First I’d like to say thanks to everyone who took my little poll. The results have been pretty much what I expected (more on that later). Double thanks go to those who left thoughtful comments, they were illuminating, and I appreciate it very much. Second though are apologies. Yes, apologies to all of you who have travelled these parts long enough to witness my repetitions. Ennui, desire, dissatisfaction, and labor pains- I am about to speak on these yet again, and yet again I will mull the pulling of my rug out from under you. Giving thoughtful consideration to, and writing about, the creative process is both honorable and necessary. So when a creative sort has, for a period, spent the better part of his creative energy on a blog the result of an inventory is, unfortunately, that most tiresome of things- another blog post about blogging.
I’m not sure where to begin but I feel compelled to make myself and my reasoning clear here. For one thing it’s selfish. Writing helps to organize the thoughts; publishing them, as it were, makes them solid. Also if I disappear completely you, my readers, deserve to know exactly why. Lastly, and I know I will seem foolish for saying this, I believe my experiences are relevant to other creative louts trying to feel out the limits and boundaries of the blog form. I for one see no reason to simply accept that any endeavor in this sphere, by dint of being on the internet, is automatically beneath serious critical examination. I admit that ultimately it may be this outlook which causes me the most difficulty… but there it is.
So… If you’re not a regular, a fan, a family member, a friend, an N.S.A. agent, a stalker, or acutely interested in blogging as a creative pursuit, than my all means, high-tail it out of here. I’ll wait….
Alright by way of background information the most important thing you need to know to understand just exactly where I’m coming from going forward is this: Before I donned the diadem of “blogger” the one and only rank I might have claimed for myself, in accordance with my own self image and in good conscience, was “artist,” with all that the title implies. I went to art school, learned nothing useful, was instilled with an awe and respect for the old “weighty” and “serious” forms, painted, drew, doodled, and noodled constantly, took in the world with an eye colored by it all, and enjoyed many a short-lived delusion of grandeur while engaged in art making. The second most important thing to know is that I never found what it was I was looking for.
Armed with these two facts alone you ought to be able to extrapolate much of what is to come.
For instance: What do we know about most “artists?” Most artists do not make a living on their Art, that’s what. It’s damn near the only truth you can bank on in the maddeningly subjective world of Art. I am no exception. I am the Director of a graphics department within a fashion company. I am a pixel pusher, a graphic designer in league with the dark-side. It is a job which most people would categorize as “creative.” It does not, however, come anywhere near scratching the Art itch. Not for me.
When I use the term Art here understand I am not necessarily talking about a painting in a gilt frame or an 18 foot high pewter casting of a mosquito’s reproductive organs. I’m simply referring to that nebulous thing, whatever it is, which makes good use of the artist’s hands and satisfies the artist’s mind; That thing which, for a time, makes the artist feel like an artist. Art, as I am defining it here, might be, and often is, any damn thing. It might be 8 years of graphic design, printmaking, and branding for a fashion company. In my case, however, it is not. So like millions of other Art schnooks my life is necessarily schizophrenic. I must seek my satisfaction in the handful of days and hours when I’m not earning a living.
All of which brings me, finally, to The Nonist.
I began The Nonist in 2003. At the time my usual modes just weren’t doing it for me. I was bored. I decided to create a website for two reasons. 1: to see if I could teach myself how to code and design a website. I’d never tried my hand at web design, never seen a line of html or css, and it seemed an interesting challenge. 2: I wanted to give myself a reason to write more. I’ve been a diligent journal keeper and letter writer since childhood and I knew having my words out there, where people might potentially see them, would begin a chain reaction of stubborn pridefulness which would keep me writing if only to avoid having my failure to do so on display. Beyond these I had no plan for The Nonist.
The undertaking succeeded not only in terms of the two goals mentioned above but also in terms of distraction quotient. It was new and compelling enough that my free time, my art-making time, was absorbed. The site made good use of my hands and satisfied my mind, and though I would never claim it was a piece of Art, it did serve many of the same needs.
That the site has been my main creative pursuit for a while now is undeniable. I’ve made very little physical work. This fact explains a lot about the site I would think- its eclecticism, its continual mutation, and its quality (such as it is) especially. What you have been seeing here all this time is someone following their (I can’t believe I am about to say this) muse, willy-nilly; Someone trying to elevate a commonplace, simplistic, trivial, and prodigiously widespread undertaking, into something rarified enough to feel an accomplishment. In short you’ve been watching what I’ve begun to suspect is the comically circuitous route of a fool’s errand.
Were I truly successful in my career, which is to say, if my job satisfied my creative needs, I could simply blog as one ought- on a lark, for fun, as a more engaging evening option than hours of passive television watching. If I were a working author, a satisfied designer, or any other creative who drew a salary doing what he cared about, I could post an endless stream of easily digestible links, I could operate as a newsfilter excerpting stories day in and day out, I could write about how painful it is to watch the Knicks these last few years… as it stands, however, I need it to be more.
There are two obvious conclusions to be drawn- 1: my goals as a creator are not in line with the expectations of the consumer, so far as the blog form is concerned. 2: I ought to seek out more fulfilling employment. It would be the most direct way to make this all a moot point. I understand that. Really, I do.
In the meantime, however, I need to seek satisfaction wherever I can. I’m not sure where it’s to be found but I am fairly sure that it’s not to be found in a paragraph of outgoing links or in an unremarkable bit of off-the-cuff commentary on current events. One thing I am rock-solid 100% sure of is that in order to enjoy the warm satisfaction of being a creator one must actually create something; in order to feel the pride of accomplishment one need actually accomplish something.
Lest you think that I awoke one day with nothing but contempt for blogs and blogging I remind you of my little poll. I enjoy many aspects of blogging which is why the choices on that poll were all variations, to some degree, on the theme. Let me run down the options I offered and my thoughts about each.
