Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Ten Years Ago!

Do you ever think, while reading my blog: "Good grief, this guy has nothing to say."

I wouldn't blame you. I sometimes feel that way myself. And here's what's remarkable -- as of today, I have been saying nothing online for TEN YEARS!

Yes, exactly a decade ago -- as I recall, while I was sitting at my desk at The New York Times -- I launched Shadows & Light.

Let's take a trip down memory lane: That's me, at left, when and where it all began, with my view over the theaters and rooftop water tanks near Times Square. (I used to love that shirt. I bought it at Macy's. It eventually faded and went to Goodwill, but I still miss it. And look at my prehistoric computer! Good Lord.)

I began blogging almost on a whim. I'd been curious about it for a while, having kept a journal for years and years -- I was already in the habit of writing about my life. And then I bought a simple point & shoot digital camera, my first, and began taking pictures on the streets of New York. I thought, "Wouldn't it be great to put these images online?"

I wasn't on Flickr at the time, and a friend had recently launched his own blog on Blogspot, so I chose that as my platform and took the plunge. I named the blog Shadows & Light partly as a tribute to Joni Mitchell, one of my favorite singers -- ironically, her "Shadows and Light" album is one of the few I don't have -- and partly because, well, that's what it was going to be: Pictures of shadows. Pretty basic!

And it was pretty basic, especially at the beginning. Basic to a fault, in fact. I was actively practicing Zen at the time, and I was very focused on simplicity. I really wanted most of my posts to be just a picture and a few lines of text. I remember my friend Kevin suggesting I write more, and I resisted the idea. (I was also nervous about putting information about myself online.)

I wasn't sure what to expect. I suppose, like many bloggers, I thought I might eventually have hordes of people following my posts. Hundreds! Thousands! Tens of thousands!

I quickly learned that most people are way too busy and absorbed in their own lives -- and rightfully so -- to pay any attention to mine. I wrestled with disappointment, but also realized I was giving my readers very little. So gradually I opened up more -- there's freedom in obscurity -- and found some reliable readers and a community of fellow bloggers.

Now I think of us like a little creative-writing club. You read what I write, I read what you write. We exchange feedback. I eventually abandoned any attempt to become a widely read blogger -- after all, I'd been writing for years in paper journals with no audience at all. Why did I need one now?

These days, I get something like 500 page views a day. Not that many, especially since some of them are mine! But I'm fine with that. I could be Tweeting and boosting my blog on Facebook -- the vast majority of my Facebook friends have no idea this blog exists -- but I appreciate being a bit under the radar.

According to my Google stats, they like me in Russia. I'm not sure why that is, but I have a sinking suspicion that it isn't good. And they like me in France, strangely, but the English appear largely indifferent. ("Another bloody Yank!")

My most popular posts? This one, a short, grumpy post about those silly family stickers that people put on the back windows of their cars, tops the list. In fact, a lot of people find my blog by searching "family stickers" on Google. Which is bizarre.

Then there's this one, in which I recounted being ripped off by a taxi driver in Istanbul, and this one, in which I told about a visit to an exhibit of Australian art at the Royal Academy. (I have no idea why that rates so highly.)

For a long time, my most popular post was tangentially about the actress Tina Louise. After it went up, I made a short-lived vow to mention Tina Louise in every post, because she brought me so much traffic.

As you can see, my page views have grown steadily -- from nothing to next-to-nothing.

But I must add a caveat to this overlong blogaversary celebration, by admitting that although I've hit the ten-year mark, with 3,035 overall posts, 17,337 comments (merci!) and nearly half a million all-time page views, I haven't really been writing a full ten years. That's because I took two substantial breaks: for just over two months between November 2008 and February 2009, and for seven months between October 2010 and May 2011. During that latter break I was writing and reporting full time and I just didn't have it in me to sit typing off the clock.

Now, I can't imagine not blogging. It has become such an important part of my day -- when something happens to me I often think, "This will be great for the blog!" And the community I've developed and the friends I've made have changed my life. I've been to a blogger May Day party, complete with a maypole. I've visited other bloggers on their own turf, experiencing a blissful kind of blog-meld. Other bloggers have visited me. I met up with a blog pal in Paris!

