One might think it's been a rough time for blogs, lately.
Over the past few months I've seen some old favorite blogs disappear, and some continue a long decline into neglect and irrelevance. Some get abandoned entirely; others get a promising update, and then nothing but silence.
But you know, that's always the way blogs have been, and that's the way they always shall be. Because journals—or blogs, their online equivalent—are always in flux. It's an extension of the human lives they represent.
However, I was a little taken aback last month when one of my favorite long-term bloggers decided to quit the scene. He did so with a little hissy fit, essentially, in which he declared all his time spent blogging over the months and years a big old waste of time. Then he proceeded to blame his readers for not commenting enough to keep him happy, and being interested only in the photos he posted.
And then, because apparently he just wanted to pound every nail into the coffin that he could, he declared blogging dead and other bloggers to be idiots for continuing to do it.
Here's my thing. If you're done with blogging for a while, that's fine. Say so. Take a break. Stop altogether. Sex bloggers—those of us who don't do it for the advertising revenue, anyway—aren't making postings because we're getting a paycheck from it. We're not doing it as a public service. We do it because we enjoy it. If you're a blogger who's not enjoying it any longer, take a break. Life's too short for voluntary onerous tasks.
But you know, don't try to make the vast majority of your readers feel badly about having read you all along.
I'd like to make a few tips for would-be sex bloggers. I've been blogging publicly in one form or another for a good decade, now. I've got that right. Most of these comments apply to the men and women out there who are keeping largely text-based blogs . . . not those that post photos daily. They're a different beast entirely.
1. If you're a blogger, you're writer. So write.
I get a lot of people asking me to make links to their blogs. Generally I won't, if they've just started blogging. I've seen too many bloggers make a single entry, or two, and then just stop. If a person has been writing for a few weeks, or a month, and seems to be keeping the steam going, I'll consider it. A one-shot wonder with an interesting premise disappoints me. Someone who can keep presenting me with his or her world view—that's going to keep me interested.
I know that everyone has fertile writing periods, and then periods in which the muse doesn't strike as often. God, do I know that. But sometimes you have to have the discipline to keep writing, to sit down and let the words come. Your readers will drift away, otherwise.
They don't like reading that old entry from your very shallow archive for the fourth or fifth time. Sorry, but they don't. Apologizing about not making entries is fine when you've something for which to apologize, but when your blog has become nothing but excuses about not writing, it's time to do a reality check.
You might not be published. You might not care ever to be published. You might make punctuation errors, and grammatical mistakes, and have a sixth-grade education. But when you're committing to stories to paper, you're a writer. So write.
2. Be honest about what kind of blog you have, and why you're keeping it.
One of the things that bugged me about a long-favorite blog of mine—which purported to have aspirations to being lit-ra-chah, don't you know—was that although it was well-written and provocative, its owner was never very forthright about his intentions. Over and over again he'd disparage the photo-blogs—that is, the blogs in which pornographic photos were the main attraction—and say over and over again that his blog was about ideas, not pictures.
Then every single of his posts would have multiple photos, all pornographic, of men sucking and fucking. When his readers would respond to those, and not his essays, he'd be outraged.
I find that behavior kind of disingenuous. If you don't want to be a photo blog, simply don't post photos. Don't find the largest and most salacious photographs and amateur fuck flicks possible, post them, and expect men to ignore their presence. That's like bringing a case of Scotch to an AA meeting and drinking straight from one of the bottles, then wondering why you're get the hairy eyeball from everyone.
I'm also disturbed when I see blog writers with dollar signs in their eyes who have wild, impossible dreams about monetizing their blogs and becoming a wealthy internet entrepreneur in the process. If that's really want you want, sure. Go for it, I guess. But when readers get confused by your maze of advertising, self-promotion, and your endless ways of trying to turn yourself into a porn mogul, don't be surprised when those comments and visits start to dry up. Especially if you're not producing any actual content for them.
If you're a writer, write. Everything else, including visions of riches and vainglory, is just distraction.
3. For christsakes, nice to your readers.
I ran some statistics on my reader comments, over the weekend. I've had over seven thousand comments during the last year and a half. (That doesn't even count the thousands of private emails I've received.) Out of those comments, only about fifty have I found truly objectionable to the point that I've been curt to the poster, deleted the comment altogether, or never removed them from the spam folder into which they bounced.
