Happy 4th Anniversary, Pottersvillians
Well, neither Pottersville is four years old but I just realized that I began blogging four years ago today. And what a long, strange trip it's been. Between all three blogs, I've gotten around two and a half million hits, created a couple of thousand posts, written perhaps half a million words (or about 4 full-length novels) and have not only kept my writing muscles flexed but have educated myself on more subjects than I can count.
When I started four years ago today, I wrote a post about Kerry having to use the media as part of his campaign strategy while Bush didn't have to. A buddy of mine who'd guided me through the process said if you wanna get known, drop a permalink on some of the A list sites and see what happens. It's a horrible and irritating habit that's gotten me lambasted on Glenn Greenwald's blog even when I wasn't leaving any comments. Still, if you want to get known, you can't rely on Google blog searches. You have to put your blog name and URL out there so people can have a shortcut.
By the time I'd begun blogging, I thought I'd be a natural. After all, I was already a seasoned writer. I'd already more or less completed three novels and had published poetry and satire in "little" magazines, anthologies and even a couple of Houghton Mifflin textbooks. But when I quickly realized who the big dogs were, I understood that I was in out of my depth. Blogging, especially political blogging, is a legitimately unique literary discipline. Perhaps not an art form but definitely a legit subgenre of nonfiction.
Eventually I found my sea legs and developed not a style but several styles of venting my spleen, concerns and withering contempt for what I saw as a clearcut subversion of the Constitution and even an undermining of our cherished democracy. I took potshots at both Democrats and Republicans and even my fellow lefty bloggers. But through it all, I did it my way no matter how many toes I stepped on along the way.
And the learning curve that I'd gradually climbed was not an end but a means to an end that was symptomatic of my growing political mania and obsession. Some days I'd spent over eight hours a day blogging and researching. The idea of blogging became more precious to me than any of my posts. I have said many times and will say again that I've never written a blog post that I'd want to see between covers (and the abrupt deletion of my first two blogs is brutal proof of that). Political blogging, especially, is a topical and highly perishable medium, a discipline in which things change with, literally, lightning fast rapidity.
I wrote my first post and the next three that same day, one of them about the first of what would prove to be three Iraqi elections that were to be held the next day. I recall writing and worrying about who among our troops would be killed trying to maintain security for elections that were, stupidly and recklessly, held in a Muslim country that was still very unstable.
I'd like to think that, in the last four years, I've made some small difference. I've gotten a few people to sign petitions, a few others to donate money to worthy causes and maybe influenced a vote or two over the last two elections. Not only did I keep my writing muscles toned, I've also learned the value of sourcing, the true intelligence level of my typical reader and think I know when to cut loose with snark and when to play it straight. There aren't many bloggers whom I look up to but I'm barely smart enough to know who my betters are (D r i f t g l a s s, the Rude Pundit, Hunter at Daily Kos and precious few others make me want to be a better blogger.).
But as I'm sure several of my readers are painfully aware, my hubris and desire for a wider audience impels me to ask time and again why I keep beating my head against the wall, shouting down empty wells and tilting at windmills. This third and newest blog, even on the rare occasion it gets major linkage, has still never cracked 2000 hits and blog posts over which I labor for days, even weeks, get completely ignored while Crooks and Liars or Buzzflash will link to a post on which I'd devoted maybe a half hour or less. It drives me crazy.
I'm a local kook in my own family because of my increasingly strident political stances and even in the bluest district of the bluest state of an increasingly blue country I can still find myself at a dinner table with ignorant right wing lunatics and racists (but I'm being tautological) and I sometimes feel like Jesse Jackson at a Klan rally.
I do not apologize for educating myself in matters such as constitutional law, the media, US history, presidential lore, the legislative process, knowing who's who. I pride myself on knowing what I know now. Four years ago, I literally wouldn't have recognized Karl Rove if I shared an elevator with him. Nowadays, name any member of congress and chances are I'll be able to tell you what state or district they represent and even who'd donated to their campaigns without having to run to Google.
Will I ever be a big dog? Not a fucking chance, even if I sell my novel for a zillion dollars. Too many people hate me and when it's time to start nominating blogs for awards whatever place in which I'm bloviating is probably literally the last place anyone will think of. Which is fine. I didn't get into this business to win awards that don't mean jack shit in the meat world. Sure, recognition and some appreciation would go a long way but that's ancillary. It's always been about getting people to think, feel and making more informed choices on election day. In short, getting the other 99% of the adult population to care again.
For the most part, my personal education aside, I consider the last four years and the countless thousands of hours I've spent in bloggerdom to be an utter waste of time and a failure. I wish I'd never gotten involved in blogging and also wish I'd written American Zen and those other three novels years ago. But any longterm failure is really more a reflection of the petty politics of political blogging and the cloistered, clannish community of the A listers who regularly listen in on conference calls with the likes of Ted Kennedy and visit Bill Clinton in his Harlem office. (Did you know that the A listers have their own secret email list that excludes the rest of us?).
Fuck 'em all, I say. I was never an A lister, not even a B lister 99.9% of the time but I'm damned proud that I held their feet to the fire and tried to keep them honest. Most of them don't deserve superstar status or access to the political elite or the mainstream media. I didn't get in to this to get my puss plastered on TV or win useless awards that will not one iota improve my lot in life. I got into this dirty, thankless game to get people to think, rethink and maybe to start blogs of their own, to show them through my example that sometimes, for brief periods of time, blogging can actually transcend mere wordsmithing into something in which we can be proud, in offering a tiny slice of the world a tiny slice of a human mind, a mind forever incomplete but in a continual, Protean state of neverending education.
And for those who've been on the wild ride and long, strange trip with me, I thank you and curse you when I want to throw in the fucking towel and a kind, encouraging word from a few won't let me and pull me back in. Of course, it's not you who pull me back in: It's really me getting myself off the floor.