It's weird writing a first blog post when you're already a talented blogger. I don't like false modesty. The reason I've shut down three consecutive blogs in three consecutive years is that each one got more popular than I felt comfortable writing for. And the reason each one got popular is that I'm a fascinating person and a compelling writer. I don't see why I'd have changed in the last nine months.
I grew up writing on the Internet. I started posting online the same year I wrote my first decent short story, 2003. I can write an eight-page essay in twenty-five minutes because I learned how to compose my thoughts quickly during forum flamewars. This is my home.1
Awkward firstbabble excised. Let's get interesting.
I hate monitoring traffic. It makes me close to nauseous. Days that my blog traffic spiked, I'd feel airy and inattentive. Days my blog had no traffic, I'd feel depressed, real depressed. I would wonder if maybe two days ago I'd written the last interesting thing I would ever write. I'd tell myself to start sending out retail applications. When I'm presented with a metric, no matter how ridiculous, I find it hard not to judge myself by it.
I'm in advertising for a reason: I believe that empathy is a noble art. Learning to communicate better means not wasting people's time and not wasting your own potential. I don't always know if my thoughts are worth a damn, but if they are I'd like people to know them and if they aren't I'd like them to help me get better. It's a selfless craft, in a way, because it forces you to admit to yourself that your whim matters less than your audience. You make yourself come closer to others, and in the process learn how to bring other people closer to you.
What blows about online stat monitoring is that it's so good. You can teach yourself how to write a compelling post on the Internet in less than two years if you keep checking to see what's drawing traffic and what's not. It's a pretty basic formula. Don't sprawl, don't be cutesy; strive for humor, humility, and cleverness. Learn basic typesetting, because if your text is ugly people assume your thoughts are ugly. Break stories; if stories are broken, then break thoughts about the stories. When you're writing about personal interests, figure out how to connect your passions to your audience's life. Don't ever write about yourself unless you're writing something honest and vulnerable. People always know when it's not.
But what traffic doesn't tell you is how much your writing means to yourself. Traffic can't tell you how you're going to find happiness. It doesn't know when you're trying to grow as a person. The things I wrote that meant the most to me were rarely the things that my readers responded to. So I resented my stats, for seemingly telling me that the parts of me that I cared about weren't the parts of me that other people cared about. I resented my readers for what I perceived as their callow shallowness.
I retired three blogs in three years when each grew popular, because I hated that the me that was popular wasn't the me I wanted to become. I didn't want to market myself unless the image of myself I marketed was what I felt I actually was.
It's a delicious paradox. To be good at selling the things you don't want to sell, while not knowing how to begin selling what you feel you ought to be selling. I'd delight in it more if I wasn't also looking to make a living as a creative salesperson. Every time I followed my heart I hurt my hope for a career. Every time I focused on selling things, I felt like I was betraying my potential. It's a painful conflict, and one that I haven't resolved. I don't even know how to begin trying to resolve it.2
Since last summer, I've been playing around a lot with the concept of lenses in my online art, because I think they're a potential solution. The idea of a lens is that it takes what you're doing already and somehow makes it more commercially viable. You don't compromise on the art; instead you create venues with certain perspectives that appeal to certain audiences, then push your work to the venues that would buy the new thing you're selling.
I've also been focusing more on collaboration. Friendship. Love. You know what, I've got a conceptual investment in my art, but that doesn't mean that I want my art to just talk about myself. (Exception: this blog.) I see art as a way of connecting with people on interesting levels. And my friends are just the best people. Even my friends' friends are pretty damn neat. I want to play with them. I want to jam with them. I want to be inside them and I want them inside me.
My first summertime idea was to literally split myself into multiple pseudonyms, and key each name to a collaboration with a different friend. Marcus Bluwater was the guy who worked with my college friends. Chuck Bronson was the more traditional Tumblr-using guitar-playing poet-photographer. (I didn't know there was an actor named Charles Bronson; I was trying to make a cute reference to Charlie Brown.) My online collaborations would be released as the anonymous collective ReDeeMe. But that idea would have taken a lot of effort, and the result would have been a lot of identities that looked a lot like people online that I dislike. I scrapped it.
The three lenses I'm working with now interest me much more. I don't want to talk about them until they exist and you can look at them, but one's decidedly more "corporate", and two are closer to traditional art collectives than anything. They've taken a lot of thought and revision, both for me and for my collaborating friends, but I'm proud of them. I'd rather take my time and make them right then rush them out and hate them and delete them right away.
I'm also working on a sort of parodic "personal lens", for the proper Rinich site. I want my identity page online to be a send-up of identity pages. It'll be fun. I'm debating whether or not I want to use my Rorgy Manwich stripper name as one of the identities. (Well, not whether or not I want to, but whether or not I could have a Rorgy Manwich page and still find work.) In the meantime I'm trying to get all of my talented photographer friends to take some ridiculously biased photography of me and start selling myself as a sex icon. I think it's stupid to sell yourself as sexy; but I also think it's stupid to sell yourself as smart or successful. If I'm going to sell my mind I figure I'll sell my pretty eyes as well.
My first plan for a new Rinich blog was this: I wanted to call it Rory-the-many, and have it always be about three topics at once. But I would have the freedom to change any of the three topics at any time, mainly to piss off people who'd subscribe to my RSS feed looking for a certain kind of writing.
Then I started thinking about the blogs of my youth. Blogs that really were personal blogs and not marketing gimmicks. Bloggers nowadays are remarkably talented; but I feel like they all settle into niches, categorize the content of their posts, establish themselves as a kind of something so we know whether or not we want to buy them. Maybe it's just that all the good bloggers know who they are when they start to write. But my favorite kind of blog is still the kind that one person writes, and they write about anything they want to write, and they write as well as they can, and then they post it. And then nobody reads it. But maybe this one will be different.
I think I'm just going to keep a blog where I write about myself. If I want to write about music, or dating, or poetry, or politics, or board games, I'll write about it. If I've got an idea for a post that I think will sell well, I'll write it and sell it and not worry about how it looks in context with the rest of my work.
And I'm feeling like I want to experiment with the blog format. I think that I'll design a new theme for every post. I really enjoyed the way I made Tumblr themes last year, where I'd take an idea or a feeling and dump a certain image of the Internet online for everybody to see. My new professional design work is going to have to be an order of magnitude greater, so I feel like it would be nice to have an outlet where I can just make the Internet look however I want when I'm feeling playful. And it'll let me experiment with new writing forms, too. Reading Roberto Bolaño's excellent 2666, where the style of writing abruptly shifts every chapter, makes me want to play with my writing more without there necessarily being a "concept" to the change in form.
Soon maybe I'll write about how I'm currently inspired by a few master French clowns and their writings on improvisation, learning how to find joy and beauty in the spontaneous movement, but this is a nicely challenging length for a first post anyway. I'm gonna wrap it up and see how it airs.
Playful. Personal. Boundless.
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1 Please wipe your feet.
2 Sorry, by the way, if it's irritating to be fretting about career and potential when I'm a twenty-year-old who hasn't entirely started searching for either, but I can't help thinking about who I could have been. I could have been rich by now if I pushed in that direction. I could have been wiser and more moral. I could have been ten pounds thinner and had a prettier ass.
For the most part I'm happy with the balance I've struck, but sometimes I worry that being "unfocused/lacks direction" will lead to me being poor, unhealthy, and too stressed to worry about being good. Something about eating cakes and having them. Or maybe just a lifetime of losing games of Hearts to Mom's extended family.