Monday, February 7, 2011

Missed Anniversary

Six days ago, Too XYZ turned a year old. Yes, it was on February 1, 2010 that I first introduced this blog to the world, as part of my new social media presence. And the day went by with nary a mention from me.

Why didn't I make a big to-do about it then? It's often part of my personality to be sentimental. Is it because I no longer care about this blog? That's not it at all. The truth is, I didn't really think about it. I suppose I had a vague sense that somewhere around this time last year I launched Too XYZ, but I was never motivated to find the exact date.

I should, I suppose, have written an assessment of what I learned during the first year of doing this blog. What could improve and what is good about it. Thank people who made it happen. Compare the reality with what my aspirations were. Express my goals and visions for the second year of the blog.

But in the end, I didn't, nor do I plan to. I don't feel it would serve a purpose.

For one thing, the excitement of milestones may not be novel enough for me as a blogger and writer. I experienced, and have celebrated the chronological milestones of my other, older blog, Always Off Book. That blog was five years old by the time I even started this one, and so I had already proven to myself and others that I do have it in me to sustain and regularly update a blog for an extended period of time. Doing so for this one is something of which I am proud to a certain degree, but I have in a sense already been there and done that.

Not to mention the fact that I think it would be somewhat ironic if not hypocritical  for me to celebrate the one year anniversary of this blog, which is dedicated to those who do not fit into the mold, by rolling out one of the most conventional, status quo driven types of posts. This blog hasn't been conventional from the start, why make it so now?

However I feel the biggest reason I didn't consciously think of celebrating this milestone is that that my views on social media, as well as the nature of using it for personal gain have changed in the year this blog has been up. Not everything is different, but I have come to realize that it is only by embracing the status quo, kissing a little ass, and following all of the trends, suggestions, fads, and conventional wisdom that a blog can actually become the sort of idea depot on the scale I had envisioned a year ago. A very well meaning friend once actually suggestted to me that perhaps it was time for me to make the blog "more conventional" in tone, not realizing how that would counter act the raison d'etre of Too XYZ.

You see, I am still a content driven minimalist with little to no desire to hire outside consultants to "whip this blog into shape". I'd still rather spend my time writing and coming up with content to share with others then learning code, taking classes in marketing, and buying the latest e-book from "Super Blog Guy!" It isn't that I have no desire to work hard, (a sin of which many have accused me). It's that I have come to realize that taking these steps emphasize style over substance too much.

It isn't that this has to be so, as many stylish blogs have decent content. The balance is there. But I find the slope to be a slippery one.

Several blogs that started out at about the same time as this one, or even later, have gone on to become, or at least are on their way to becoming semi-famous. Perhaps even bringing in a passive income for their writers. I know some of these writers, and even advised some of them early on. I follow them on Twitter and are their fans on Brazen Careerist. And when they first started out I was drawn to the up-start, personal, passionate nature of their posts. Blogging from the gut on a minimalist platform. Granted, few were as minimalist as Too XYZ, but they were small time web sites with big time ideas and attitude.

I am sad to report that more than a few of them have hopped on that "blogging rockstar" train. They have spruced up their templates. They have hired web designers and marketing people. Their Google reader feeds are stuffed to the brim with subscriptions to the Seth Godins and Chris Gui...(what's his name?) and that ilk. They are in constant search for bigger blogs to which they can guest post. All in the name of spreading their ideas to a wider audience. To get on the map, as it were.

They have met with varying degrees of success. I won't lie and say there is no envy on my part. It is particularly aggravating because they are getting picked up by bigger blogs for guest posts, winning awards, and generally being far luckier than I am, even though in the end what they do isn't that different from what I do. Forgive me if I don't fall into, "you should be happy for the success of everyone around you, even if you are not succeeding" crowd.

Yet that occasional envy is tempered by a realization that came to me in this last year. I've come to realize that a lot of steps that these contemporaries took were in some ways selling out. There, I said it. I would never name names, especially since I think they are all decent people. And I can't blame them for wanting to be famous sooner as opposed to later. Maybe they really can help more people that way. But as far as the gritty, personal, passionate and original, content driven nature of their blogs...the very things that drew me to read their work in the first place? It is in many cases decreased. I won't say eliminated totally, because some originality is still there in a few of them. But it has become clear that marketing, presence and social proof won out the day with them, as opposed to allowing content to speak for itself. All of it made sadder by the fact that once upon a time they, like me, were satisfied with content being the focus. They seemed like my kindred spirits in the blogosphere. Perhaps at the time they were.

