“Pooch,” I said glumly, gazing at the noble mutt stretched languidly across the bed. “Remind me again why I’m doing this?” Pooch said nothing, merely opening one eye halfway at the sound of her name and immediately closing it again with a contented sigh. “Yeah. Thanks.”
I turned back to the painfully blank page glowing cheerfully at me from the monitor. “Fill me!” it pleaded. “I suck,” I replied.
I was preparing to launch a blog. Pooch’s lack of interest notwithstanding, there was a good reason for doing so. But that didn’t make getting the thing off the ground any easier.
What am I supposed to write about? What should I say? Wrestling with my utter lack of creativity, all I could think of was all the reasons NOT to start a blog. They were many.
1. There Are Too Many Blogs Already
In November 2013 WPVirtuoso reported (rather inelegantly) that “there are approximately over 152 million blogs on the internet.” That was five months ago. And it already sounded lowball to me. Still, that would represent enough bloggers to populate an entire medium-sized country. Like, say, Bangladesh (population 152,518,018 in 2011). But what a boring country! In Blogladesh, everybody would be too busy writing their own blog to ever read anybody else’s blogs, so they’d all starve to death because none of them would get enough traffic to generate revenue.
Yet here I sat, preparing to cart my own little lump of coal to Newcastle.
2. It Takes a Lot of Work.
Cranking out 1500 or so words every other day is hard work. Have you seen how many dead blogs are out there? Those people figured out that the “hard work” part is a bitch. In fact it’s so much hard work that a bunch of small businesses have sprung up (content development companies, they call them) with the express purpose of filling the bottomless pit of the blogosphere’s insatiable hunger.
“Let us write your content for you!” they crow. “We don’t know a thing about your business or your subject, but we can wing it!” Good stuff there.
For the individual blogger, the other way to clear the hard work hurdle is to go the half-ass route: Spew forth unfounded opinions based on personal observations of The World and What is Wrong with It and you’ve filled your content quota! Easy-peasy! Of course, many such blogs turn out (unintentionally) to be some of the most entertaining on the ‘net, so perhaps I should re-think the “Takes a lot of work” argument….
3. You Can’t Write.
With the universe of verbiage vying for eyeballs out there, you’d better at a bare minimum be able to string together several sentences with a semblance of sophistication. It’s gotta make sense, it’s gotta be logically constructed, and it’s gotta make a point worth arguing. In my case, I can write. Sort of. Only, I lack one critical ingredient: Creativity. I can do the sentence stringing thing quite elegantly— better than most, in fact. But my talent is as a mere mechanic. There’s an art to capturing and holding an audience, with or without good mechanics; THAT’s the kind of writing that’s required.
Of course if writing skill were truly a hard requirement for blogging, bloggers in Blogladesh would be a lot fatter, because there’d only be 152 of them instead of 152 million.
4. You Have Nothing to Say.
This post opened with a conversation between me and my dog. That tells you something. Witness me now pontificating on why not to write a blog. This is deep and important stuff here. The world has been WAITING for these revelations.
5. You Don’t Know Anything.
Really worthwhile blogs share useful information. Or at least extremely informed opinions on significant topics. Random nuggets of knowledge on 137 disparate mundane subjects, which comprise the whole of my own scope of knowledge, do not a successful blog make.
6. You’re Not Funny.
You can get away with knowing very little if you are wickedly funny. The best blogs inform and entertain. The second-best blogs do at least one of the two. If you’ve got neither, you got bupkiss. If you can’t be funny, you gotta at least be clever and dazzling and make people think. Extra special dazzling brownie points if you can draw, and be funny, and make people think. Then you are Allie Brosh with Hyperbole and a Half and you are godlike. But if not…. Well, you may have bupkiss.
7. You Don’t Have a Lot of Friends.
Just who exactly did you think was gonna read this here blog of yours, Cowboy? Until and unless you become Savvy Master of the SEO Universe, you gotta start somewhere, and your unsuspecting friends are going to be the early innocent casualties of your blogging ambitions. My stunning grand total of 50 Facebook friends isn’t exactly going to cut it… especially since I could probably only convince maybe six to even click on a link, let alone read a post. Then again, I hear that Facebook is already passé, so perhaps I’m actually ahead of the curve there.
8. You Don’t Have a Cat.
According to the Laws of the Universe, as I understand them, cats are kings of the internet. Cute pictures and videos of cats make up for all other deficiencies. If you have a cat to blog about, you are golden. Pooch would eat a cat, so telling that story would constitute just one blog post. Although I may be able to squeeze a second one out of the subsequent regurgitation of said cat. That would mark the end of my source subject. Damn.
9. You Lack the Self-Promotion Gene.
When I was a little kid I was obsessed with Indians. Err… make that, Native Americans. I thought they were way cool! They lived outdoors and made things out of stuff they found in nature and rode around on horses all day. Awesome! And they didn’t need a megawatt sound system with subwoofers to get their dance on. All they needed was a drum, which they supplemented with their own voices and absolutely zero formal music training. I could do that! And I did. And my older siblings thought it was hysterical. They captured it on Super-8 film. And I still suffer for it to this day.
The production of those grainy Super-8’s marked the end of my flamboyant stage. I have never made a habit of calling attention to myself since. Which is a pity, because it’s a very helpful characteristic for the successful blogger.
10. You’re a Perfectionist.
It’s hard enough cranking out those 1500 words, but when you’re me, you’re going to agonize over every single one of them. Statements must be backed by facts, facts must be verified, structure must be impeccable, and grammar and spelling unimpeachable. Buff and polish, buff and polish, buff and polish….
I would have been an awesome jeweler. And therein lies the point of this post (and this blog).
Someone Else’s Genius
I am not a blogger. For all the reasons noted above, I could never be a true blogger. But what I AM is a kickass proofreader and editor. It is my one indisputable talent. Lucky me! I bet all those concert pianists, ballerinas, and rocket scientists are turning pea-green with envy right about now, eh?
Ok, maybe not. But you gotta work with what you got. And believe it or not, I actually enjoy the prose polishing gig. Exercising a natural talent feels good; when you can benefit other folks through said exercise, it feels even better. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I have the English degree from the prestigious university and all that, yadda yadda yadda, but the natural talent came before the degree.
What I really love is merging my mechanical gift with the creative chops of others. I envy truly original, creative, and entertaining folks. But, boy, can they shoot themselves in the foot when attempting to convey their brilliance via the written word. I’ve seen it in blogs, business reports, academic papers, magazines— even in published books, where one would rightly expect a little professional editing.
Does it matter, one might ask? A valid question in the age of the internet. Anything goes on the ‘net, and besides, isn’t the evolution of language eternal and never-ending?
“Sure,” I would say. “But in a world where poor writing is the norm, good writing stands out.” It demonstrates respect for one’s audience and enhances the writer’s credibility. And it ensures that your point is driven home precisely.
Yeah, it matters.
So Grainy Super-8’s notwithstanding, this blog amounts to hanging my virtual shingle and putting myself out there as a freelance proofreader/editor. That’s the purpose of Prose Alchemy.
You got that, Pooch?