A few weeks ago, a journalist met the President. The journalist was a blogger who took photographs and talked to people. He’s also the author of The New York Times bestseller, “Humans of New York.” His name is Brandon Stanton and, in late January, he managed to help raise over a million dollars for Mott Hall Bridges Academy in Brownsville, Brooklyn, a school in one of New York City’s most impoverished neighborhoods… and helped the students and principal meet the President of the United States.
He told the story on a blog. He told the story through Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. And, above all, he told the story through photographs of people talking about life.
Stanton is making a living taking photos and reporting on things. He’s not associated with any media publication. He took the tools technology has made available and used them to make a huge impact.
Stanton’s success isn’t just inspirational, it’s a powerful indictment of the cynicism permeating the art world when it comes to social media, art, and the digital world.
The government shutdown is over. For now. After so much productive and rigorous hashtagging on Twitter, complaints on Facebook, and half-plagiarised news articles looking for traffic, our representatives had no choice but to start funding things again. And agree to fund the things they passed this year already.
During that time – while I was caught up in the virtual world of eating different blog posts like Cheetos – I stumbled upon one entitled “The Great Library of Alexandria was destroyed by budget cuts, not fire.”
Interesting headline. Related to the current crisis, albeit peripherally. It was enough to get almost 100,000 views since October 8, along with over 200 comments, so I would consider the piece a success.
And the best part? The blog post was advertising a book by the author. A book I actually clicked.
I just watched “Dear Mr. Watterson,” a light-hearted documentary about the impact that Bill Watterson’s ever-famous, ever-persistent comic strip, Calvin & Hobbes, has had on people over the years.
The part that gripped me most was when several prominent cartoonists spoke in extremely gloomy terms about new media.
Berkeley Breathed, the cartoonist behind Opus, Bloom County, and Outland, said that Bill Watterson had created the last great comic strip. He claims that art itself is now “atomized.”
He reasons that there’s a lot of stuff out there, but nothing that could be water-cooler conversation material, a piece of art that people – including Breathed’s mom – all know.
That made me wonder – are artists specializing their work to death? With so few filters to get through, and the freedom to only support the very, very specific, niche work we like, are we guaranteeing that no art can have the same widespread, enduring impact of something like Calvin & Hobbes?
Sometimes, I feel guilty about blogging. It’s a little pinching sensation, probably a sensation most writers are familiar with – the feeling that you’re wasting time you should be using to work on your novel.
That’s why I was reassured when I read a recent interview with a professor about “the Lost Generation” and found out that F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway were also both dawdling bloggers, in their own right.
I wrote a lot of this in my car, because I have a smartphone, so now I can talk sternly to it and, magically, those incantations are turned into text.
I’ve tried this method to write blog posts before, but it never quite works because swerving through rush hour traffic isn’t the most conducive environment for good writing. If you can call speaking into a phone “writing.”
But this is my experiment, because I recently read a blog post proclaiming that the “days of working on a blog post in drafts for the last week” are now dead.
That’s right. The final draft is dead. So what does that mean?
If you’re a writer, musician, or artist looking to make a website these days, what do you need to start?
Not any knowledge of HTML. Not a web designer. Not a lengthy textbook
about “building a website.”
You just need about an hour of time and a slightly foggy notion of what to
Oh, and money?
You don’t even need money. Most platforms for making a website that are out there today are free.
Making a website for yourself is incredibly easy. So easy, in fact, that web-building platforms are competing with each other to out-ease the other.
That’s right – there have been reckless innovations in recent years when it
comes to user experience. A few years ago, sure, you may have struggled a
little and pulled at least a few hairs out while trying to get something live.
Now? Not so much.
Here are the three platforms that are the best for writers, musicians, and artists who want to make a website:
When it comes to blogging, nothing is ever easy.
Creative people who are blogging as a way to show off their work have it even harder.
You can upload as many art pieces and short stories as you want, but it seems almost impossible to get the kind of traffic you want.
In many cases, your pieces may get no traffic at all.
So, let’s fix that.
My last blog post, which talked about the merger between Penguin and Random House, reminded me of an important lesson that, as someone who enjoys the notion of “being creative,” I shouldn’t have forgotten.
On the internet, you can’t make art for art’s sake.
If you do, that’s more or less assuming that your art is so good and so compelling that it will radiate through the deep infinite space of online content like a burning sun of genius.
I was guilty of this notion for a while. I took pride that I didn’t “blog” in the traditional sense, I just generously gave away my masterpieces to the unknowable masses.
That’s the biggest misconception among writers, artists, and musicians who are trying to use to the internet as a platform for their pieces:
Sometimes, blogging will make you feel like a lonely, misty mountaintop in the Scottish Highlands, except less scenic and more whiny.
When I posted my first attempt at “15 Minute Fury” – blog posts that I don’t spend more than 15 minutes on – I thought pretty hard about it.
You know, afterwards.
I was wondering if I was sacrificing quality for quantity. If, by trying to force myself to create something by giving myself a very tight deadline, I would write the equivalent of an essay someone would (charitably) grade as “D+.”
Then, I reflected on what blogging is these days. I’ve been doing it since about 2009. I’ve had two blog posts take off, two masterpieces that got around 25,000 views and ~500 social shares via Facebook and Twitter on Open Salon.
Yes, folks, they went “viral.” Or at least bacterial.
Here’s what I learned about the state of blogging from that experience: