth incarnation as a blogger. I can’t remember the name of my first blog on Earthlink, but I wrote a haiku a day and an essay a month, book reviews every once in a while, and, if I couldn’t think of anything else, I pasted in poems I’d written long before. I posted so infrequently only an audience who liked watching flowers turn to the sun would enjoy following my work.

I resolved to start over and do better, but my still-born second blog was so flawed in conception and design that it lasted only long enough to gasp its last breath. I think my first post might have been about how I couldn’t possibly hope to go on.

Then I started an anonymous blog, Joe Felso, on WordPress, and, for reasons I never really understood, it grew and grew. Maybe because I posted every day for months, people visited and continued to visit even when I slowed to four posts a week. No one would mistake me for a self-promotion machine, but, as Joe Felso, I courted readers and became part of a circle of popular blogs. Though I wasn’t posting to Joe Felso at all after 2009, that blog remained my most popular until, finally, this blog surpassed it in 2012.

When I gave Joe Felso up after three years, it was at its peak popularity. Exhausted and blocked, I couldn’t think of anything new to say, and the anonymous mask chafed. I’d had enough, I thought, and decided blogging was more burden than blessing. I didn’t need it.

Only a few months later, in January of 2009, I started here, using my real name, posting once a week and then, later, twice a week on this blog and derelict satellite… four posts a week, just like before. All I’d really given up was my audience. I intended to shut Joe Felso down but left it open as a sort of museum and stole from it once a week, revising or rewriting posts I’d made before. That well has since dried up. Everything you find here, and on derelict satellite, is newly minted twice a week. Only today, I finally made Joe Felso invisible.

All told—on and off—I’ve been blogging ten years, a long time in blogging terms. I’m approaching my 300th post on Signals to Attend and am well over 1000 posts, counting my various lives as a blogger. The quantity of my readership hasn’t grown though the quality has.

And every time I approach a milestone—like 300—I think of stopping.

The internet continually reminds me how little it needs my additions. My crowd of words gathers on the edge of an abyss, waiting for each new post to push more words over. My numbers are nice—better than some, I suppose—and still I wonder what I have to say that I haven’t said before and how much pleasure I can expect from expressing myself again. I have only my voice after all and no real, dramatic destination or goal.

I might be asking for affirmation, but I’m not being glib. Crises of faith that hit others once a lifetime seem to befall me four times a week. Perhaps it’s our accelerated world. It could be the stakes I seem to face every moment. Maybe doubt— through all my blogs, the only sustained reason I’ve ever found to write—fuels me.

The new year dawns. I’ll continue, and, begging your patience again, I will tell whatever truth I understand. When I pass 300, I will try not to look back. Something must compel me, who knows what, and I can’t shut up.


Filed under Aesthetics, Ambition, Anxiety, Blogging, Doubt, Essays, Fame, Identity, Laments, life, Numbers, Thoughts, Writing

15 responses to “The State (and History) of My Blogs

  1. hhstheater

    As a lapsed writer, I’ve found inspiration in your writing online and in print. I especially appreciate the self-reflective quality of your prose. Hoping the new year brings you inspiration and revelation!

    • dmarshall58

      When I sit down to write, I worry nothing will be there but maybe that worry keeps me going in the end. I like the compulsion to dig into what I think I understand. The best moment discovers something I’ve always known but never say. It’s frustrating that finding those moment is so hard, but that’s part of the satisfaction too, of course. Thank you for your support. Knowing you’re reading is part of what keeps me going. –D

  2. David,

    I’m still turning over phrases, thinking of ways to respond to your last post. Maybe I’ll get to it. But the thing is you make people think. I haven’t thought about the nuances of Edward Albee’s dialogue in years. Do I need to now? Maybe. Good blogs make sparks.

    Sometimes we provide each other with that puzzle piece we didn’t even realize was missing. Albee’s play, for example. Right down to the title itself– so sing-songy, childish yet sophisticated. Drunk really on it own intellect. Perhaps that what “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” warns against. (I gotta see that movie yet again–really is a knock-out)

    But more to the point of today’s post:

    Honestly, I’m glad you can’t shut up. I could never do a blog myself. But you allow for my vicariosity. Not a word? Vicarious curiosity. You get what I mean.