Which is probably why this blog is not huge after a year. And probably why it shall never be so, barring some other unexpected event. My posts have been mentioned by some pretty big name people off and on, but never with a lasting impact on the popularity and influence of this blog, or my web presence. Probably because, in the end such things had no influence on the nature of this blog either. I just didn't do what the majority told me to do with such moments. I continued to just do what I did, both then, when it caught the eye of the movers and shakers early on, and now, as it seems to catch fewer and fewer eyes as time goes on.

Conclusion? It shouldn't surprise you to hear me word it thus, but (personally) I am Too XYZ to turn Too XYZ (the blog) into some marketer's wet dream. I know what most people would do, because I hear people chew me out pretty regularly for not doing it. I basically lost a friend because of how pissed they were I wasn't being more conventional. So I can repeat the advice back to all the world quite well by now.

Every time I hit on an idea or position that people comment on passionately, I am supposed to write an e-book. Every time a post of mine is mentioned somewhere, I am supposed to mention it somewhere else. I am supposed to go out and find umpteen million followers so that when I ask the so called "big dogs" for a chance to guest post, they can perform a cost benefit analysis on me and see a reason to combine the notoriety with Too XYZ, with the notoriety of their own blog. And my own obscurity is based on my being lazy, and...oh lord you get the idea. So the cycle goes, as oft this blog hath shown.

My alternative is to keep saying what I say, in the manner in which I say it. Sharing these posts with people, and hoping they will start reading. Or start reading again as the case may be. Commenting on the blogs that have the sort of spirit I admire, and going else where when I find they no longer speak to me. Accepting that my ideas based, content driven, CW defying modes operandi is in all likelihood just not going to ever be anything that sets the more visible section of the internet world on fire.

That's because I don't work in fire. I don't have a torch. Or a gun, or a knife. I am no ninja, guru, or rockstar. What I am is a guy with a hammer, beating his way in slow, laborious fashion through many things: The mountainous rocks of collective bullshit. The iron gates of pre-determined privilege and influence. The accumulative barnacles of the status quo encrusted on the bow of my humble skiff as it inefficiently wades through a somewhat turbulent ocean of sameness. A skiff which may or may not one day catch a wave that takes me to the gleaming but fickle shores of internet fame.

A year (and six days) into this experiment, it is still my hope that my ideas, my thoughts, and yes even my controversies have made people think. Given them ideas. Inspired them in some way. And most of all, encouraged those who fit into no mold to go form a mold of their own, either online or offline. My desire to somehow achieve this service on a larger scale remains. But if it cannot be done by continuing to operate according to my own sense of style and marketing, I suppose in the end I don't want to do it.

My main thrust here at Too XYZ is to keep swinging that hammer. And if you've ever done such work before, you know that stopping what you are doing can kill your progress. You must keep up the momentum of the swinging, swinging, swinging, so that inertia doesn't take over and stop you. I can't stop that work to take time to make myself a rock star. I have to keep going.

Which in the end is why I have ignored my latest milestone.

Where is fancy bread? In the heart, or in the head?

1 comment:

Scrollwork said...

Ty, I will read you. I will read you regularly because your voice is rare, and it is drowned out by the noise created by those rockstar gurus I so detest.

Now I wanna be transparent here, I'm still subscribed to Seth and Chris and they're not among those I loathe, but like you I've determined to keep my blog about the content, and by golly if it stays small it stays small. I am not holding giveaways or content curating or posting pictures in lieu of thoughts (although thought-provoking pictures with accompanying thoughts are OK).

Your image of wielding a hammer made me think of a story I heard and used in a speech I wrote back when I was a speechwriter for a campus prez:

God told a man to push with all his might against a boulder. Day in, day out for years, he did. It never budged. He got to see God one day and asked him what the point of all that was. God said, "The boulder didn't change. You did."