Sunday, June 17, 2007

Dealing With an Audience

Something unexpected has happened with this little blog. It has a readership. Now of course this was the ultimate intention – it is a blog, after all – I just didn’t expect it to happen so very soon.

Blogging about my depression was really the natural choice for me. I’ve tried writing personal journals about the problem but they invariably turned into ponderous, unreadable and ultimately unwritable examinations of the minutiae of my emotional life; nobody-understands-me manifestos. Blogging and the possibility that others would find and read it, awareness of a potential audience, kept that from happening. The possible pitfall of a blog is to swing too far towards pleasing the reader. The same impulse that drives me to answer “fine” whenever asked how I am has the danger of making this exercise vapidly meaningless.

But back to my small audience. I’ve been submitting my entries to social indexing sites like technorati and digg so my blog wouldn’t be allowed to retreat into comfortable, naval gazing anonymity and I knew that doing so would eventually lead to a readership. I just didn’t expect it to happen quite so quickly. And in referring to my readership don’t think that I’m getting swept up in anything here. I maintain quite a few blogs whose readerships range from two or three a day to ten thousand a day. The point about this audience is that it is huge in my mind when I write. Even though I’ve taken steps to remove the safety net, the fact of a real readership that exists now instead of in the hypothetical future substantially changes the way that I think about this project and, more importantly, how and what I write about.

Take this entry, for example.

So, where do I go from here? Initially I’d planned on a mixture of entries that more or less chronicled depressive events from life, sort of A Portrait of the Depressed Blogger as a Young Man, and entries about my current attempts at self help therapies. This would have all been foundation building. Not that my eventual readers would have cared. I really wouldn’t have expected them to find my blog six months in and go back to read all of the previous entries. But I would have had the foundation making blogging about my ongoing Portrait of a Middle Aged Man easier to maintain.

But the fact of the sudden readership makes me reconsider this plan. This isn’t a intellectual decision; it really happens at a gut level. When I sit down to write or even think about writing this current audience as already standing over my shoulder. Who really wants, I ask myself, to read about what would have been a non-event to anyone else in eighth grade algebra but turned into a festering thorn that took me fifteen years to come to terms with? As much as I’d like to be selfish and can theoretically defend selfishness in this case, now that I have readers with personalities everything’s changed.

Plus the huge amount about depression and the wide variety of therapies available (Light therapy? Really?) is staggering. So many seem to hold promise making it difficult to decide where to start. Dwelling on the past seems like a waste of time when there’s so much to deal with in the present.

What this hell is this entry about anyway? Well, I really can’t say except that I intended it to help me work out the new dynamic of the audience. (An audience for which I’m incredibly grateful, in case that wasn’t clear.) I’m really not sure if I’ve done that.

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