Dithering

Here goes nothin’

It is a running joke in my marriage: How restlessly I shift from site to site looking for a place to land the words I put out when no one is paying me to write them. The web is littered with my digital detritus. I have an excuse to some degree—I have zero shame when it comes to squatting on a property (a subdomain, like my Medium address, for example) just to own my name, but what I struggle with is the actual tool itself. This thing I’m writing in now.

I’ve had Blogspot blogs—I sometimes post to this one still as a way to say “yep, haven’t forgotten”—and other WordPress sites. I’ve grabbed countless social media accounts. In the end I always find a way to get restless and look for something new.

This morning, however, I thought, “Man, fuck Medium and Substack and whatever the hell else needs to be fucked, I still have WordPress.”

And WordPress is a good tool. I’ll likely be using it for paid work again in the next year or so.

Also, I have friends on here who write and if this prompts them to get back at it, all the better.

I’m sticking with one tool…for now. I have to give myself that out. I reserve the right, that is, to change my mind.

For once, I’m not sure I will change my mind. I no longer want to use brain space thinking about stuff like whether I could make money on a Patreon or with a Substack. I’m using the tool I know best, the one that works.

The dithering is done.

Hi there.

In the years since I first began a blog in 2000 (my wife, then fiancee, inspired me to start one for reasons not worth going into now), I became a professional writer and editor. Blogging, which I initially enjoyed enough to daydream of doing it for a living, is what I do for a living. That plus writing the occasional book means it’s not a bad living, either.

What happened over time was the more I wrote for money, the less I wanted to give it away for free. That makes sense, right?

I would have a twinge of nostalgia sometimes over the last 11 years–I last kept a regular blog of my own in 2009 or so–and start something new, only to give it up again. There was an embarrassment factor in that as well. I have ADHD — not diagnosed until I was 33 — and have found I’m kinda sensitive about the way it affects my behavior. I can be disorganized and forgetful, easily overwhelmed. The word “flighty” comes to mind. To me it is an intensely negative, dismissive word, yet it certainly fits me where some subjects are concerned, at least on the surface.

…But what I’m saying is of course I worry that I’ll do it again. Write this post about how I want to do this more then not write anything personal and casual for the hell of it for a year or more. It’s like a running joke.

And I might, I don’t know.

But here are the facts as I sit here at 9:23 pm in Central Massachusetts on a warm August night: I have this blog, to which I’ve imported various blog posts written randomly over the last six-seven years, and I have this: truecrimepost.com.

At the moment the true crime blog contains crime blog posts I (again) imported from other destinations, just to flesh it out. They are missing images and links might be broken, but hey, there’s something there. I also frankly think it’s a good URL, which was important back in the early days o’ blogging, but who knows, now. So it might fire up too.

I have a Medium account at Huffwire.com. The only wishy-washy-ness I feel right now is deciding on which blog CMS to use — stick with WordPress or make myself Medium only. Medium is a lovely content management system and there’s a built-in audience… but it kind of pisses me off on a regular basis too. The writer’s program doesn’t work as well as Medium intended, I think, and for every intriguing Medium post that is well-written and worth reading there are 20 badly-written, semi-plagiarized piles of automated content farm level bullshit.

But I ramble, something I haven’t given myself permission to do in a while.

The thing about doing my own blogging again is it hit me recently that the things I do don’t really have a home online. I’ve kind of been coasting. I need to present more than just my whack-ass Twitter account to the world.

I’m a singer and a writer of more than men’s lifestyle stuff for Maxim or any other sites.

Also, I’ve believed for years now that the deprecating of longform personal blogging for “micro-blogging” was in some ways a mistake. It has led to a soundbite culture. That has its place but sometimes you don’t want to click the “thread” link on Twitter. You want to read the full thing written out and in editable form, should the writer make a mistake that needs correction.

I can’t bring that back and I can’t bring back crime blogging, make it supplant true crime podcasts, most of which I find either tone-deaf or severely lacking in bringing anything new to the table. I won’t even look at this as trying.

