Sunday, June 17, 2012
The Traditional First Year Anniversary Gift Is Paper, So Send Checks
This blog, Wicked Awesomology, has hit the one year mark, so I’m going to do what so many other media entities do on a significant anniversary: toss out a retrospective episode. It’s either that or put together something entirely new, and frankly, that sounds like work to me.
Wicked Awesomology started as nothing more than a personal creative outlet for me. I had no real long-range plan for it beyond its merely being a place for me to flex my dubious writing muscles and do some frivolous stuff while working on longer, more serious pieces offline for publishing purposes. To use a music metaphor, posting to this blog for me was to be like a rock band doing nightclub performances between recording sessions on their new album. (For you younger readers, you may have to Google the terms “rock band” and “album”. I’ll be over here weeping copiously for the future while you do so.)
As fate would have it, I started taking my Twitter account (@countofbluecars) seriously at about the very same time I started Wicked Awesomology, and my blog posts became frequent fodder for Tweets. And it all took off from there. My readership started to grow, and after a time it got to the point where people would contact me with questions if I went too long between posts. After a while, I ran out of good excuses. One can only use “the cat threw up on my keyboard” so many times before skeptics call you on it, I’ve found. So I more or less committed to a weekly posting schedule, and things have continued to grow.
What follows are some behind-the-scenes tidbits about Wicked Awesomology.
Where the name came from:
“Wicked awesome” is an expression that has been used by kids in Maine since I was very young, and probably even before that. I’ve heard that it has spread to use by some people beyond the borders of the state in recent years, but it remains a statement of the superlative here as it always has. Along with “cool” and “gross”, it is probably my longest-used slang term, and seemed well-suited for the name of a blog that aspires to be “wicked awesome”.
Most popular post:
To go by the statistics, the most popular post is The Accidental Coffee, written last winter. Because I post on Blogger, which is a subsidiary of Google, the contents of blogs often turn up in Google searches. “Coffee” and “funny” are wildly popular search terms, and somehow my blog post got caught up in the slipstream of those terms and piled up a bunch of hits. Things subsided when I took down the photos I posted to accompany it, which apparently were driving a lot of the traffic. I’d love to think that all those people were looking to read the post, but, come on. Who would I be kidding?
Quite a few of the posts on Wicked Awesomology rate especially high with me. Adrian and the Cannibal’s Internet Connection is special because it was the first piece of fiction I’ve thrown out there on the blog, and fiction writing is my thing. Heartbeat City Here We Come is one of my more introspective pieces and taps a side of me that I don’t let out in my writing often enough. And Eye Cooties was fun because it allowed me to make a mountain out of molehill in a way that many readers found entertaining. One Tweet I got in response to it said “I can’t believe you got an entire blog post out of catching conjunctivitis, and that it was one I actually enjoyed reading!”.
But my personal favorite is Out Home at Christmas with Bing. The post was one of those that just dropped into my head while driving one winter afternoon, and it practically wrote itself when I set my fingers to the keyboard. It’s essentially a collection of sentimental (in my own way) recollections of childhood Christmases as they related to my paternal grandparents. I was very close to them growing up, and the times I spent at their place in the country are among my fondest recollections of being a kid. My grandmother died in 1995 and my grandfather in 2000, so writing about them and putting it out there for the world to read about keeps their memories alive in a way. I’ve written about them since (see: Gone Fiddleheadin’), and based on the enjoyment I get from doing so and the positive feedback I get from my posts featuring them, I likely will again.
