Thinking Out Loud: So wait, blogging *is* dead?

I admit I sometimes struggle to come up with ideas for this blog. I love to write and I love riffing on ideas, but sometimes the Learned Fangirl format can be too formal for my tastes and I feel like I have to be too thoughtful and insightful, rather than just spilling out random word vomit for shits and giggles. (Hence, my previous blog post, which was a lazy report of a blog I wrote months ago, but I also did it for reference purposes) So I don’t blog for weeks because I feel like if I don’t have anything “important” to say I don’t say anything.

Blogging fatigue hits even the most passionate bloggers, and if you are a veteran blogger it hits multiple times and you have to find a way around it. The pressure increases if you’re blogging for profit, something that I have flirted with but admittedly never really pursued because of my on-and-off fatigue.

There was an article in Crain’s Chicago Business about professional bloggers who have let their blogs go dark when they either hit the fatigue point or they realize that blogging can often be more work than profit. The article cites the latest research from Pew that cites a drop in blogging teens and young adults. Part of an overall trend that indicates the death knell of blogs? Hell, I don’t know. What I do know is maybe there is a shift in how we as internet creators and users look at blogs and their role in the internet ecosystem.

But maybe more blogs are meant to be transient. I like the idea of blogs having a shelf life, so it’s not a sign of quitting or failure when a blog goes dark but just a sign that author material runs dry, cultural relevance peters out or situations just change. One day, Learned Fangirl will go dark and I am OK with that, maybe looking at certain blogs as having a publishing end date is a better way to look at the medium.

And maybe not all blogs are meant to be monetized. I admit, as an old-school blogger, it’s still weird for me to hear about people who get into blogging as a career choice. But times have changed, I know and there are lots of people building careers from their blogs, but I rather miss the serendipity of blogging without a net, SEO be damned.

I really do sound like an old person, I know, longing for the old days of internet culture where anonymity and random self expression ruled the day, but I really think we will see a return to this, as dreams of internet fame and fortune fade away and the desire to share a passion is the only reward.

And hopefully this will be the last time I blog about blogging and TLF will return to regularly scheduled fangirl musings.

Thinking Out Loud: But I’m not a “personal brand!” I’m a person!*

I am pretty sure this post is navel-gazing. I don’t care.

I’ve been blogging for about 10 years. Holy crap. My life has changed both a lot and very little since I started. I don’t blog as often as I’d like, but when I do it, it always feels like home.

I’m a writer, even when I am not writing for money or even an audience. I blog to get things out, creatively, emotionally, whenever I need to. I’ve met great lifelong friends because of it, I’ve gotten a couple of jobs and numerous unpaid speaking gigs because of it. I fell into my current career in part because of it. So yeah, I owe blogging a lot, and I’ve never been ashamed to call myself a blogger, even back in the days when “real journalists” would sheepishly mutter the word “blogger” under their breath.

I attended the Blogalicious conference this past summer. Very cool , passionate people here and it was nice to take the time to recharge and remember why I am doing this in the first place. As my friend Maura says, it’s about community, and connecting and expression, that’s at least why I started blogging. I wanted to write and maybe have other people read it. When I come to a conference like this, though, and people ask “hey, what is your blog about” I usually answer: “I dunno. Stuff.” And then the “personal brand” discussion starts up and I tend to wig out a little.

I struggle daily with the gray area between my personal and professional life online. There is still quite a bit I don’t share regularly online, I do save such detailed information for my actual friends, and despite the fact that I blog, that I’m on Twitter, etc. I still consider myself to be a very private person and a bit of a wallflower, which I am OK with. So being in a position where I deliberately present a public presence, doesn’t come naturally to me.

I do things online to connect with my friends, and I am happy and excited to make new ones, but when I think about what I do personally being consumed by an “audience” and thinking of it as such, it still makes me uncomfortable. It freaks me out to think that present and future employers may be checking out the times when I live-tweet a Converge show or publicly ogle Dolph Lundgren or snark about the emo geek boys on OK Cupid or fret over my family or talk about bourbon.

