This is my 62nd website post of 2020, with five months down and seven yet to go. If I keep up the current pace, that will produce about 150 posts by the time December 31, 2020 rolls around.
While that’s still a drop in the bucket for a lot of high-volume daily or near-daily bloggers, it does represent a bump in production for me. In 2019, I wrote 57 posts in twelve months, and considered it to be a productive year. The last time I went higher than 62 in an entire year was 2010 (101 posts), and my personal best was achieved way back in 2004 (432 posts, largely driven by my “Poem a Day” project, the fruits of which have since been removed from the public site).
I knew I would be writing more in 2020, though this is neither how nor what nor where I had expected that to play out. Having retired from my prior full-time job in November, I had intended to focus more on creative and commercial writing this year, and on re-building networks that had atrophied since I stopped regular freelance writing some years ago due to time and mental demands associated with my full-time work. The blog became less of a personal marketing instrument and more of a place where I wrote “for me” over those years. I could scribble here without worrying about commercialization or fundraising or whether my words would alienate or activate supporters or how well I was communicating important technical concepts. My professional writing was the complete opposite of that in many ways, and 2020 was the year I planned to knit those disparate threads back together, for fun and for profit, ideally.
As did so many other things for so many other people, that all changed a few months back. I had been registered for a pair of writing workshops that I saw as important steps in re-building those lapsed professional networks, and they’re both gone. I was graciously accorded this opportunity to focus on a key project, but that’s gone too. All the travel writing that I normally do? No longer possible due to multiple trip cancellations. The volume and quality of freelance opportunities available have also declined (and anecdotally, I’d say average hourly compensation has followed suit), even as a glut of formerly-employed creative folks are now in the fray to secure the jobs that do remain or emerge. Supply and demand curves in full effect, this is not a great time to be making a pivot in this professional sector, though that may change in the future as the world itself changes.
I’m certainly most very fortunate at this stage in my life to not need that planned writing work to meet my basic financial needs, though there’s still a certain sense of opportunity lost. I could, of course, be productively using all of my unexpected free time to hunker down and crank out the Great American Novel or develop a brilliant business plan or some other ostensibly “useful” writing-related activity. But I’m not, and I think that’s because given the psychologically stressful aspects of life during lockdown, I find it more important and comforting to write what I want to write, and not to focus so much on writing what I should write. It’s a pleasurable diversion and distraction to clatter away here, and its a nice bonus when some of the things that I put up on my public blackboard resonate with others in some way(s).
So as a result of that sense and those feelings, you’re getting content in bulk here these days, and probably will for the foreseeable future. I know from the wide variety of websites I follow, along with the number of recommendations I’m receiving from WordPress announcing newly-established blogs in areas of interest to me, that I’m not alone in seeing my unproductive public productivity increasing. As a result, I have expanded the number of sites that I formally follow over the past couple of months, and I’ve seen increases in the number of readers who formally follow me here as well. (Neither of those numbers are large, just for the record). Then there are the “guest” readers who surf around my site without leaving any marks and signs beyond ticks on the visit counter, which is spinning at a rate that will probably make my final 2020 visit and visitor numbers as high as they’ve been since the early 2000s, when the blog world was a very different place, and I was one of few, not one of many, paddling about in a high-profile fashion within that newly-formed creative pond.
A lot of the increased writing volume I see and read around the web is explicitly dedicated or related to COVID-19 in one way or another. How it impacts us. How we feel about it. What we are doing with ourselves as the world shuts down. How we feel about it again. And then again. And again. Lots of feels being shared, for sure. While I certainly reference COVID-19 in a variety of posts on the site, this one included, I have made a conscious decision to not write more explicitly or frequently about it here, in large part because the number of trenchant “hot takes” out there about it is exhausting, and I don’t have or offer any unique perspective that I feel warrants extensive public exposition.
In the early days of lockdown, I’d saved a draft blog post called “Post-Pandemic Pipe Dreams,” and occasionally I’ve added items to it on ways that I’d personally like to see the world change as a result of our current travails. Looking at that list today, lots of those ideas and reflections have been considered and covered at length in a wide variety of other online outlets, so it’s hard for me to want to elaborate on any of them, and I am guessing it would be hard for you to want to read them if I did, since they’d be so obviously agreeable to everyone.
We’d all like more space in restaurants and on airplanes, right? Duh. And everyone would like to see TicketMaster, FOX News, and a variety of other predatory-to-destructive businesses go under, yeah? Of course we would. Having watched the character of my hometown be completely destroyed by AirBnB operators hoovering up any available rentable properties downtown, and countless unique cultural destinations destroyed by the arrival of cookie-cutter cruise ship culture, I’d be happy to see those business models bite the dust too. Oh, and of course nobody should ever again spend $200+ million on turning a freakin’ comic book into a bloated soulless movie, especially if said comic book has already been expensively rebooted half-a-dozen times over the past few decades. If the studios would knock that nonsense off, then going to the theater could return to being an affordable and enjoyable enterprise, assuming people learn to put their cell phones away and stop talking during the movie. That one may be impossible, I know. Influencers? Gone. I am certain we all agree there. Also, no giant dogs allowed in apartment buildings. It’s cruel to the dogs and their neighbors. Stop it. And stop giving money to endowments without considering your favorite nonprofits’ operating needs too. There’s going to be loads of them that collapse because people put permanent restrictions on gifts in exchange for naming rights and other non-charitable incentives, while the “keep the lights on and do the mission” part of the enterprise is ignored. Everyone would like to see that stop, right?
Well, okay, so maybe some of my post-pandemic pipe-dreams aren’t quite in keeping the zeitgeist or popular public opinion, but still, I don’t see elaborating on them further as a productive or enjoyable process for anybody. Suffice to say I dream of and long for changes in how our country and culture function, some more needed and serious than others. And also note that I’ll work to support those who can bring such positive prospects to pass from out of such a negative time period, even if I don’t write in bulk about such activities here, preferring to produce my usual piffle and tripe instead.
For better or worse, that’s the niche I’ve established after 25+ years of having a public online presence, and dancing with the one what brung ya’ is always a sound play. Fortunately, I do quite enjoy cluttering and redecorating my verdant little wall grotto in the global garden of blogs, and when all is said and done, the little things that give us joy are important, perhaps now more so than ever. Here’s hoping that approach works for you too, both in your experience of visiting here, and in your experience of managing your own little joys in the face of the countless dislocations tearing at the fabric of our society today.