I recently got a comment on one of my gaming posts from Denis Robert:
I like you JT, but these gamer posts are getting really tiresome. Can’t you start a specific gamer blog for these things? I mean, it’s real inside baseball stuff that is of no interest to most of your readers. I’m sure you’ll find enough fanboyz to give the illusion of mass interest, but really this does not belong on a blog about atheism.
I’m glad you like me, Denis. I also appreciate the honest criticism. Grateful though I am, I’m not going to stop doing gaming posts and I’ll explain why.
I was recently asked to give a talk at the SSA East conference about blogging. I looked up tips for blogging on google and I was astonished to find nothing but sites all saying the opposite of what I was planning to say: write what people want to read, put pictures in every post because it increases traffic, give stuff away because it increases traffic, etc. Each and every one of these sites treated acquiring traffic as if that is the ultimate goal of writing a blog.
It’s ironic because, although I make a living off my traffic, that’s not how I view writing (and how I urged students at my talk to avoid viewing it). The simple fact is that if your goal as a blogger is to get lots of readers and to make money, you have a better chance at becoming a professional athlete (and that is far more profitable than blogging for the select few who do make it). What’s more, it takes a long time to build up to having a decent audience even if you are one of the lucky few to get there (and I won’t deny that I am very, very lucky). If blogger fame is your goal, you will burn out writing about what other people want chasing fame and appeasing others (it should be noted that no matter what or how you write you will never appease everybody). That, and it’s not very effective. If you want fans, leak a sex tape, don’t start a blog.
The solution to avoiding the burnout of always trying to please others, I think, is to be true to yourself; to dance as if nobody was watching (because, to extend the metaphor, it’s likely that nobody but your family and friends will be watching). If you write about what interests you, to sort out your own thoughts and to entertain yourself, you will have fun whether you have two readers or two million. And when you’re having fun, you write better and those around you wind up having more fun as well.
I don’t write about atheism to please my readers (whom I love, but I won’t lie to you and tell you that I write to please you). I write about atheism because it’s on my mind. Up until meeting Michaelyn, it was the biggest part of my life, and so I write about it constantly. But I also studied music, and so I write about that from time to time. I also am afflicted with mental illness, so I write about that from time to time. Hell, sometimes I help Michaelyn bake an owl cake, so I write about that.
In the same vein, Greta Christina writes about fashion as well as atheism. PZ Myers writes about feminism as well as atheism. These other subjects help to keep us sane and helps to keep us attached to the work we do rather than looking at it as a chore. I don’t want to conform my writing to an audience – I’d rather be myself as honestly and plainly as I can be and have an audience that likes that. On the surface that may make it seem as though I’m resigning myself to never having the traffic of a blogger who actively pursues an audience as the primary goal, but that’s not correct. I know most of the most popular bloggers around the atheist blogosphere (of which I am one in terms of traffic) and can assure you that almost all of them write with this motivation in mind. It’s how they’ve blogged long enough to be big and how they keep their quality up.
Gaming is a part of what I am. It’s what I do for fun when I’m not reading about religion, giving talks, or hanging out with Michaelyn. So I’m going to keep writing about gaming when it suits me. Will everybody find it appealing? Of course not, but that isn’t the goal. If anybody finds it so tiresome that they want to go read another blog instead, more power to them. Of course, I’d love it if they could see a gaming post and think “Oh, I guess I won’t read that one” and then keep reading my atheism work. That’d be cool too.