Overweening Generalist

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Overweening Generalist Becomes a One-Year-Old

Yes, a one-year old. And I've just crapped my blogging diapers, so I'll try to make this short (fat chance, baby!).

This post is the 183rd of my first year of blogging, or an average of one every two days. I started on May 6th of last year and tried to do the very thing all the Experts warned is not a good idea: writing about all sorts of topics. You're supposed to find a niche. Everyone knows that!

I'm not sure I can call the experiment a success (45,000 pageviews - counting "referrer spam" - in one year? some blogs get that in one day), and it might be because I did something else the blog-world cognoscenti (i.e, Experts) say is a no-no: my blog posts tend to be too long by far. But I've had fun, so screw the Experts. There's an essayist who has written a lot about writing, William Zinsser. One of his Thangs is "writing to learn." By and large that's what I've done here. Via some wonderful alchemical process, writing allows me to learn, and alter my own consciousness. Oh yes, and then I try to be entertaining.

I said try. Sometimes I can't muster my best voice here due to depression or anxiety. That's been an eye-opener. Other times I found I could pull a Nietzsche and write myself into an exalted mood. It's all process for me here...

I think I've defended my thesis quite poorly. Despite the easy-to-find encomiums from Experts that being a Generalist is valuable, I have yet to see any real tangible benefits from it that one might label extrinsic. I was running ads for Google Adsense, but they got pulled (and my accrued $30+ too) because I wrote about SEX in a way I still don't understand would reflect poorly on advertisers of college textbooks, Ron Paul, or some diploma mill somewhere. <sigh>

Being one's own editor can be a pitfall. You can't "see" your fuck-ups just after you've committed them. Often I only see my howlers, errors, typos, catachreses, etc, the next day or next week. Or never, so feel free to email me with a head's up on something you've caught. Often I'll finish typing a blog and put it online, and I'm burnt on the topic; I just don't want to read my crap and think few readers will either. So I probably miss a lot.

The intrinsic rewards of being interested in just about Everything seem considerable; I am convinced. It works for me. I just wish I could convince others. Others who'd pay me even a lowly amount to write as a Generalist. We are, despite what I'd like to believe, in an epoch dominated by Specialists. (To paraphrase Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront: "I couldda been somebody. I couldda been a programmah.") The Business Community largely dictates what work will be well-compensated. Writing has never been a smart career move. In the Digital Age, everyone's a writer, and it's been sobering to investigate which bloggers are making a living off of it. I can't say I'm surprised, but a deeper look has been suggestive of what folks who read blogs value. I have no moral qualms about it. Just another inane OG "observation."

                                              An overweening generalist, ectomorphic,
                                              sans locks, rare bird, ridiculous, pedantic, 
                                        "enthusiastic" in the 18th century sense of the word.

If you read this blog and like it, I really appreciate you and think you're probably wonderfully weird like I am. If I haven't met you yet in the flesh, I hope to someday. What sort of weirdo reads a blog like this? It's all over the place, it's too long, and frequently veers into pedantry, for which I seem congenitally at risk of falling into at times. I tried to address this self-consciousness of (sombunall)  writers - including me - in this blog post...

I owe an incalculable debt to a small handful or fellow bloggers. Tom Jackson has been far more supportive than I ever could have wished. We share a love of Robert Anton Wilson, and Jackson has pull as a journalist near Cleveland, Ohio, and I just got lucky. He's driven more traffic to the OG than anyone else. See his RAWIllumination blog. He's impressive in his knowledge of Science Fiction, he loves classical music - and other kinds, as I found via emails - and he's a sweet guy. One day we'll do beers together.

Following closely on Jackson's heels: Sue Howard of London, or parts nearby. Someday I hope to meet her; we've been writing about issues we have in common for years, sharing links. She's scary-smart and I always learn from and enjoy her writings and comments. She's aligned with many sites - or so I assume - but I'll just mention two: News Frames, which seems to elucidate George Lakoff's work even better than Lakoff himself, which just impresses me no end; and Anxiety Culture, which is a site that, when I read it, I want to take their writers out for beers, but we're 6000 miles apart in what we laffingly call the "Real World," so it'll have to wait. I owe you guys one. The subtitle for their site reads "How to Stop Worrying and Other Gimmicks," which made me literally LOL when I first saw it.

Annabel Lee of Double Dip Politics has been a valuable supporter; I get lots of looks at the OG from run-off from her site. She's near the Baltimore, MD, area and writes passionately and intelligently about Unistat politics and cares about, basically, the same issues I do, but I get depressed writing about that stuff, while she seems to revel in it. She's tough, takes lots of mean-spirited jibes from right wingers, and always treats them with respect back. I could not hang with that. She's got something I don't, and it might be called...courage?

Always considerate and with comments imbued with hilaritas, Robert Anton Wilson scholar Eric Wagner has long supported this blog and my writing. Thanks, Professor! See Eric's new blog Ask Eric. If you have any questions about poetry, I suggest you try Wagner; he will not disappoint.

