7. a weird feeling about blogging lately.

i’ve been a blogger for six and a half years, which is long enough for the word “blog” to have left a sour taste in my mouth for two-thirds of those years.  i’ve seen trends come and go, i’ve seen people come and go, and somehow i’ve managed to outlast most of the coming and going.  i don’t regret any time i’ve spent on this site at all, though i do wish i could stop beginning so many sentences with I.

when i started bluishorange i did so for three reasons:

a.  at the time i was a web designer.  i’d kept sites on geocities and xoom before, which was where i’d developed an interest in the web in the first place, but i didn’t have a personal site then.  as a professional web designer who loved what i did for a living, i felt i should have my own website.  in fact, i had (and still have) a healthy suspicion of any web designer who didn’t have their own website.

b.  blogging seemed to me to be as good a way as any to get myself to write on a regular basis.  i’ve loved writing for as long as i can remember; in elementary school i vacillated between wanting to be a nurse like my mom and wanting to be a poet.  my elementary-school poetry was, of course, terrible.  i have a vivid memory of a particularly boring sunday church service during which i worked very hard to come up with a way to rhyme “steak” and “snake.”  one of my childhood poems still pops into my head from time to time:

i know a little old lady
her glue she doesn’t waste
for all she wants to do with it
is make it into paste

apparently i had a gift for meter if not content.  senior year of high school, my english teacher had us write a ten-minute journal entry once a week.  every monday she would time us while we tried to put our angst down on paper in a teacher-friendly format.  after five minutes had passed, i could feel my other classmates growing restless and bored, but when the ten minutes were up, i was always still writing.  the teacher graded our journals on participation and effort, but mine always came back with “what an interesting life!” written in the margins.

(that english teacher was at my ten-year high school reunion last month.  i sincerely regret not thanking her for the ten-minute journals.)

after high school i didn’t lose my love for writing, but outside of the odd journal entry or occasional poem, i didn’t really do it much.  when i heard about blogging, i though it as good an opportunity as any to hone my writing skills.

c.  i read weblogs for about four months before starting my own.  i knew all about blogger and pyra and the people who worked there, i read metafilter religiously, and i was constantly checking my favorite blogs for updates.  everyone was smart and funny and real, and i wanted to do what they were doing.  they seemed so much like me.  they were my people.

so in february 2000 i started bluishorange, with a design that prominently featured a photo of a fish in a blender.  all the reasons i started in the first place still apply to some degree: i still think web designers should have their own websites, i’m a better writer than i was before i started, and to say that i’ve met some wonderful people is an understatement.

but it’s different now, isn’t it?  i’m not going to be one of those people who talks about how much better blogging was before we let the riff-raff in.  it’s an antiquated debate, and anyway one of the things i’ve always loved about blogging is that the tools one uses for it tear down barriers to entry by design.  there are, however, a lot of weblogs out there now, so many that it’s become harder to find good new ones to read, and harder still to build one’s own readership.

the weird feeling i’ve been having about blogging lately is jealousy.  there are so many sites out there that are more popular, more successful than my own, so much so that they support their owners financially.  are those people better writers, better marketers than i am?  are they more diligent? (yes.)  or are they just flat-out better?

jealousy is always an embarrassing emotion to admit to, but there it is.  and it’s definitely jealousy.  but i’m more jealous of the attention than anything else, because whenever i ask myself if i want to be a blogger for a living, the answer is always no.  i started this site to hone my writing skills not for blogging but for something else.  my goal in life is not to have some post from 2003 in a web-writing anthology, and it’s definitely not to make my readers’ eyes bleed with flashy banner ads.  there’s not anything inherently wrong with those things (except maybe the latter), but they’re not my ultimate goal.

no, what i want is something more tangible.  as i once said to andy, “the best things are held together with toothpicks and tape.”  i want my name on the spine of an actual book, one that’s written by alison headley, not one that’s written by the author of bluishorange.  i want to hold my book in my hands; i want to open it and smell that book smell, the smell of ink and paper and glue.