I just know it’d be nice to return to a more personal space. One where I don’t feel pressed to worry about SEO or whether I’ve got a goddamn image embedded every two paragraphs or so.

It’s worth a shot.

Medium vs. WordPress

I had almost decided to park my blogging efforts at my Medium address. Medium has become a better blogging site than it once was. The final product looks great once you publish. I get the impression it’s pretty easy to get eyeballs on your stuff if you have a Medium site. Then I read this post by my friend Scott Bateman, which states, “Due to Medium not valuing creative people who bring them literally millions of page views, you can now find my chart-like charts at chartlikecharts.tumblr.com.”

Scott was one of the creators (writers and artists) doing paid work for Medium until about a month ago, when the site peremptorily ended the popular publications featuring those folks’ works.

I’m a shitty team player. I never have been good at that sort of thing. I’m certain it’s a personality flaw, plus an impulse to take charge that is often counterproductive, at least in some situations. But I do have a sense of solidarity with many groups of people, including creatives like Scott.

His post made me think, “fuck it, I have my WordPress space, I know WordPress, I can make it look how I want.” That made my decision for me. I’m not going to use the site much, if at all ever again, if that’s how they dealt with a talented guy like Scott.

It isn’t trying to be weirdly holier-than-thou for me, it’s just understanding how it feels to have people suddenly discount your work.

My first professional writing was for Crime Library, a site that has been defunct (after many incarnations over the years, some very high profile) since last August, officially.

To be clear, it was an amazing opportunity. For web-only writing, it paid well (in hindsight). I had more leeway than I realized at the time to cover what I wanted. I’m grateful I got to do it and grateful to the person who gave me the opportunity.

However, nearly a year into the gig–it was “perma-lance,” not staff writing–I submitted an article about a truly horrible aspect of a crime I was actively covering for Crime Library and on my own crime blog. A serial molester and killer of children, Joseph Edward Duncan, had apparently recorded some of his crimes on video. Just the fact he did was nightmarish enough, and I reported it as straight as I could, but it was clear, I think, that I was really horrified. I’m queasy thinking about what I learned even now.

I don’t remember the title I suggested for what I wrote, but I know it went against news practice by being more suggestive of the horror of the crime than explicit.

When the article went live on the site I was fucking sick to see the title had been changed to “JOSEPH EDWARD DUNCAN’S PORN TAPES.” (That may not be the 100% accurate actual title but it’s very close.)

Writing about crime in an appropriate way is hard enough. I have not always succeeded, at all. That time I’d done the best I could and I came to find out that the editor had changed the article title to that leering tabloid bullshit after consulting with an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) expert.

I don’t recall how long I kept working with Crime Library after that, but my disgust weighted everything I did, so it wasn’t long. It wasn’t the same as what happened to Scott Bateman with Medium at all, but I suspect the sudden realization your work had no value to the publisher the way it might matter to you was probably similar.

So that’s the root of a simple, dumb decision to stick with one blog platform or another, this time. WordPress mostly knows it’s a tool others use to try and present their thoughts in whatever way is most pleasing to them. Medium, after Scott’s experience, and in reviewing the homogeneity of all its publications, feels a little more like a product of some kind of vaguely dystopian thinking. Like hey, be a special part of the hive mind, we’ll even pay you, until we won’t. No to that. Nope.

Programming Note

I’ve decided to do more in-depth history posts on my Medium account. I’ll still post short pieces and quick hits here. I decided to do this because:

A. I really like Medium’s interface. Just from a writer’s point of view, it’s nice to work with.
B. There might be more visibility on Medium, better search engine placement. History done even halfway right takes time and thought. This is a fun subject for me and I don’t need prompting to pursue it, but I also, like any writer, want people to read my work.
C. Also an aesthetic judgment–I love the way Medium incorporates images.
D. I want to post a variety of content on HuffWire; I don’t want to turn it into a history blog, even if history is the main thing I’m into now.

So this space remains open for a variety of subjects, which is what I wanted when I created it. A “wire” delivers news, ephemera, whatever. This is my peculiar, personal version of one, and I like it that way.