Monday, October 29, 2007

A Truly Humbling Experience

Just a couple of years ago, which in Internet speak is like 2 centuries ago, setting up a blog and getting it going was a bit more difficult than it is today, but on the other hand much less intimidating. Today you need a plan and a way of implementing it. You need to find a niche to be able to take your blog from out of the slimy morass of millions of others, and write about something that is of interest to many people and not just yourself.

I was at an engagement party the other day where someone I know well, wanted to discuss blogging. To be honest I was not in the mood - when I leave my house, or I am finished with blogs for the day - I do not want to deal with them anymore. This person told me that one blog they had set up was the good ole topic "how to make money on the Internet". I rolled my eyes of course but kept my remarks to that type of blog basically civil.

Then at the same party, not a few minutes later, I was cornered by someone I did not really know, begging me to explain in great detail the process of how to get published. You see this woman had of course an incredible manuscript that would sell millions of copies. "Was it done?" I asked. "Oh no" she answered laughing. "It is all in my head, but I could write it in one month! I just need someone to give me a good contract." I laughed and it was a good thing she did not understand I was laughing at her and certainly not with her. I naively asked, "Are you serious?" and she said "Of course I am." Then she proceeded to ramble on and on about this book of hers. I interrupted as soon as it was polite to do so, and told her the Internet was a great place to start to get information on what to do with her book "that would sell millions of copies even though it was not written and still only in her head", and made for the exit with my son.

Yet in truth, when I look at blogs out there and the plethora of "required" add-ins just to get your blog noticed when it is new, it is truly intimidating. Of course you start off with Technorati, (the use and value of which I am not convinced of even after a year). Then comes the RSS feeds, mostly supplied by the excellent FeedBurner site, the value of which I am 100% convinced is necessary and critical to any new blog not written by a celebrity. Of course there is Blog Rush, and Blog Catalog, and Digg and Stumble Upon and delicious and statistics and on and on and on. The list of "necessary" enhancements and tools grows by the day.

One site which I truly never understood is Stumble Upon. And yet, when I examine my statistics for this blog and Help! I Have A Fire In My Kitchen, I find from time to time, tens of entries being made from Stumble Upon. So finally I decided to take a close look at it, and though I walked away still not understanding the attraction, it proved to be a truly humbling experience.

At Stumble Upon you can download a toolbar (either for FireFox or for IE). Since I use FireFox I took that add-on. Then with the toolbar you can mark off topics that are of interest to you and go "stumbling" on web sites and blogs that are about that topic. So I chose books, cooking and writing and began to stumble.

I thought I was well aware of the numbers of people that blog about cooking, so discovering there were thousands upon thousands of blogs did not at all surprise me. Help! I Have A Fire In My Kitchen was started as a lark and a hobby for a specific niche. And in the year since it has been up I have met many, many others who blog about food.

What was humbling though, was the number of web-sites devoted to and about writing and books. The list of writers and authors who have begun blogs, some to just showcase their work (which is a big big mistake) and others to write reviews etc. was endless. I stumbled from one blog to another often finding the blog had been abandoned or just left to wallow in the Internet soup for dying sites.

It was humbling to discover so many thousands (and probably tens if not hundreds of thousands) of people all blogging, web-siteing (my made-up word) and otherwise Interneting (another made-up word) over the same topics over and over again.

I always said that the old joke "If you throw a rock in Jerusalem, you will either hit a lawyer or a cat" should be changed to "If you throw a rock in Jerusalem, you will either hit a would-be writer or a cat". It seems the Internet too is populated by many many many would-be writers. When you think of it, no matter what the subject of a blog or forum is about, hell, you have to write something!

So many dreams and so many broken dreams. It is hard to wrap your mind around it. People who feel the need to write, to express themselves. Sometimes the dream is so overpowering they are taken in by scams and pay their last cent to see it come alive. Which is sad I admit. Very sad, and yet very humbling.

I began to wonder last night at how powerful these personal dreams can be. I am not talking about peace on earth or an end to war or an end to poverty. I am talking simply about each individual's personal, private dream. How so many end up being dashed. How we sometimes dream and wish for the wrong things and for all the wrong reasons. So much wasted effort at times.

So here is a piece of advice one can find written a million times in the byways of the Internet. It is not new nor is it something recently discovered. One small piece of advice. If you want to write a book, a story or just your own memoirs (ugh! not another memoir!) first write it. First see if you can write. Then see if anyone is actually going to like your writing enough to pay for it. And believe me, that second step is really hard.

Dreams are a dime a dozen. So dream about what you have talent for. Otherwise well, you are hoping for the wrong thing in the wrong place in the wrong time. Wasted effort and wasted talent which should be applied elsewhere. And if you must write, if that inner urge wont let you sleep, if it haunts you all the time and you must write, then go that route. Just know it will usually be incredibly lonely and frustrating and full of agony, unless you turn out to be the next golden author. But novels and books are not written in your head. No one will buy words never written that are jumping around in your head. You need a pen, paper and computer and a great deal of patience and aspirin. So don't knowingly set yourself up for failure.

Otherwise you may as well start another blog and call it something unique, like, "How To Make Money On The Internet".

Posted On: Cobwebs Of The Mind

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