• An only rarely updated blog of all original content.
This choice would in many ways be the simplest in that it would require no change. The architecture is already in place, as is the readership. I need only post when the urge strikes and I need not concern myself with filtering other people’s content and rehashing old news. But then, in that it requires no real change, why should I assume it would engender any change in my experience of creating it? The only benefit I can see for this choice is that it would free up time for other pursuits. But then I ask myself, “how could a blog which I attend to only while not attending to other interests be exceptional in any way?” I’m not sure it could be, and so why not just put all my focus on the “other interest”?
• A monthly or bimonthly web magazine covering eclectic subjects, possibly with multiple contributors.
This choice would seem to have many benefits. The first is that in reframing the content as a “magazine” or “journal” the perceived import can be rejiggered. (Though they are only words I believe calling the container for your content “magazine” or “journal” rather than “blog” can actually effect perception. Aren’t the expectations different? Might readers be more apt to actually read a longer piece? Might I not feel I were accomplishing more?) The second is the well known fact that scarcity adds value. The third is regularity. As opposed to the previous choice, this format would, at very least, offer the courtesy of regularity, which ought not be underestimated. Lastly, and potentially the most interesting benefit, would be collaboration. Working with others opens things up to unforeseen results, and there are unquestionably some talented people out there I’d enjoy working with.
The main problem with this avenue as I see it is that it would require a great deal of time and effort to do well. In many ways I’d be signing on to something very similar to what I have now, only more complex and time consuming and I simply can’t overlook the fact that true collaboration might be hard to find since it’s so easy to make your own site that most people, with something to say, already have an online undertaking of their very own.
• A quarterly, printed on actual paper, which I would pay a few bucks for, could hold in my hand, and could read at my leisure.
Interestingly this choice is the one that appealed most to me when I wrote the poll. The act of doing something larger, longer gestated, better thought out, had something to do with the appeal but so too did my notions of value. I am a lover or printed matter and creating my own printed matter would certainly satisfy something within me. I could write long form fiction in its natural habitat. I could create artworks which existed outside of a server rack… Also, of course, there is the desire to measure yourself against the marketplace and try to earn some monetary reward for effort put in. As you can see from the results, however, this is the least attractive option to you, my readers. I can understand why and do not think any less of you for it. The result does, however, drive home just how divergent a creator’s and a consumer’s (no offense) goals can be.
• I’d be interested in any future projects…
This option was pretty much my escape pod. I figured if there were interest enough I could extend my status as absentee content-provider a while longer while I hashed this all out. You were very gracious in gassing up my pod and offering me a bagged lunch. So thanks.
• None of the above. I want frequent, short, easily digestible blog posts which I can skim on my lunch hour… and that’s pretty much it.
This choice was, in truth, not a choice at all. At least from my point of view. I put it into the poll as a control to see what percentage of readers would back-up the common wisdom about “successful” blogs that you see doled out everywhere. Seems that a solid quarter of all respondents do indeed want frequent, short, easily digestible blog posts for consumption on their lunch hour and the like. As I think this post has made sufficiently clear that aint gonna do it for me folks. With each new iteration of the site and each month I’ve moved further from that easily digestible ideal, trying to craft as much long form, original content as I could muster. Regardless of what happens a full-on link filter The Nonist will never again be.
Much of what I’ve learned about blogging, from the standpoint of a creative pursuit, reinforces my perception that the form, which includes as a subset all preconceptions and consumer habits, may be an artistic dead-end. (What people want from a blog may very well be exactly that which the form is best suited to anyway. Go figure.) There is the popularity contest aspect of it all, which, though it can be motivating and (when you’re on your game) gratifying, is ultimately a pretty flimsy reward. The strenuous act of clawing your way, through the hustling billions, toward the top, to the upper echelons, would be a whole lot more attractive a proposition, if there were anything at the top waiting for you. Even a cheap blinking sign saying, “you win!” From what I can tell though, here on my humble cliffside lean-to, there isn’t. There’s nothing up there. It’s a lot like life in that sense I guess.
I realize all too well that this whole thing may come across to many of you as either pompous and pretentious, since I’m taking the time to even write this many paragraphs on the subject of (pshaw!) blogging, or else damn near retarded, in that I ever entertained the idea that one could attain a modicum of artistic satisfaction in such a sphere. In any case, it’s my life so I have to care, and take it seriously. You, of course, have the luxury not to. Besides haven’t I always come across as pompous and retarded anyway? Why change now?
So good reader, if you’ve made it this far into this dry, meandering, intolerable mess of a post, let me at least offer you a compliment for your troubles. It is you who offer me the only semi-tangible artistic reward I have consistently gotten here: an audience (or dare I say it, a community?) So thanks. If I do indeed disappear off the monitor of the earth, I wanted to just say thanks for reading my years of drivel and looking at my digital noodlings. Thank you for commenting when you have, for discussing things with me, for emailing me your good wishes, and seeing fit to link me across the internet. It’s been a pleasure more often than not, and aside from the mere challenge of doing it well, you are the reason. A loving familial sort of kiss to you!
What does it all mean?
As it turns out I have not actually decided what to do yet, but I am also loathe to just pull the plug and set off in my escape pod. Separation anxiety I guess. In as much the plan as of now is to just say that I’ve chosen option #1 of the poll, “An only rarely updated blog” and go from there. I will be making back channel inquiries into both the idea of a web magazine (if your interested or have any ideas feel free to contact me), as well as feeling out my suicidal options for creating some printed matter of my very own. I’ll create new stuff for your reading and viewing pleasure when (if) inspiration hits and will certainly keep you posted on my next move.
Happy New Year!
Btw the title is taken from…