I posted my first blog here in 2011. I joined Twitter about the same time. I cross post whenever I put a new piece up, some I’ll put on the Face. The difference is that I view Twitter as a public/political forum whereas I view Facebook as a private/apolitical venue. Friends already know what I think, the public at large may find what I’m writing worth a look, it’s a choice.
Early on I was careful about what content I covered, I was still doing a lot of summer library programs and sexual innuendo and white-hot political spear throwing could blow back on the librarians that supported my act, so I held my fire.
I remember workshopping at a writer’s conference, there was a social media breakout session, the presenter was sure the best path forward was to build your platform. Building a platform had to do with gaining followers, you would find followers on Facebook, Twitter and so on and so forth.
Nonfiction writers’ currency of value is stored in their subject matter, fiction’s value is stored in the emotional power of the story told. Search Engine Optimization’s (SEO’s) are made for facts, they do much less well conveying emotions.
Back in the early days of social media readers observational skills were in transition, having a cup of coffee while pouring over the pages of the New York Times produced a style of reader that took their time, those old school types would read from start to finish, then choose another item and then another.
The blizzard of stories a reader encounters online overwhelms; fewer and fewer readers can aim and sustain their attention on this whirligig digital publishing platform.
This has happened over time, not for all of us, but many if not most hardly have the same reading habits. If you were born at the turn of the new millennium, you are a person born into this current mashup of digitized platforms. In some sense you are trained from the beginning in modern day digital literacy, you are fluent in this system, know how to work with it, many times it isn’t the written word you use, instead it is a picture, audio or short video.
While I may remember the fads and fashions of the decades of yesteryear, born in the 50’s, coming of age in the 60’s, owned the post adolescent world in the ‘70’s, then dove headlong into the ‘80’s as I misappropriated my adulthood by clinging to the hope of being forever young.
Our daughter was born in the early ‘90’s, that put an end to my completely dodging my adulthood. I fumbled through the go-go-90’s as the prime street show years in San Francisco closed out and what might come next was still far from visible.
Once I’d moved to Oregon and struggled through the offseason, then figured out how to work festivals with the help of a local event producer— one of my life’s great alliances. In short order I created a circuit that was loosely based on my being in Arizona in winter and the Northwest in summer. I took that plan across half of the 90’s and most of the next two decades until the pandemic hit.
My father was a computer buff, in 1995 he taught me how to use a dial up modem and link to a server at Oregon State University. It was awkward, there was no browser, we figured out how to write down various addresses, one was to a portal supported by NASA. Netscape just weeks later was released and was soon loaded onto my personal computer.
I had written a first novel in 1980 on a manual typewriter. By the turn of the new century, I was soon to be afforded the opportunity to revise and finish the book. There would be another three more produced, all told these four novels were completed between the years 2007 and 2020, this timeline tracks the release of the iPhone and then the development of all the myriad social media platforms that soon followed. Mobility was the key.
Bookstores were closing right and left, Amazon shouldered most of the blame, but in fact it was more than just Amazon, reading habits were changing.
Once upon a time an author, and his publisher would work to get their book onto the shelves at a bookstore. In the before times, you would go into the biggest bookstore in the world and maybe you could choose between a thousand, perhaps as many as five thousand novels. Today you surf over to Amazon where you will find millions of titles to choose from.
All of this has happened in less than two decades, the previous system has been supplanted by this new one, what is sometimes obliquely referred to as the attention economy.
I’m making my way through a terrific novel by Susan Gee Rumsey, Why You Must that will eventually be seen by a few hundred, no more than a few thousand I would guess, and that has nothing to do with the novel’s quality. Gorilla marketing will only take a book so far, ultimately this inanimate object loses its momentum lands on a shelf and that is where it will ride out its days, years and decades.
Blogging I use for research, it is my public facing sketchpad, where I’m sharing the underlying facts that I will use to build my fiction. On my desk now is a screenplay, a comedy about climate change set in the American Southwest and loosely to do with the scarcity of water coming out of the Colorado River.
In the months ahead I’ll complete a full-length screenplay. What I can make happen after I finish with all the probabilities that entails are a very steep climb.
Into this cauldron of change is the bizarre turn that our digital landscape is undergoing. I’m especially grateful that I have maintained my own website, that I can post what I want as I want. If your business model depends on Elon Musk’s mood, Facebook’s tweaking their algorithms, or whether Google will continue supporting Google Plus well you have been taken on a ride you were never going to be in control of.
Keeping a public facing blog alive, pulling some readers along, bouncing about riding from topic to topic, doing work that won’t get you dragged into court, producing material that gives some pleasure to your readers, that’s something like what I’ve been doing over here.
Much of the very best sentences, paragraphs, pages and chapters of my writing have been captured in my long fiction. A short piece here on my blog is cranked out with a sensibility of being breezy, offhanded, of the moment, not too much care, kind of let it go and move on, life is short, and anything can be improved upon, but to what end and to what difference—
The madness of the new Twitter owner, Google’s downturn, Facebook’s fated decline is proving to be game changing, we’re on our way from one place to another and none of us are sure what that next digitized realm will be. What is certain is it won’t be this, the world is moving on, there is a better next set of platforms and formulas to experiment with.
I’ve tried to drive my engagement by earnest qualities, as best I can, as honest as I can, giving some of you a chance to see other more bohemian perspectives, sharing what I find and giving voice to all those likeminded misfits I’ve come to meet along the way over the course of time. You all do know I’m onto you right— and you have found me out too. Thanks for hanging around now and again—