A Crisis of Faith

A Crisis of Faith

Forgive me followers, for I have slipped. It’s been five months since my last blog post! I’ve been writing this particular post in fits and starts since July… So it might be a bit choppy.

In the beginning
I started writing Open Heart over 3½ years ago— first on my own website then on ChicagoNow after those fine folks took me in.

I made myself post something, anything, at least once a week. It was a self-imposed deadline. No one was breathing down my neck for my next piece of personal insight. 170 or so posts later, I was still keeping to that schedule. Once a week, like clockwork. Until recently.

I don’t know if I’d call it writer’s block, not in the true sense of the word. I’ve never been prone to writer’s block really, not to brag— it’s not that I’m a writing genius, there was always some subject/idea/pet peeve, serious or silly, rattling around in my head that could add up to 300 words.

I don’t usually have trouble with “what” to write. I have, however, been struggling lately with “why.” Call it Enthusiasm Block. Call it a crisis of faith.

“95% of blogs are abandoned” —New York Times, 2009

The Internet is lousy with blogs; estimates range from 152 to 173 million. The New York Times reports only 5% are active (having been updated in the previous three months). So I’m not alone…

They offer theories why bloggers stop blogging: it’s harder than it looks, life gets in the way, or people quite simply run out of things to say… Like so many other faith-based endeavors— religion, of course, the stock market, Tinker Bell —you’ve got to believe in your blog or it dies.

I believed in my blog. I put a lot of work into each one; I could take a week, on and off, to get them into shape. And I was happy with my finished product. I’d go back sometimes and re-read a post and think: “yeah, that was good, I like it.”

The measure of success
“How many followers do you have?” people would ask me. That’s how you judge a blogger, by followers.

In America, everything’s a competition, a “matchup,” a race. We don’t participate in intellectual discussions to determine the best political leaders to guide our country into a brighter future… we grapple in a Race To The White House, like it’s a 10K or the WWF. The nightly news tracks who’s “ahead in the polls,” if the Dow Jones is up or down, or what movie broke a box office record. For bloggers, it’s followers.

I never wanted to know how many readers I had. My therapist tsk, tsk, tsked when I said I wasn’t curious. I told her my theory: when I was part of a comedy group performing on stage at clubs or theaters, we couldn’t see how many people were in the audience. In the wash of the spotlights only the first couple rows were visible, ten or twenty people. That was okay, I told my psychologist (and myself). Whether we performed to 15 audience members or 1,500 we gave them the best gosh-darned show we could.

So that’s who I wrote the blog for, I told myself: the small number of people I knew about. In my vivid imagination, though, I was sure I had hundreds of readers probably, thousands more than likely. That’s what I imagined. Then one day I looked at how many readers I actually had, how many subscribers, and it was not pretty. It turned out I had been playing to a nearly empty auditorium.

“If I blog about a tree falling in the forest and no one’s there to read it… what’s the point.” —me

173 million’s a crowd
The Internet doesn’t need another blog, let’s be honest; there’s one launched every half second. But I thought mine was different. Maybe too different? I didn’t write about sports or fitness. I’m not a mommy blogger or even a daddy blogger. I wrote about life after a near death experience; I wrote about me. I tried not to make it all about heart stuff or post-op depression because, I thought, that’d be, well, depressing. I tried to keep it light, throw some humor in there.

“I write for myself”
That’s the blogger’s mantra. I’ve been writing for myself, writing for no money and tiny audiences for a really, really long time. Our recent downsize was a stark reminder as I once again moved boxes of old work. The comic book I wrote and drew in sixth grade that no one read but me. Rejected spec TV scripts. My first novel no one picked up. Notebook after notebook of quirky observations and creative ideas that’ve never seen the light of day.

When I was a kid and I’d “act up” in front of my friends, my mom said it was only because “I had an audience.” And I’d think, yes. Yes, that’s exactly why I’m acting up— the audience. There’s no point in making funny faces or doing wacky voices if no one’s around to see.

I love to write, I truly do. I don’t dance and I can’t play an instrument, but I imagine it’s the same thing. The music of the words, the flow of my thoughts as I blend them together onto the computer screen. But I write for an audience, at least that’s my intention. Dream may be more like it.

Blog shmlog
Maybe I started my blog for the wrong reason: I wrote a second book. All the how-to-get-a-book-published experts tell you to “start a blog” so you “build a platform,” “create an audience,” “gain a following.”

My book is pretty much a memoir: a genre I’ve discovered elicits more eye rolls than Twilight fanfiction. But that’s my story— life, near-death, and journey to recovery, both physical and mental.

I pitched my premise to an agent some months ago at one of those So-You-Wanna-Be-A-Writer Workshops and she was not impressed. She rattled off the pat advice: “start a blog,” “build a platform,” blah, blah, blah. Then she told me my idea was a niche, a niche no one would care about.

Yeah, I know: never give up! Everyone’s a critic. Haters gonna hate! JK Rowlings got 20 rejections before she sold Harry Potter, yadda, yadda, yadda.

But I think Agent Lady was onto something. It’s been my problem all along— I’m a niche. That’s all I’ll ever be. And this niche is too tired to go one more round. Maybe the universe (and the book publishing industry) is trying to tell me something.

“Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.” —Ben Franklin, Einstein, Narcotics Anonymous, Confucius, take your pick

Give me a break
I finally worked through my crisis of faith enough to put together one more post. I thought I owed the handful of readers I do have an explanation and I didn’t want my blog from July 23rd, about peeing sitting down, to be my last one.

While I’m truly grateful for anyone who’s read my writing, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to extend the break I’m already on and put this blog on pause. Let’s call it a hiatus. I don’t know for how long.

Who knows? I may think of something that makes me want to write even if no one reads it.

Have faith… (at least one of us should)

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