Less than fifty, out of over seven thousand. That's less than half of a percent, overall. The other ninety-nine-point-five percent are great people who approach my journal in the spirit in which it's intended, and I'm grateful to interact with them.
Most sex blog readers are similarly enthusiastic. They're reading because they want to, entry after entry. I've seen some bloggers, however, who are pretty much one hundred percent rude and snarky to pretty much one hundred percent of their readers. I've seen one who asks for questions and complains when he doesn't get them, yet doesn't hesitate to call the questions 'stupid' when they arrive.
The blogger I mentioned at the beginning of this entry used to bitch and complain constantly about the lack of comments he'd get, even to the point of threatening not to blog any more if he didn't get them, stat. When his readers would hasten to provide comments, though, he'd rarely respond to them, or thank the readers for their contributions. Eventually I burned out on trying to keep him happy and stopped commenting altogether.
Occasionally there are going to be readers who are dicks, or who are deliberately confrontational. It makes little sense to pretend they're anything other than the pests they are. But if you have readers who are going out of their way to read you, to enjoy what you've written, and to add something interesting to the conversation, acknowledge them. Honor them, even. Don't call them stupid. Don't call them fatties. Don't treat them like they owe you anything more than standard decent courtesy and respect.
Or if you do, fine. Just don't be surprised when they stop commenting and when the visits dry up.
4. Be true to yourself.
If you think your strength is writing short little fictional stories to accompany some photos, awesome. If you like collecting news from around the web and commenting on it, I'm there with you, if you've got a sharp point of view. If you like writing about saving your marriage, or cheating on your mate, or finding love, or whoring around . . . I'll keep reading.
There's room for all kinds of stories to be told about our lives, and our imaginary lives. I enjoy absorbing all kinds of narratives. And if a blogger has his or her idiosyncrasies and inconsistencies, or even fears and faults, hey, that's great. I think it's brave when people show us their soft underbellies, and expose themselves as vulnerable. When people do that, it's a gift. Treat it as such.
What I don't like, though, are the bloggers who have an agenda to sell, or a persona to which they cling so desperately that you can hear their nails scraping. There are the bloggers who think that if they're controversial and peddle a brash sort of outrageous viewpoint, it'll be a shortcut to fame. If I see anyone choosing to describe himself as notorious, I tend to keep away. Usually he'll be trying to pander to a lowest common denominator, just for the hits.
Then there are the plaster saints, who do no wrong. I stumbled onto one of these blogs a few weeks ago and after seeing the same thing again and again, I had to stop reading the damned thing. I'm trying not to go into much detail here, but the blog is a mixture of photographs and prose in which the blogger shows himself indulging in his hobby—for the sake of obfuscation, let's say it's 'stamp collecting.' So the photos are all tastefully-shot, moodily-lit studies of him looking pensive and slightly mysterious as he indulges in nude philately. Oh, he'll wear an apron to protect himself from paper cuts. But the photos are an odd mix of 'stamp collecting' with naked butt thrown in.
And sometimes another young 'stamp collector' will come join him, and there'll be tasteful, moody photos of the two of them stamp-hounding together. Interspersed throughout the photos of the two of them side by side, flashing ass and stamps and mysterious smiles at each other, will be this text in which the two of them have conversations—about Life, and Love, and the blogger always ends up dispensing wisdom like he's Grandpa Walton sittin' on the front porch telling John-Boy the ways of the world. He's always wise, and right, and his companion is always young and naive (and usually Asian) and so grateful for the sapience of the (white) stamp collector. The whole thing occasionally gets so mawkish that I want to grind my teeth and yell, Dude, you're only TWENTY-TWO.
One doesn't have to perfect in one's blog. Nobody's perfect. We all mess up. We aspire for greatness and come out as ordinary. We all hurt others in misguided ways, sometimes. Sometimes we lie to our loved ones, or at least fail to the tell the truth. We have pasts that are spotty. Sometimes we're bad-tempered, or do indeed have an outrageous opinion or experience we'd like to share, and it's not a popular one.
But the journal, or the blog if we keep one, is where we come to settle the scores and lay down the truth.
In the blog, one only has to be oneself. That's why readers keep coming back.