Syp at BioBreak is doing the Good Work, and not just in real life. He is working hard on a project called the Newbie Blogger Initative to support would-be bloggers find their legs all the quicker. It’s no secret that good intentions drive people to create blogs every day… a few posts later, and the blog is as good as dead. Most are lucky to have a dozen hits before death.
There’s a lot of questions, and the good veterans of the ‘sphere have already put forth a huge amount of thoughts on the subject. I want to start at the origin. Well not really, the answer to “Why blog?” should just be “to write”. Yet, there are a lot of questions as to whether we are journalists. One idiotic court has already decided mostly we aren’t, and are therefore less protected by the First Amendment than some paycheck’d writer-brethren. I don’t know whether we count as journalists, but I do know this…
We are goddamn cowboys.
The trailhead is so easy now with WordPress and what not. It’s the hard road that will turn your city slickin’ butt into a grizzled veteran. It’s lonely. It’s worrisome, and for most of us the trail will only end when we’ve worn out our horse and boots to lay out our thousands of thoughts and words like dying cattle in the sun. Few of us will win at blogging. Yet, the longer you stick with the trail the more you notice how the herd responds to your thoughts. Oh, don’t get cocky, yet. The bulls in the herd will likely gore you as fast as possible if they get a whift of ego. Let’s meet the rank and file.
The City Slicker
Most bloggers begin here. They got this idea of the trail. They got this energy to write. Sadly, once most realize they will be eating trail jerky and pooping in the bushes, they head back home to the comfortable experience of gaming. It’s a tough and lonely start, and unfortunately most city slickers choose to go at it alone.
This makes no sense. Ever heard of a cowboy leading a whole godless herd on his lonesome? I can tell you those cows didn’t become cheeseburgers. They’re probably in Mexico or the bottom of the Gulf. No, bloggers need allies. It’s not really a team (unless you want it to be), it’s more of a community. We know each other by our ilk. Even here at Kill Ten Rats, we just write.
The smartest city slickers read and comment at other blogs, link to other blogs, and become part of this thing we call the ‘sphere. All us veterans see these links, and we start to incorporate them in our own articles. You see, no cowboy likes selfish people. We know when our ideas were stolen and regurgitated. It’s like an English professor sensing plagiarism. I’ve seen it plenty of times on my own work. The people that do link, that write, that create harmony… well, they’re all in my RSS reader.
It’s a crying shame that so many well-written city slicker blogs are now dust. I don’t want to pare them out of my reader because I am always hoping they will return. They’ll hear the trail calling to them. Few make it to become a trailhand.
A trailhand is someone that clearly has been accepted in to the cowboy camp. Hold on now, this ain’t no boy’s club. None of that census crap matters. All that matters is you link and write. It doesn’t even matter what your thoughts are as long as they maintain some sense of civility and are clearly laid-out. The herd doesn’t like to be confused and have to look for its own grass now. Other bloggers will begin to notice you, then the crazy people that read us will begin to notice you. Then you will feel some of that precious energy return. It’s like crossing the state line, or getting that achievement, you’ll just know it.
Trailhands too start to notice that they get the choice of gaming or writing. The day is not long enough for both sometimes. If you choose to write, well then you know the song of the trail has got you.
Eventually your thoughts and blog takes a life of its own. You start to realize that you can write what you want, but your words have effect. Ripples will form out of your words. They might be small… hell, most people don’t even want to think about where that pretty steak comes from. They still exist.
There are some rewards, for sure. It takes a lot of work and responsibility, but big sites and developers start to notice. Don’t get cocky though. The herd and management will trample you and stake you out in the sun. Just remember you’re a cowboy.
It’s then that leaving the trail starts to hurt and you being to ride the trail just to ride. You just write.
Sometimes, cowboy bloggers do become something more. Many go on to become journalists. One of my favorite Twitter bios ever was a freelancer for Rock Paper Shotgun (and many more sites). It was simply “I write.” I believe the bio has since been changed.
Others go in to the video game industry. I was talking to Shawn Schuster, head honcho at Massively awhile ago, and he joked about how his site was a factory for devs. There’s a lot to be said though. People that have lived the blogger trail have seen some part of it all that most gamers don’t envision. Industry devs know this.
Most of us know we aren’t going to win; we’re just going to keep on travelin’ the trail until we know it’s our last sunset.
So cowboy up. It’s a great ride.