Least favorite post:
Easy one! I Don’t Know If I Want You To Read This Yet, which went live on the blog just a couple of weeks ago. It’s another short story featuring Adrian McAllister, a character I was “getting to know” through writing some short pieces. Adrian is the protagonist of a mystery novel I am working on, and I thought I could learn more about him by putting him in situations that are not necessarily part of the novel in progress. My first attempt, the aforementioned Adrian and the Cannibal’s Internet Connection turned out quite nicely, I thought, and ranks as one of the most popular posts on Wicked Awesomology. The second one, simply entitled Confession, where Adrian goes to confession at a Catholic church and is given learning how to surf as a penance still sounds like a great premise to me, but I don’t feel like I pulled it off successfully in the short story format. The supporting characters I included needed more development than that format would allow. I gritted my teeth, polished it up, and put it up on the blog not so long ago mainly to get it out of my hair. It’s not terrible. I wouldn’t have posted it if it was. But it’s not an example of my best by a long shot.
The Accidental Coffee was an odd post inspired by an odd problem I had one night. I accidentally made a pot of coffee, and didn’t have the heart to just dump it out. On the other hand, I couldn’t drink it, or I’d be up all night. When I mentioned the problem to a friend, he said, and I quote, “That’s the kind of problem only YOU would have! You ought to blog about it.” You’ll have to read the post for the details, but it turned out quite well, I think. It was one of those great times for a writer when the words were coming to me faster than I could type them. Other than a cursory check for grammar and spelling issues, I didn’t even tweak it after I was done. I just put it together as fast as I could and got it out to the world. It’s gotten more hits than any other posting on Wicked Awesomology to this point, though I do think some funny business with search terms on Google artificially inflated the numbers.
Post that spurred the most feedback:
Give It Up, a post from April about giving things up for Lent. Most of the feedback I get on Wicked Awesomology does not come in the comments section, but rather through Tweets and e-mails. Because this post touched on a religion-related topic, it stirred some things amongst my readers. To everyone’s credit, all the feedback I got was respectful and polite. Nonetheless, it reminded me that posts on religion, politics, and sometimes even sports, can be polarizing. I have plenty of forums available to me for airing my own opinions on those topics, but I do not choose to have Wicked Awesomology be one of those. If I post on any topic that can be polarizing, I do so in a lighthearted way that is not meant to alienate anyone. This blog is not my soapbox. It’s more of an observation deck.
Other backstage stuff:
I try to post something new at least once a week, if possible. It’s taken a while to get to that routine, but it seems to be one that works well for both me and my readers. I really don’t know how some bloggers can post daily. I just don’t have that much to say that is worth reading! Unfortunately, neither do some of them, but they haven’t figured that out yet.
If I post a book review, it usually means that the great god of writing inspiration has taken the week off and is down the street drinking Lowenbrau in a seedy bar, trying to forget that I exist. At this point though, I feel a commitment to providing fresh, quality content on a regular basis to my readers, and posting a past book review of something I’ve read and previously posted on Amazon or Goodreads.com is a good way to do that when the spirit doesn’t move me. I’d much rather take that route than post garbage. The book reviews I post are for books I’ve really, really liked though.
My offline writing projects sometimes take up a lot of my time and creative juices. I have been working on a collaborative novel with a very talented author (whose identity I am presently keeping secret to protect the innocent) for about nine months now. I also have a “solo project” underway featuring Adrian McAllister, as I previously mentioned. These are a very different type of writing than blog posts, requiring a lot more planning and infinitely more revision and editing. A blog post typically takes me a couple of hours, whereas a single chapter in either project can take several days just to attain finished first draft status. When those projects are bearing down hard on me, you are likely to see a book review post too.
Wicked Awesomology is a balancing act for me as a writer. It’s a forum for me to toss my writing experiments into, but it has also become a place with a reliable core of readers who have come to have certain expectations. Your comments, questions and suggestions on blog posts (content or style) are very valuable for me. Unless you want to tell me I suck. The little red devil on my shoulder tells me that on a regular basis. Don’t hesitate to leave a comment on the post itself, or via Tweet or e-mail.
At this point, I’ve got just over 8000 page views on Wicked Awesomology in the past year. It’s not huge, but much more than I would have expected. The graph thingamabob in my statistic section shows strong, consistent growth over time. It’s very gratifying. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, and stay tuned.