Yet, here I am, doing it.

But (especially with Twitter) my personal use morphed and evolved into a professional use so quickly and so organically that there was never an opportunity for me to comfortably separate those two sides of my life. Also, I can’t really separate those sides of my life. Many of my professional colleagues are also trusted friends. For example, I started a “professional” Facebook account for the sole purpose of managing Facebook fan pages. Two of my friends found me in a half hour. D’OH!

Now I know some people may be reading this like “whatever social media so-and-so. Tough life, navel-gazer, Go check-in to Foursquare or something.”

Fine, fair enough. But the convergence of my professional/social life was not something that I thought I was getting into when I started getting into web design and blogging a zillion years ago. And that convergence is happening to us all, I think. For today’s babies and toddlers, an online persona is being created for them before they are even old enough to decide if they want one. But for those who work in the so-called “social media space” it is expected to be out there on some level. To be”genuine” and “real” and craft a specific “personal brand.” (Man, that’s a lot of quotation marks)

So, once again, just thinking out loud, but I’ve been continually struggling with this for awhile now and trying to figure out how to continue doing the work that I do, express myself creatively while still maintaining my sense of self for the real life people I care about.

*ironically, this was originally posted at my personal blog

Music Criticism in a Social Media World

One of my go-to book purchases at the end of the year is the DeCapo Best Music Writing anthology. There’s no way for me to keep up with all the excellent music writing out there – in print and online – and I trust the editors of this anthology to clue me in on what I may have missed.

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that more and more of the selections for the book have come from blogs – not just webzine-style blogs, either, but personal blogs. It’s a nice nod to all the underemployed professional music writers who continue to write on their own and also to fans and non-professional music writers who have a strong writing voice. One of the things I enjoy about the series is that it doesn’t privilege professional writers just because they have an official byline from a print publication behind their name, all are lauded for the strength of their writing, regardless of the publishing format.

But these days, even blogging seems a bit old-school and slow moving in an environment where music news routinely breaks and occurs on Twitter. (Of course, there are dangers to the format, as proven by the misinformation merry-go-round that surrounded R&B singer Teena Marie’s death in December.)

This past December, the Village Voice awarded the title of Music Critic of the Year to @discographies, an anonymous Twitter account that sums up the music careers of an artist within Twitter’s 140 characters of less format. Some traditionalists balked, but the recognition is valid. @discographies manages to sum up in 140 characters of less what some music writers can’t manage in a book, while staying witty and opinionated.

I am embarrassed to admit that I haven’t yet finished all of DeCapo’s Best Music Writing 2010, yet I read @discographies daily, in addition to other music twitter feeds and blogs. As much as I respect and enjoy the craft of long form music writing, the quickly digestable online nuggets of music criticism are what I gravitate to more often these days. I don’t think that the rise of short-form music writing has to come at the expense of traditional music writing, in fact, I think there’s an opportunity for broader discussion and sharing among music fans and critics. The voice behind @discographies agrees, saying:

Music criticism is part of the lifeblood of Twitter: every second of every day, people are out there psychoanalyzing Kanye or raving about Cee-Lo or going to a show and tweeting “jeez, Malkmus looks bored tonight.”  I  think Twitter is a new kind of vessel for delivering content; maybe even a transformative one. And one of the nice things about it is its neutrality: it’s as well suited to music criticism as it is to sharing recipes or storytelling or the (allegedly) funny remarks that were (supposedly) uttered by someone’s dad.

The concept of crowd-sourced  music criticism/journalism really appeals to me. I’ve been on Twitter while some of my friends and acquaintances have been at the same concert. To follow their passionate, sometimes contradictory reports [“Amazing Baby is rocking the house tonight!”/”I hate everything about Amazing Baby] gives me the kind of “fan’s eye view” that a review from Greg Kot can’t re-create.  Twitter music criticism isn’t taking the place of print, but extending the life of that criticism farther and faster than previously imagined.