One Man and His Blog

Ok, here’s the thing. The lowdown. The skinny, if you will. Until last week, this was going to be my last blog entry.

There were a number of reasons behind my decision to stop (even if only for an extended break, or a possible re-brand in the future), but – for now at least – I have been persuaded to reconsider.

The main reason for calling it a day, was that the blog hasn’t really taken off as I had hoped. I know I said at the outset, way back in entry #1 (‘Blog Off’), that I didn’t care if no one read my ramblings, as I was doing this purely for my own therapeutic enjoyment – but, well, that isn’t wholly accurate anymore.

I’m certainly not egotistical or arrogant enough to expect wider recognition – in fact, I am my own worst critic when it comes to what I write, so I’m always surprised when people say they have enjoyed a particular entry, or found my anecdotes funny.

I am also very grateful to the loyal band of readers I have amassed over the past two years, who have stuck with me through the dark days of the top ten music and film lists (not to mention when I had that minor breakdown, telling you all about my imaginary ‘commute friends’).

But, since I first started blogging, as a fresh faced 34-year-old, things have changed a bit.

A few months ago, I noticed that my audience figures seemed to have more or less plateaued, and my growing concern was that it might be only a matter of time before tedium set in – for both of us.

I still love writing, but with each passing week towards the end of 2016, I couldn’t shake the niggling fear that people would start to grow weary of reading what I wrote, and numbers would gradually tail away to just my family and close friends (who would only continue to read out of a sense of obligation or, worse, pity). I didn’t want it to end like that. After all, as Neil Young famously sang, ‘it’s better to burn out, than to fade away.’

All great things seem to end prematurely, and whilst I don’t wish to draw comparisons to the likes of Fawlty Towers, those limited-edition all-chocolate Jaffa Cakes (c.1998), or my love-making, I grew used to the idea of stopping the blog suddenly, perhaps even dramatically. I even had a really good (ok, average) title ready.

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So, with the creeping realisation that I would be better off suddenly ending my blog (rather than posting less and less frequently until, eventually, no one noticed I had stopped), it dawned on me that I had completed over ninety entries as we neared December. Whilst I could never get to 100 by the end of the year (unless I posted more than one a week, and that wasn’t happening), blog #100 struck me as being a fitting milestone to call it a day. And here it is. Happy Blogtenary to me.

I do, after all, suffer with CDO (the same as OCD, but in alphabetical order), and if I cannot leave a petrol pump until my fuel is at a nice round number, there’s not a cat in hell’s chance I could end my blog at entry #97. Or #102. To be honest, I feel physically sick at the thought.

In fact, even if I suddenly had something amazing I wanted to share with my readers, I would much rather have stopped at entry #100, and left that story forever untold, than have carried on for a couple more weeks. I’d then be committed to reaching entry #200, or at the very least #150, before I could lower the curtains on my blogging career.

The truth is, I would love this blog to suddenly take off. I am acutely aware that only a minuscule proportion of online writers find fame and fortune, and I have already explained that I do not possess either the arrogance, nor the confidence, to think that I could be one of them, but people still enter the lottery each week, right? If there was even a glimmer of hope that one of my entries would go viral, or would become noticed by someone who could make things happen for me, then the dream was still alive.

If I could write this kind of shit for a living, I would be a very happy man indeed, and would quit the legal profession in a heartbeat. I don’t enjoy what I currently do for a living, I get no gratification from it, and my clients don’t seem to appreciate the pressure I put myself under, every day, for their benefit. It’s a thankless, ungrateful profession, and if it didn’t pay the bills, I would have moved on to something else many years ago.

In contrast, each and every time someone tells me they have enjoyed one of my entries, and that they found it funny, I get a warm glow inside. Imagine getting that glow on a wider scale, regularly, and making a living out of it. Whenever I see a stand-up comedian get a whole room of people laughing, I always wonder how incredible that must feel – presumably like a concentrated form of the joy I experience every once in a while. I can see how that would be incredibly addictive.

When it became clear that I had perhaps achieved my maximum audience, I wasn’t too disheartened, as the numbers were healthy (or so I thought), and I could still cling on to the dream that each view may perhaps lead to a couple more via social media, and it would only take one particular entry to get shared a few times, then a few times more, and things might suddenly take off.

After all, some of the crap that goes viral on Facebook or Twitter, really does beggar belief, so that little paranoid part of my brain – the one which dominates and bullies my confidence – would pipe up with a timely ‘less than fifty people read your last entry, yet 47 million have watched this video of a cat getting scared by its own reflection – you must be properly shit at this’.

I know something visual is always more likely to go viral, because your average Facebooker or Twittererer is, generally speaking, lazy (not you though, obviously, you’re lovely), and is far more likely to click on a video which has been viewed millions of times – regardless of how little interest they actually have in it – than read through 1,500 words written by someone they know nothing about, and won’t ever meet. That’s why I’m so grateful to you. You’re still reading this, and it’s not even funny this week. God bless you, and all who sail in you.

But, as I say, the numbers seemed to be ticking over, so I was relatively content. It was becoming increasingly unlikely I would ever carve a career out of online writing, but I had enough of an audience to scratch that itch. Or so I thought. Turns out, I can’t know for certain precisely how many people read my blog, because the numbers on Facebook just determine how many people have viewed the link, but it doesn’t tell me how many actually clicked on it, then read the entry.

WordPress (my host site) is slightly more reliable when it comes to viewing figures, as it only registers those who have clicked to get this far, but it doesn’t include those who have been good enough to ‘follow’ my blog, and can therefore read via the copy which is e-mailed to them each week. In truth, the statistics are only as reliable as a football match attendance, where half of the turnstiles aren’t keeping count properly. Bit like Edgeley Park, then.

Let me give you an example. Of my last ten entries, apparently #94 (‘Blogminton’) reached just shy of 500 people on Facebook. Grand, I’ll take that. Yet, when I look at the statistics on WordPress for the same entry, it was apparently only read by 46 of you.

I only realised this discrepancy towards the end of last year, which was when I decided to perhaps call it a day, since my popularity was apparently far less than I thought, and I didn’t want to become a burden to those of you who were still reading – perhaps only out of a desire to keep me happy. I didn’t ever want this blog to become a chore – for either of us.

But, as I discussed my intentions with my wife and a few close friends, they gradually persuaded me to carry on. I don’t know for how long, and I will almost certainly be taking more breaks this year (so the entries may not be every week), but I’ll stick with it for now, and that means I’ll have to at least try to get to #150, before calling it a day. Essentially, I’ll be around for a while yet.

I just hope that my family, friends, and especially our children, continue to be a source of comedic material, so I have something to write about. Otherwise, get ready for my top ten countdown of the best rock ballads of all time (spoiler alert: Toto’s ‘Africa’ will probably win).

I wouldn’t worry too much about that happening, though, as these two little reprobates are bound to do something hilarious soon:

Same time next week then, yeah?

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