Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Olden Days

I'm not much for nostalgia. You'd never guess it, based on my musical taste and my pop culture knowledge, which are both firmly planted in the late 1980's, but it's true. I rarely sit around wishing things were like they used to be, or wondering why we can't just slow down a little bit. I like to think about the future. I'm an early adopter. I like to see what's next. Yeah, it was great when we could ride our bikes around the neighborhood until dusk and our parents didn't have to worry about us, but I kind of like the idea of a helmet on my speeding child's head. Yeah, it was great when traveling by air was a big deal and people used to get dressed up to do it, but I kind of like that it's become part of everyday life and that we're all more mobile and aware of the world. Yeah, I used to enjoy writing letters, but I love e-mail. Yeah, Twitter is weird, but it's fun and really useful.

I've been a blog reader longer than I've been a blog writer. I've seen blogs morph from ugly journal pages that I swore weren't really meant to be read by the public (but I'm not above a bit of voyeurism and I was reading them anyway) to somewhat more organized and entertaining collections of daily musings, to well-designed and well-written collections of personal essays. I cheered their progress. I saw ads pop up on many sites and that didn't bother me at all, as long as they weren't singing or screwing up my browser. Eventually I even added some to my own blog (See Exhibit A ----> ). And when the corporate sponsorships and giveaways appeared I thought, hell yeah, finally companies are marketing to me and not just to my grandmother. And then some of my favorite bloggers started writing columns at magazine sites and actually earning a living with their talent and I thought, this is how it's supposed to be. Great writers earning a living with their writing.

These great writers have, of course, gained large enough readership that they've started to guard their privacy. I certainly can't blame them. Those who began writing about their screaming babies now have older kids who aren't as keen on having their poop stories broadcast to the world. More regular people, not just geeks, are reading blogs, which means that the risk of having one's blog discovered by the next door neighbor is increasing. And that means fewer stories about the crazy neighbor who yells at his lawn mower, or the cute daughter who innocently likes to dance to "Pass the Dutchie," or the book they absolutely hated because now the author is likely to find the blog and leave a cranky comment. And, well, I miss that stuff.

These successful bloggers are making an effort, I know. They try to make time to update their personal blogs, but it's hard when paid deadlines loom. They honor the readers who love them by weaving personal anecdotes into their magazine columns, or giving away treats and prizes that relate to the stories they've told. They're trying to balance the transition from hobbyist personal bloggers to career freelance writers. I get it and I applaud it and I understand that's what the future holds. And I read way too many blogs so I realize that there are still zillions of fantastic personal stories being posted each day. I'm grateful for that.

I'm not naming names here because, really, this isn't about individual writers. It's about a trend. It's an exciting trend that, at its core, financially supports art and quality. But like most changes, it means we're going to lose something to gain something. So before I get excited about what's ahead, please indulge my nostalgia for a moment. Do you feel it too?

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