So thank you, bloggers and readers, for this awesome experience. I promise I will never write another post this long.

(Photo: Revisiting one of my favorite photos from my New York days, originally posted ten years ago tomorrow.)


Linda said...

I've been reading your blog only a short time and frankly don't remember how I came across it. I enjoyed this post because it so accurately describes the various stages of blog writing that most of us go through. I struggle trying to decide what readers want. I never guess right. I struggle with how often to post. I do better with a daily post but have read that's too often, should do no more than two or three posts a week, will make readers eager for your next post, I doubt that. Posting daily burns people out I've read but I don't post long articles. Personally I enjoy blogs that post a little something every day, provided they aren't totally boring people. Once I got over the disappointment of knowing readers were not going to flock to my blog I've decided ten regular readers would be a nice number. Just enough to feel like I know these readers. Too many and I can't keep track. I have a nice blogging friend in Maine, one in Seattle,, Washington, and I live in Oregon. I love that. I'm cultivating three or four new ones because I've just returned to blogging after a break.

alphabet soup said...

Hurray for people who persevere with their blogging - for ten years. 'This guy has nothing to say.' I don't think so - yesterday's post about the diaries was fascinating. I would love to find a bunch of dairies and then try and piece them together. A blend of non-fiction an fiction.

Ms Soup

e said...

I think you could write a book. Your life has done a 180 and I've been accorded a front row seat. Thanks for that, and for convincing me to blog, although I seem to have hit a dry spell just now. I hope you continue for a long time to come.

Sabine said...

Congratulations Steve, always a joy to read and spot another gorgeous picture. I loved living in London and I am often reminded of that time when I read about your walks with that fabulous dog of yours.

Karen said...

Nothing to say? You are far away from that! I would miss a lot, if you would stop blogging! Reading about all those little things, your daily observations is something I can't wait for EVERY morning! Don't laught, but if you're not as early as usual I instantly think what may have happened. You are compassionate and considerate, you have plenty to say and it's a joy to read every single post. Often I felt I should send a comment but didn't, nevertheless my thoughts are with you, Dave and Olga every day, although we never met. Best wishes and congrats!

John Going Gently said...

Ive been " at it" for a decade too! How times fly....
I now dont worry if what i write is shit, it just pours forth like a cheap tart!


Ms. Moon said...

I went back and read your link from when you visited me and that was so much fun! Here we are, our little community and it does indeed stretch far and wide and blogging is a gift in my life and I love the writing of it and I love the reading of what others have to write.
Thank you, Steve, for writing. For visiting. For sharing YOUR world and visiting mine.

Vivian said...

i love your blog..don't think it is never interesting!! The pictures are wonderful.

Jennifer said...

I like your blog a lot, Steve! Here's to 10 more years!!

Jan said...

Happy blogaversary! Jan (another Florida fan)

Cheryl West said...

I found your blog through John Grays' and now read and enjoy it daily. It is always nice to see what is blooming in your garden. I read the family sticker entry and can tell you there are plenty of them here in CT, My favorite is the one I saw last week of a zombie family saying " my family will devour yours".
Please keep writing and taking your wonderful photos, Happy Anniversary!

Red said...

Congratulations on ten years of blog life. blogs grow and change and you've recognized that. I I've certainly have similar blog experiences as you have. It's a great medium for wonderful experiences.

Sharon said...

Congratulations on the anniversary. Ten years! I have a couple more years to go to reach that point. I remember how I found your blog a few years ago, I was trying to find information about a fountain called "Waterfall" that I fell in love with in the Shad Thames area and you had photos of it on your blog. I've enjoyed reading about your life in London ever since.

Fat Dormouse said...

I haven't been readig your blog long either (I am part of the French contingent!) but I have grown quickly to enjoy it. I haven't been blogging as long as you, but I agree with a lot of what you have said here. Congratulations on your "anniversary".

jenny_o said...

Congratulations on ten years, Steve! I can't imagine what ten years will bring for me, having just gotten my blog off the ground. I can already relate to some things you've said, though. And I love the little things that people, including you, write about. Maybe it's because my days are the same. There is a meeting of the minds in that way. I'm so surprised to hear you say that ten years ago you were using a point and shoot camera - it gives me hope! I find your photos are always interesting, and your writing too. Please keep it up!

