Friday, July 25, 2014

Things I've Learned from a Daily Blog

For as many "excuses" posts as I've written, I really have been actively writing during 2014 (and before that). It's just that most of my posts were for another blog.

A few posts ago I revealed that as of July 1, I am no longer involved in the day-to-day writing for iSlaytheDragon.

When I started writing there, it was the fairly unorganized ramblings of my friend and me. By the time I left, there were six of us, and we were posting daily (and sometimes more often) about the seemingly inexhaustible topic of board games. I say "seemingly inexhaustible" because I've reached a point where there's not much more I have to say, or at least to say in a new or interesting way. But it was a good experience, albeit taxing at times. Here are some things I learned from writing for a blog that posts daily:

  • It's a lot harder to write consistently than it looks. Usually, on a blog such as this, for example, writing happens when inspiration strikes. However, in a daily blog cycle where commitments are made and the show must go on, one doesn't have the luxury of pausing for the Muse. Of course, there is a huge benefit to this. Everyone knows that good writing isn't the result of pure talent. I've known many talented writers who never write anything. It's the daily plodding of stringing words together. But still, daily writing is hard.
  • There is a lot of bad writing on the Internet. Seriously. And what's worse...
  • No one seems to care that there is a lot of bad writing on the Internet. I just don't even know what to say about this one. It's not that my writing is always top-notch. (I've phoned in my share of articles, I'm sure.) But really. If there's an argument for editorial gatekeepers and traditional publishing houses, the Internet is exhibit A. (Unfortunately, publishing is sometimes a sad reflection of the Internet. We get the reading material we deserve, I suppose.)
  • Internet rage against "scandals" makes a lot more sense. When you have to write something daily, and when you are trying to attract people to your page (for ads or leverage or whatever), you have to have something to write about. And there isn't always something to write about. I remember when I was in seventh grade my class went to the Detroit Science Museum for a field trip. I didn't know any of this happened at the time, but apparently some of my classmates made racist remarks toward another school who was at the museum for the day. Obviously, this was stupid. Obviously, they shouldn't have said such hurtful things. But it made the front page in the newspaper (and this before newspapers didn't matter). Why? Because nothing else was happening. Then, because it made the front page of the newspaper, my school made the channel 2 Wall of Shame, and some of the other newspapers in the area picked up the story. It was a mess, and granted--something did happen. But the response was completely out of proportion to the offense. (Especially since these are middle schoolers we're talking about. Middle schoolers are notorious for doing and saying dumb things.) Much of the rage on the Internet seems to me the same way. Each writer has a lens and views whatever non-event has happened as a symbol of that lens's correctness. Obviously, in a niche like board games, there's not a lot of real controversy. But brainstorming ideas of what to write about has made me better understand why the 24-hour news cycle is the way it is.
  • There is no such thing as a free lunch. I started writing for the blog as a labor of love, and I ended it much the same way. However, in between, because the blog grew in influence, we were offered "review copies"--free products in exchange for honest reviews. (Some givers are more interested in "honest" than others, unfortunately.) The misconception is that these products are free. Far from it! While it's true that receiving a free hobby product is exciting--especially when fun money funds are dried up in paying for children--there is also a huge responsibility. You have to test the product (and with games, you have to rope others into that testing), and then you have to write about the product, and you have to be fair. Writing a review (and especially taking pictures--my least favorite part) takes a lot of time. So, while getting "free" stuff is nice, I've learned that it is far from free.
  • It's fun to be part of a team. Most of what I've written here looks negative, and in some ways it is. (You're catching me when I'm relieved to be done!) But there are a lot of good things about writing for a daily blog, and the best part is the team. It's fun to write in community, especially when that community cares about the same things you do. It's fun to get involved even outside the writing community with the reading community. The community is the thing I'll miss most, I think.

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