Peter: But I —
Spokesbear: No, we’re not doing this.
Peter: Not doing what?
Spokesbear: This thing we’re you’re all excited to be blogging and working again, so you show up writing a post about social media and blogging in which you ramble on about nothing.
Peter: I wasn’t going to ramble about nothing.
Spokesbear: Sure you were. “So I’ve been thinking about…” is your own private code for “I have something to say that I don’t want to say and so I’m going to circle the point for two thousand words.” I’m INSIDE YOUR HEAD man, I know these things.
Peter: (small voice) But I’ve already written the blog posts.
Spokesbear: No-one cares.
Peter: They might.
Spokesbear: Alright, they might. I don’t fucking care though, how’s that?
Peter: YOUR NOT THE BOSS OF ME, BEAR
Peter: Right, sorry. You’re totally the boss of me.
Spokesbear: Damn straight.
Peter: You’re sure I can’t talk about Social Media and Platform building.
Peter: Even if—
Spokesbear: Especially if.
Spokesbear: Oh, stop that. You’re not a teddy bear. You can’t give e a pleading look and rely on being cute.
Spokesbear: Seriously, come on.
Spokesbear: This is going to be a thing now, right?
Spokesbear: Okay, a short post. But no fucking rambling, okay? You want to do this, we’re going to kick it old-school, I wand a goddamn thesis statement before you’re allowed anywhere near the computer.
Peter: (speaking fast) The adoption of some kind of performative public persona is an inevitable result of having an online presence devoted to building platform.
Spokesbear: See, now that’s just obvious. Why in hell would anyone care?
Peter: Because I’ve been mainlining a metric buttload of books and advice about blogging and social media lately because it’s becoming a big part of my dayjob, and I’m struck by how much of it is simultaneously built around the core advice of owning your niche and being utterly authentic online. I can’t help but thinking that these two things are mutually exclusive – human beings are crazily complex and any attempt to own a niche must, of necessity, require the adoption of a persona that gives the illusion of being genuine.
Spokesbear: So all online bloggers are frauds?
Peter: Not quite what I meant. I have no problem with the adoption of persona – we do it every day. I exclude parts of myself at a dayjob that are inappropriate for the situation. That doesn’t mean I’m being fraudulent, although it can – I felt quite the fraud at my old dayjob, where there was a serious case of WTF am I doing here, as opposed to my current dayjob where I’m…
Spokesbear: More or less yourself?
Spokesbear: And that doesn’t disprove the argument you were just making?
Peter: No, of course not.
Spokesbear: Care to explain how?
Peter: SHUT UP, IS WHY.
Peter: I’m going to pay for that, aren’t I?
Spokesbear: You’re going to pay for this entire conversation eventually.
Peter: Look, mostly this has been bugging me because I’ve been thinking about this blog and how I use it.
Spokesbear: You’re always thinking about this blog. What else is new.
Peter: Nothing, really. I just keep reading all this advice and thinking, but I don’t really want a niche. And it’s not because niches are bad…look, can I actually post a part of my original post? I promise it doesn’t whine or anything?”
Most of the advice I’ve found regarding blogs revolves around finding a niche and working it. In this respect it’s been interesting reading for work purposes, and there are plenty of writers who absolutely blitz this in terms of building personal platforms on the internet. Chuck Wendig’s blog is a brilliant example – his advice on writing is so consistently entertaining and useful that I’ve pretty much bought all his ebooks the day they came out.
My friend Angela Slatter does a similar thing, albeit in a different fashion, with Drive-By Interviews and the new Lair of the Evil Drs Brain series (and the other half of the Drs Brain, LL Hannet, is no slouch on the blogging thing either). The niche she’s embraced may not be as deeply carved as Wendig’s, but its there and it allows her the space to talk about other things when she wants too. Ditto Tansy Raynor Roberts, whose author blog is a thing of fannish beauty that’s led me to more cool TV shows, movies, and fiction than any other I’ve read.
If you want to see the entire process in its most natural, community-building glory, start reading Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.
I get the theory behind the way the internet and social media works, I really do, and I can look at these sites and identify why they work and what I like about them. Indeed, I envy them in some way, but I’m pretty sure that replicating their approach, even in my own inimitable and “authentic” fashion would drive me slightly bonkers.
Peter: That’s only a handful of examples, but they’re people who generally rock it when it comes to the blogging thing. And there are persona’s there – not false personas, the way there would be if I were working in my old office, but what you’re getting feels like a natural distillation of the person behind the blog that’s suited to the social context they’re creating. There’s varying degrees of formality involved, and slightly different topics, but they all seem to have carved their own territory in either a conscious or sub-conscious way. My approach to blogging seems was always “show up and chat around the water cooler.”
Spokesbear: Do people actually do that?
Peter: Do what?
Spokesbear: Chat around the water cooler. I mean, you have a day job – do you actually talk around the water cooler? Do you even have a water cooler? I’ve only ever seen it happen in sit-coms.
Peter: Dude, I’m trying to make a point here.
Spokesbear: Sure you are.
Peter: Seriously. I’m trying to say that I actually sat down and thought about this stuff, blogging and personas and…well, me…and I figured out why it bothers me in relation to this blog/
Spokesbear: Twitter is way better for the water cooler thing these days?
Peter: Sure, that, but there’s something else – when faced with blogging advice like find your passion and own your niche, I don’t think my reasons for blogging have really changed. I don’t particularly want a niche, which strikes as a somewhat tedious, and my passions…well, my passions are eclectic, and it strikes me as ingenious to pretend otherwise here. I have enormous respect for people who are passionate enough to maintain a blog on a particular topic, or smart enough to let a theme develop naturally, but it’s not for me. Even in those instances where I’ve thought up niches I’d be comfortable residing, the knowledge is lurking in the back of my mind that eventually I’d lose interest. Embracing a niche feels like reducing myself down. And I sure as hell don’t want to set myself up as an expert in anything.
Spokesbear: You took that from your original blog post, didn’t you?
Peter: Shut up, I’m reaching my point.
Spokesbear: Okay. Fine. If it’ll get this over with, I’ll bite. What niche did you finally decide you wanted?”
Peter: Sharehouse lounge room.
Spokesbear: That’s a niche?
Peter: No, it’s more a mindset. What I really want from this blog, essentially, is the equivalent of a share-house lounge room. A place where I can show up and drink a cup of coffee and hang out with whoever happens to be around. Occasionally I want to share things I find cool, and have cool things shared in return. Some days I want to have serious talks about the way writing and reading works, some days I just want to make fun of bad movies or work out what I really think about something that’s bugging me or blather about how great Sonic Youth or Raymond Chandler were in their heyday. Occasionally, when I’m bored, I want to try and peel a banana with my feet, just to see if I can. This doesn’t mean that the various advice I was reading is wrong – it just means I need to figure out ways to distill it that gets me what I want.
Spokesbear: Nothing, it’s just…I want a cup of coffee now. And I want to see if you can peel a banana with your toes.
Peter: See, that’s what I’m saying. Eclecticism. I don’t want a niche; I want ALL The NICHES
Spokesbear: In you’re head you sound like Chris Tucker in Fifth Element when you say that, right?
Spokesbear: (Sighs) I notice you’re still not making coffee.
Peter: You want a cup?
Spokesbear: Black, two sugars. We can try the banana thing when you get back.