Maybe it’s morbid to talk about your inevitable death on your birthday.
Or maybe one’s birthday is an ideal time to reflect upon the natural ending of things, as well as the things you want to accomplish before your own end time, and more importantly, the barriers, both real and imaginary, that stand in your way.
To answer upfront the obvious question arising from my not unintentionally misleading post title, I am not giving up blogging, or closing this blog.
I am, however, re-examining the new reality of the blogging community—which is looking rather sparse these days—and where I’ll continue to fit myself within it.
Conventional marketing wisdom says that the blog is not dead—indeed, that it is essential to have a place to hang one’s digital hat, as it were. That social media, although easy to use and very effective in helping you connect with others, could crash your entire online platform through one detrimental algorithm update, acquisition by a larger, more powerful social media provider, or mass exodus of users.
However I only have to look at my own experience to see that the return on investment of blogging, at least at this stage of my writing career, has diminished substantially.
I started A Frame Around Infinity during the tail end of the golden age of blogging (technically the second such golden age, the first one being back in the late 90s/early 00s). I’ve never had a huge following; my follower count has always been in the (low) hundreds, not in the thousands.
However at this blog’s peak, not only was I getting far more comments and hits than I do now, I was commenting much more myself because so many others were blogging alongside me.
Not so much anymore.
Making more time
Although specialty blogs about parenting, travel, food, business, and book reviews seem to still be going strong, blogging about one’s writing journey is not really a hot topic anymore—not in the age of social media where entire hashtags are devoted to the writing life.
Even the blogs of some established, published authors that I follow have seen their engagement drop sharply.
This seriously calls into question my longstanding belief that the time and effort I put into my blog right now is an investment into my future fan engagement when I become a successful published author.
I’m a master at maximizing time—I can wring every last bit of productivity from a 15-minute interval. But eventually, the time spent on one thing will come at the expense of something else.
This is why, come 2019, I plan to devote more time to my two biggest writing-related goals—namely becoming a more skilled writer, and writing more books. That is to say, I want to
- Read more fiction (Stephen King has famously said that “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”)
- Carry out more historical research in support of future novels.
To better accommodate these two pursuits, I’ll be reducing my blogging frequency from once a week to only the first and last Monday of the month.
(I’m also going to revive my efforts to write shorter posts. There’s no point in reducing my blogging by half if my remaining posts end up taking twice as long to write.)
I refuse to quit altogether because I truly have come to love blogging over the years. This despite the fact that I first started this blog under duress, at a friend’s insistence that as a writer I needed an online presence.
I also plan to make a lot of my future posts less inward focused—a bit less concerned with my specific writing journey—and more representative of, and relatable to, both writers and non-writers alike.
One reason for a more outward focus is that an important part of platform-building is to offer something of obvious value to your target audience.
The other reason is that, in 2019, I’m going to be starting my quarterly newsletter, Infinity +1.
By all metrics, newsletters are said to be an even better engagement tool than a blog. The format of a newsletter—a longer communication sent less frequently—is also intriguing to me.
Writing is a long game of intermittent milestones. I’ve literally spent this whole year revising the same book. Things don’t tend to happen much faster in later stages of one’s writing journey: querying is slow, submission is slow, even seeing your book released after obtaining a contract is slow.
This speed of progress is much better suited to a newsletter than a weekly, or even twice-monthly, blog. A newsletter will offer a better forum for my inward-focused updates since it will be less public-facing than my blog.
The outward value that readers find in the blog (and later, my books) is what will motivate them to subscribe to the newsletter.
When I told a friend that I’m going to start a newsletter, she clarified it for herself by describing it as “like your blog, but more intimate”, which perfectly captured what I plan to do before I even realized that was my intention.
It pays to have insightful friends.
Stay tuned for Infinity +1 in 2019.
Have you experienced changes in your online engagement?