Years ago (2007, 2008?) I stumbled upon a blog. I was heavily into cycling and my never-ending campaign to lose weight and get in shape. The blog was called FatCyclist. It was the first time I’d ever become invested in a total stranger’s life. He wrote about everything – weight loss, riding bikes, cancer, grief, funny stories, race reports, tech, etc… I’d find myself checking every day to see if there was a new post from fatty. He lost his wife to cancer and wrote extensively about the experience, his grieving, and starting up life again as a relatively young guy (30’s at that point I think).
The cancer experience led him to fundraising for causes he believed in and ultimately a minor association with Lance Armstrong and his Livestrong cancer foundation. This was the peak Lance period, so I was all-in. I gobbled up everything he wrote like an excited fan-boy. It was weird. I felt like I was part of a community. I read all the comments on each blog post and started recognizing the frequent commenters.
At one point he had a crazy idea for a fundraiser – a race that went nowhere. For some random reason he’d decided to ride a century (100 miles) on his stationary trainer and then blogged about it. That spawned the idea of the 100 Miles of Nowhere race. You’d sign up, ride 100 miles in the shortest space possible, submit a picture of your trip computer and get a box of prizes. The proceeds went to Livestrong and cancer research. A good cause and the resulting race reports were great reading. Of course, I had to do it. I did my 100 miles riding a mind-numbing quarter mile circle around my block, got my t-shirt and bragging rights. I can’t fathom what my neighbors must have thought watching me ride in circles for an entire day.
I can honestly say that his blog really inspired my early attempts at writing anything. I loved his style and ability to make the mundane aspects of life interesting. He managed to capture a large audience, writing about nothing more than random things like getting lost one day looking for a new bike trail. He was very self-deprecating and downplayed how good a cyclist he probably was for an average 9-5 working tech guy. It just resonated with me.
Eventually the posts started becoming less frequent. They evolved into long, multi-part, complicated race reports from the various events he’d compete in, which didn’t interest me as much. I stopped reading, other than the occasional check-in from time-to-time when I remembered about his blog. And then the posts dried up completely and I forgot all about him.
And then yesterday the FatCyclist sent out a tweet (I’d forgotten I even followed him on Twitter) saying that while it realistically had been done for a long time, he was officially ending the blog. He wrote a final post reminiscing about the experience, thanking everyone who’d helped him raise money for the various fundraisers, and so on. He’s moved on to podcasting. And then the final statement – …besides, blogging is dead.
Gasp! A blow to frustrated blog writers everywhere. He’s probably right. The world has moved on to the 140-character format, Tik Tok, YouTube, and podcasts. There are a few journalistic types who are having some success on substack, but other than that who reads blogs anymore? Especially some random stranger’s blog?
I think it’s time to evaluate my writing. For the most part I write for two main reasons. The first is that I think it’s important to be able to string words together in a semi-coherent way. It’s a perishable skill. The second is that it makes me think about things I watch/read/experience and then try to formulate that collection of random thoughts into something more structured. Forcing myself to try and articulate my thinking is a good thing. Also a perishable skill.
And let’s be honest, who doesn’t secretly want a large audience consuming your writing, photos, videos, tweets, podcasts, or whatever? As a creator, I think you’d be lying if you said you didn’t care. If you scroll back through my stuff, you can clearly see I’ve tried many different approaches. Dry humor, lists, purely political rants, thoughts of the day, running commentary on buying motorcycles… none of it has really resonated. For the most part, I don’t really care. I’m writing for myself more than anything. But when you post something you think is particularly witty and it gets zero views, a small part of you feels like… why do I bother? Yes, I recognize that if I actually wanted to build an “audience” I need to actively promote whatever I write and visit and engage with other blogs. To this point, that’s just not an effort I’ve been interested in committing to. At the moment the only people who read anything I write do so because they were looking for DYI plans on building kitchen spice racks, and some odd post I’d written two years ago came up in a WordPress search.
I need to wander off to the top of a mountain and meditate on this for a while. But my sense is that it’s time to end the blog in its current form. Maybe I’ll change my mind. I don’t think I’ll stop writing completely. I do enjoy it. I suspect it’s more a matter of finding a way to focus whatever writing I do so that it’s more productive.
Maybe I try my hand at a book or screenplay? Perhaps I should put the effort in to create actual opinion pieces and try to get something published somewhere? Or do I take the approach of becoming single topic focused and try to build an audience around that? As in, actually put the effort in to be an “expert” on something and to promote it.
But then again, why? I don’t need a career and I certainly don’t need another “hobby”. It may simply be time to put this out to pasture. We’ll see. Like I said, I need to do me ‘sum think’n on it. Maybe Fatty is right – blogs are dead?