(Cross-posted from Ambiance)
It's been quite a topic on Twitter among our little loosely-defined community. A bunch of us seem to have gone blooey all at once, as if responding helplessly to some shift in the heavens, or in the collective unconscious. The cultural wavefront has moved on, but whither? Twitter feels transitional, somehow. But blogging just seems to have peaked and ebbed . . . to have reached a saturation point, or point of diminishing returns. Maybe after several years of emptying out our minds daily (like chamber pots?) a lot of us are running out of things to say, or feel in danger of repeating ourselves. Maybe, with the exception of those blogs that have broken through -- become established institutions in their niches, sustained by massive rewards, expectations, and inertial momentum -- a lot of us just couldn't keep up the effort any longer. Myself, I felt right on the borderline between private and public: blogging was no longer something I was doing just for myself, and so there was guilt and sorrow involved in (mostly) quitting. But I plum ran out of gas. (A gasbag without gas?)
It's interesting to ponder Ann Althouse's role in all this. As the sort of leader of this particular pack, did she issue the cue we're all following, or was she just an early responder to something larger? I suspect the latter, even though it feels to a lot of us as if the sun has deserted its faithful planets and run off to join a twin star. Oh, she's still blogging, but you get the sense that her heart, quite understandably, isn't in it to nearly the same extent. And so it is for many of us in miniature: "real life," and even "real writing," calls.
Of course there's an element of pure practicality, of energetic economy, to it all. Are you getting enough calories out to keep putting them in? I was amused to read, yesterday, "Is Blogging Keeping You Poor?
We drive ourselves to creative exhaustion by expecting ourselves to pump out a never-ending stream of remarkable content — a stream that, even in the best of cases, only pulls in a couple hundred bucks a month in advertising revenue. . . .
To say we are overworked and underpaid is an understatement. . . .
[C]reative energy is a finite resource. You can probably summon enough to write a few quality posts, but once you’ve done that, there’s no creative energy left for anything else. It doesn’t matter how hard you push yourself. When you’re out, you’re out.
This character goes on to say the solution is working less and "monetizing" more, but that's not what most of us want. To be blunt, we -- at least the "we" who write, have written, or aspire to write and be sustained by it -- want to work just as hard, or joyously harder, and get paid for it. A friend of mine who did women's-magazine writing and editing for years, and wrote three amazing, groundbreaking books -- all of them probably just a little too subtle and unsettling to be smash hits -- is now writing online in the same vein, and being expected by major commercial women's websites to be grateful for the opportunity to provide content for free. "I used to get paid for this," she said to me recently in a dazed and rueful "What happened??" tone. The Web is full of writers who never quite broke through "in real life" and have failed to break through here too, in the sense of making a living wage. Obviously, it's our "fault" -- we haven't hit a major nerve, we haven't built a "platform," we have neither wakefully figured out how to exploit ourselves nor obliviously embodied the spirit of the age, which are the two roads to having a name that pulls its weight. We're "minor" and we're proud. And tired.
It's sad, though. It's the
end of a mini-era that's lasted five years or so. Where now? We have
to follow where the piper leads. It's interesting to me to watch what
we're talking about here when we're talking at all. It's mostly the
economy, stupid, with a minor in my obsessive theme of science and
religion. It's interesting to become aware of the extent to which
blogging has been a political medium. The death of blogging, at least
in its familiar voice and form, is linked to a sense of the profound
inadequacy of politics to address what ails us. But politics, it turns
out, was easy to talk about. Whether you took one side or the other or
spun your web between them, it provided a ready-made framework for and
spur to words. And now? What do we take off from? What do we react
to? We're like baby spiders floating in space with our little bits of
silk, having as yet found nothing to attach them to.
Le blog est mort, vive le blog?