From July of 1997 to October of 2007, I averaged over 10,000 online readers a day. Today I average about 1/20th of that. This website, for instance, has about a fourth of the readership it averaged from 2001-2007.
What does it feel like to become irrelevant in your lifetime? And how did this happen?
The second question is easy to answer. Until the fall of 2007, I really truly thought I could make a living from blogging (though I often panicked about this over the previous decade as I lost various employers and sponsors, and I grew steadily more pessimistic and less passionate about my blogging from 2001 on). When the recession hit in 2008 and I gave up my blogging on the more salacious topics and decided to clean up my act and live my life more fully within Orthodox Judaism, I saw that I’d have to look elsewhere for a living. As my attention wandered from blogging, my efforts did to. I was no longer thinking constantly about finding stories and interesting people to interview.
I felt like I had run into a brick wall with my life and it was time to take a break from my habitual efforts and to try to look at things more productively. My habits weren’t serving me as well as I wanted.
For the past six years, I’ve largely stayed on that break. I do much less frenzied blogging. I write much less from a compulsion to update my site. I only write when I feel like it. I have only the tiniest of obligations to keep this blog moving. I rarely to link to other people’s work. If I have something to say, I’ll say it, otherwise the world can roll on without my blog noting it.
About a year ago, a friend in shul said to me, “Your blog is in danger of becoming irrelevant.” I replied, “My blog has been irrelevant for years. There’s no way to monetize it, so I only do it for fun. There’s not enough return to go out and to report stories. It doesn’t make me money. It doesn’t get me girls.”
So where does this leave me? In my 40s, I’m taking a break from my frenzied labors of my 30s and trying to figure out where I’ll go next. I write in my journal, go to therapy and 12-step meetings, read self-help, watch movies, listen to music, talk to friends, and figure that the best thing I can do for my writing is to become the best person I can be by developing myself in new and frequently uncomfortable ways.
Because my blog has become irrelevant, I have to confront myself with fewer delusions about grandiosity. I can no longer imagine that I have great importance because of my achievements in the wider world. I can’t distract myself anymore with that fantasy.
I no longer devote myself so intensely to getting attention. I channel that desire, at times, into making Facebook posts, because that requires much less effort than writing a blog post.
So, in a sense, more than ever before, I’m standing on my own two feet with fewer delusions about myself. I’m looking around and trying to figure out where I will go from here. I look back on my life and see a lot of fevered running in circles, much of it unproductive.
I feel a yearning inside to become relevant once again to the cultural conversation and I’m thinking and journaling about various ways I can do that. I think the best thing I can do for my career as a writer and as an Alexander Technique teacher is to become more secure in my attachment style, less emotionally reactive, and more differentiated. Much of my previous blogging separated me from the very people I wanted to join — Orthodox Jews. I’m keenly aware of how much I want to write and say ugly things to get a rise out of people. That’s a powerful destructive drive just below my surface and it doesn’t get me to where I want to go. So I’m pausing before expressing myself, and sometimes I pause so long that I get sleepy and day turns night and then into day and I see I have nothing I want to say to the world.
I wonder if I am more isolated than ever before. My social group used to revolve around the Los Angeles Press Club, but when I abandoned blogging for a living in 2007, I also dropped my membership. My best friend Cathy Seipp had died a few months previous and a large part of my life died with her.
For the past six years, I’ve stumbled in my attempts to create a new social circle without a Cathy type to adopt this stray dog.
On the upside, I have a nice apartment, a nice car and a nice high-def big screen TV.