Linda Sue said...

two years ahead of me and many more posts ahead! So glad I found you, I think through Reya. Delightful to meet you and Dave and funny little Olga, sorry for the delayed walk, I think we had some sort of excuse but I can not remember if it was the tube or the clocks or the getting mugged...(not, I just made that up for drama). You feel to me like a younger brother on a pretty great life adventure, I would never miss a single post of yours and your photos inspire! You three are such a lovely family. Thank you for your blog, gives me a place to light, become inspired and somewhat jealous. Again, well wishes for Dave and a chin skritch for Olga.
Since I began this blogland thing ,four "close" and important blog friends have died rather suddenly, I have met and visited three blog friends here and there, My life has been enriched.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

Happy tenth birthday Steve. I know I haven't been following your blog for ten years but since I did bump into it a while back, I have become a loyal follower. I appreciate the honest quality of your writing and your observant photography. Keep up the good work.

Steve Reed said...

Linda: Great to hear from you! I do think all bloggers go through many of the same trials and internal debates. It's interesting that you've read daily posting is too much -- to me it's ideal, frequent enough to keep things fresh without being an avalanche. When I began the theory was, the more posts, the better! I also try to keep them fairly short, this one notwithstanding.

Ms Soup: Thanks for the kind words! As for finding diaries, keep an eye out at estate sales. Seriously.

E: Thanks! While I get to know most of my blog pals through their blogs, you're the exact opposite -- someone I knew pre-blog who I'm learning more about through blogging. I'm not sure there's a book in me, sadly, unless this is it.

Sabine: Thanks! Olga is indeed the fabulous star of the show. :)

Karen: Thanks so much! I'm not sure what I've done to deserve such dedicated readers, but I sure appreciate it! :)

John: May it pour forth for another ten years, for both of us!

Ms Moon: It is a gift, I agree. I can't thank you enough for your blog and for being part of my blogging world.

Vivian: Thanks so much! That's nice to hear. :)

Jennifer: Thanks! Ten more indeed!

Jan: Hi and thank you!

Cheryl: Now THAT is a family sticker I could get behind! :)

Red: Thanks! It IS a great medium.

Sharon: So that's how we got together?! I was trying to remember how that happened. But I do remember that Shad Thames entry and your response to it. Funny!

Fat Dormouse: Ah, the mystérieuse French contingent! Enchanté!

Jenny-o: Thanks! Many of the questions we have as bloggers are common to all of us, I'm sure. And not to burst the bubble, but while my first digital camera was a point-and-shoot, I'd already been using 35 mm film cameras for years and years. :)

Linda Sue: Thanks for being part of my blog world! Olga thanks you for the chin skritch but definitely wants more. :)

YP: Thanks so much! I always get a kick out of your witty comments, YP!

ellen abbott said...

I meant to comment yesterday but, well. anyway, I feel the same. 8 years for me and I never managed to get more than barely over 200 followers though I know through page views that more than that do visit at least now and then. they get to me through FB or my website which has a link. I was actually pushing up towards 250 when google decided to not include non-google users. but yes, I do enjoy the small community here and following each others lives. I winnowed down the blogs I read though because there is just not enough time.

Lorianne said...

Happy belated blog-day! I can't remember how long I've been reading or how I found you, other than you were still living in New York at the time. Isn't it funny how readily we become accustomed (I won't say addicted!) to reading about the mundane lives of people we've never met?

I think blogging is a natural medium for anyone who has ever kept a journal, and I think blog-reading is a natural pastime for anyone who enjoys reading journals. As both a blogger and blog-reader, I love the randomness the genre allows: when we say we "don't have anything to say," what we usually mean is we feel we don't have anything *important* or *significant* to say. But even the random details of life can be pretty interesting.

I don't often comment here because I often read your blog via a reader on my phone, often with a cat or two on my lap, and that makes commenting difficult. But for this post, I re-visited this post on my laptop (another page-view for your stats!) to say hello, congratulations, and thank you for sharing.