I also need to mention Oz Fritz, Mike Gathers, Bobby Campbell and about eight or twelve others who emanate from the Robert Anton Wilson subculture. Thanks to anyone who has commented, even once.

The "Followers" (40 as I write this): I appreciate being Followed, but I have yet to learn the etiquette for how to - or whether to - greet, approach, or whatever the Followers. One thing I have learned from the Followers: I click on your pic, and I get "Other Blogs I Follow," and that has led to some wonderful serendipities! So thanks, Followers! Please feel free to chime in in the comments, if only to say hello or drop a non-sequitur. I love those!

Family members and a friend who won the Prairie Schooner Prize for Best Poetry Book of the year all have given me a variation of this, when asked if they'd checked out my blog: "It was way over my head." "I didn't get it." "That stuff is way beyond me." Etc. Which was sorta baffling and depressing, as I was actively trying to NOT be opaque. Another eye-opener for me...

Here's how I write the OG (not that anyone asked): I think, "I really should do a blogspew today," and make a list of four or six topics. Then I read my files I've collected on the topics, make notes, draw arrows all over the place...and then Something jumps out at me, and I end up writing about something else that wasn't on my list. Odd? Yes, I think I must be.


Here's perhaps the most telling thing about a year of writing Overweening Generalist: How utterly surprising my Top 10 posts have been to me. If I recall accurately, seven of my top 10 were ones I decided to write on the spur of the moment, sometimes because I had just finished reading a book, or other reasons. The Top 5 are "runaway" posts: they "took off," and I don't understand the underlying logic of the blogosphere in this at all, at all. A few times I finished a piece and thought, "This is going to get some hits and generate comments; it paid to put in the extra effort," only to see the post fall stillborn and seemingly float off into the ethernet. Here's my Top 10, and you tell ME if there's any logic to it:

Here's my Top 10, counting down to my most popular post:
10. There Is No "Scientific Method"
9.  Meditation on "Paideuma"
8. George Lakoff and Metaphorical Framing For Occupy, u.s.w.
7. Remembering Robert Anton Wilson
6. Missing Public Discussions: Income Inequality
5. One-Eyed Shark Fetuses and Other Animal Wonders
4. John Von Neumann: Hungarian...Martian?
3. Max Ernst: Une Semaine de Bonte'
2. Epigenetics: The Revenge of Lamarck!
1. Free Sex, Free Love, Sex-Politics, and Neat Stuff Like That

To quote a 20th century existentialist: "You must go on. I can't go on. I'll go on."


Sue Howard said...

Thanks for the kind mention, Michael. The OG is currently my favourite blog (which is saying a lot considering there must be around a billion of them now), and I always look forward to reading your latest post. Keep up the great work...

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

I'm pleased that you took the time to count down your "greatest hits" and I see that includes some of my favorites, such as #6 and #7. I somehow missed the John von Neumann piece but will read it later today. Thank you for the kind words.

Perhaps you could syndicate your blog for Kindle readers? You don't have to tell them you don't like Kindles.

Eric Wagner said...

Great blog, and thanks for the kind mention. I consider you one of the wisest and most intelligent people on the planet, and I value your writing and friendship greatly. Keep up the good work, or, er, the great play!

michael said...

@Sue: I'll try to stay your current fave, but now the pressure's on! The kind words mean perhaps more to me than you'd think, as I constantly try to remind myself I'm not as lousy a writer as I usually assume I am. I printed out your response to file in a "good vibes" folder to ward off incessant self-doubt.

In turn, I am doing some white magick in an effort to get you more money, or at least some fantastic oral sex.

michael said...

@Tom: I didn't know we could syndicate our blogs for Kindle. Shows you how unbelievably out of the loop I am on some things. I guess I'll have to look into it.

I hope you like the Von Neumann piece. I had about five times the notes/anecdotes accrued over a long period, and decided to get that one out of my system. I think I wrote it in about 75 mins, including insertion of links, finding a pic, etc. Why it took off, I'm not sure.

In general, I find I get hits if I use a person's name in the title of the blog, although not always.

My tendency is to write about an IDEA, which doesn't seem to lend itself to all that SEO stuff very well.

michael said...

@Eric: Thank you very much. I hope to take that wisdom and intelligence and build from there.

I count on you to keep me honest.

Anonymous said...

Interesting people always have more
interests than others.
The Net was invented for sharing and
finding the others.

michael said...

@Anonymous: Curious: in one year I have never gotten any spam comments on my blog. But I saw this comment in an email and wondered why it never showed on the blog itself...I checked and...Yep! They (whoever They are) caught you as spam. Backlash against "Anonymous"? I don't know.

Anyway: Thanks and I agree about finding the others.

PQ said...

Happy anniversary/birthday! This is a wonderful blog you've got going here. I haven't been able to sift through it and fully absorb most of it yet but I plan to.

Keep up the great work.

michael said...

@PQ: Thanks, man! In the coming year I plan to write more about Joyce, Shakespeare and sports, because no one combines those things.

Oh wait a minute: YOU do!

Okay, I'll follow in the trail you've blazed.

This is a small blog with a minor following, but it's gratifying to have a handful of really erudite readers.