I spent a chunk of yesterday going through my blog entries and indexing them, providing a page where people could check out any previous essay that I wrote. Now it’s there, a tab that says “Bloggy Thing Index.”
If you have a blog, you should do the same thing, and here’s why.
Yes, of course you’re providing a way for your vast readership (or as I say in my case, for both of them) to access past things that you’ve written. For myself, one of the most frustrating aspects of a blog is when someone writes something that I enjoyed, and then I can’t find that particular post that I’m looking for.
I realized that after a while, this page of links to specific posts might grow be insanely long (I hope), but after a while, as I was carrying on with this project, it became clear that I wasn’t doing it so much for my readers (both of them) as for myself.
It’s a humbling experience to annotate blog entries. The first thing I'm forced to notice is long gaps of time between entries. There have been periods where months have gone by without a new entry, and it certainly contributes to those times when I see my readership dwindle from both of my readers to the one loyal holdout (whoever he or she is) who checks to see if I’ve written anything new.
A note on this: there are few things sadder than an abandoned blog. I always imagine the person starting out with enthusiasm and hope, putting up a few passionate posts, and then leaving their blog to die as this gives way to the grim truth that keeping up a blog involves putting up a number of things that may not be the most exciting things to read.
This, by the way, leads to another humbling aspect of indexing my blog: the realization that there have been countless posts that aren’t particularly enthralling, and the double realization that there have been many times that I write about the same thing, over and over.
Boy, have I spent a lot of time writing about not being able to write. So many times in the morning, I wake up, fire up Scrivener (the writing program I use, which syncs up with my phone so that I can write with a Bluetooth laptop when I’m out and about), and just stare at this blank screen, no idea whatsoever in my head.
I’m fortunate in that I have a tendency to just write word after word, so at the very least, I can write about not being able to write. But it’s hard. So many times, I see, writing is just about grinding out the words, doing something that I love doing, even on days that I don’t want to do it (Michael Jordan says this is the sign of a professional, so at least I’m on to something).
I’ve also written a number of entries concerning my conviction that the writing a blog that people actually read is way different from writing that’s destined for the printed page. Yes, if I were incredibly famous, people would stand for long, multi sentence paragraphs that take up four screens, replete with long words that would score many points in a game of Scrabble.
But they will not do that when they’re reading a nobody like me. Best to keep the words simple, and the paragraphs short.
So indexing reminds me to try to find other things to write about, and, above all, it reminds me to write. It’s easy, when looking at my blog with its page of maybe ten entries tops, to miss long periods that I haven’t written anything. Now, when I see them listed there and notice those multi month gaps—or, for that matter, see essay after essay about the need to keep paragraphs short and words simple—I wince; I don’t like wincing, and now I’m motivated to stop wincing.
Yet for all those ways that indexing my blog humbles me, it also encourages me. To put it another way: it reminds me of stuff that I’ve written that was actually pretty good. And when I list everything, I reread those posts, and it’s sort of like going through old photographs and lingering on one that rekindles a long forgotten memory of a good time.
There was, for example, the essay that I wrote about Megan’s beloved deceased dog, Delilah.
There was the one about meeting a couple in Vermont with an adorable child, and talking to them about the joys of parenting (there are a couple, apparently).
There was the one about the Salem Horribles Parade.
And, of course, there were the many essays in which I dictated the words of cat Hugo, Emperor of the Apartment.
Indexing a blog makes it more than a journal…it makes a blog a reminder that I write, and get my writing out there. It’s the only way to increase my readership, and I actually noticed something the day after I did it: my page view count went up dramatically. In other words, yes, I have pretty much the same readership as I did before (both of them), but those two loyal readers actually stay at my website for a lot longer, and I was encouraged to see that they actually stopped to read some of my old posts.
So much of creativity involves cranking out work on days that no real work seems to be forthcoming. Today is such a day, when the best that I have this morning is a decidedly bland, businesslike post about indexing my journal. But I can add it to the list of things that I’ve written, and at least console myself with the simple fact that I do this, continue to do this, and must keep doing it.