    Truth is: Good bloggers compel people to think for themselves.
    You do that.
    So, thanks.


    • dmarshall58

      I meant to say thanks before now, and I hope my tardiness won’t diminish your sense of my gratitude. I wish I could keep doubts private and show up to this blog confident and ready. But maybe that’s just not me. Writing, I try to put myself on the line to figure out something important or to face something I’d rather not see. I try to take an unfamiliar angle on something familiar. It’s not always fun while I’m at it. A strange limbo sits between knowing and supposing. Neither knowing or supposing is terribly comfortable to me, but the zone between is worse. The agitation I feel during composition can’t be unique to me though. That’s what Montaigne was after when he named “Essays”–he wanted to try his thinking, to put himself to the test. Thanks for putting up with my sorting things out and thanks, as always Peter, for your support. –D

  3. ‘Something must compel me, who knows what, and I can’t shut up.’ Well, thank god for that. Now, reread what Peter says. He is more articulate than I. If it keeps you writing, may the year be plagued with doubts. Sorry, we’re a selfish lot, but I heard the gasps of consternation on reading the words, ‘And every time I approach a milestone—like 300—I think of stopping’.

    Much as we look for your essays, ultimately you need to write for you. Every now and then, when I think of my blog in terms of my beloved followers [and they are beloved], I pull back. If I begin to depend on them, to court them, as Joe Felso did, I’m lost. I think good blogs have to satisfy the writers first; then, the readers will follow. Numbers shouldn’t matter [another signal for me to pull back].

    Of course, I’m dooming myself by saying when what you want to write about no longer matters to you, stop. Bring on the doubts. Peter nails it: you make us think. That’s what an essayist does [as well you know, with your teaching].


    • dmarshall58

      I don’t want to try anyone’s patience with my doubts, though it seems I’ve been doing a lot of that lately. You advice is (as always) sensible–I have to satisfy myself first and hope for readers. Now that I’ve passed 300, maybe I can forge ahead. It’s hard sometimes to believe your best work is ahead of you–you probably know what I mean–but I have to remind myself that it isn’t about this essay or poem but about the better essay or poem in the future that may come from this effort. The practice adds up… as long as every it’s sincere. Thanks for your comment. –D

  4. Margaret Shearin

    You can’t stop writing.Take a break if you need to but for god’s sake don’t stop writing. It means too much to me and your other readers to read you twice a week, and it’s a habit I’d like to keep.

    • dmarshall58

      It’s taken me so long to respond, you see I’m still at it, past 300 and onto whatever figure I reach. I mean to keep writing as long as I can. Sometimes I worry I won’t know when I’m finished, but, right now, I can’t not write… which is some sign to go on. Thanks for your support… D.

  5. Please, David, never shut up. Your thoughts and words act as a spur to make me think, for which I am grateful. G

    • dmarshall58

      And I’m grateful for your saying so. I will try not to look back so often… your patience with me is so greatly appreciated. –D

  6. I find your posts a pleasure to read, even if I don’t always comment. I think that you write as much for yourself as for your blogging community but we get to enjoy your thoughts, musings and introspection. Please keep it up.

    • dmarshall58

      I’ve been overwhelmed by comments like yours. I appreciate your support and intend to keep going as long as I find something to say. I hope that will be a while. Making 400 without another post about giving it all up seems like a worthy goal. –D

  7. “I have only my voice after all and no real, dramatic destination or goal”

    Dramatic destinations and goals are overrated in my opinion. If you think about it, they’re usually things that others assign to us. I like your voice. Mostly -ha.

    • dmarshall58

      You’re right that we give destinations too much attention. If I could live without thinking of my larger purpose I’d undoubtedly be happier. I just worry about repeating myself, about circling in the woods when I mean to explore. Thanks for visiting and thanks for your comment. –D

  8. Pingback: Walking Around The Year | Signals to Attend

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