A Blogging Mid-Life Crisis

Earlier this year, I said that I was winding down this blog and moving things over to Medium. I also said that I was retiring from writing science fiction. Looking back on the latter, I feel foolish. It was the petulant cry of someone who had momentarily faltered and was looking for a way out. Naturally, I started writing again.

With blogging my motivations were somewhat different. I suffered, I think, from a kind of blogging mid-life crisis. I’d been blogging more or less regularly since 2005. There were pretty new things out there. The typography of Medium was sexy, and honestly, I was weary of WordPress. So I decided to see how things would be if I moved my blogging over to Medium instead of here. Could I make it work?

Having done something over 200 posts on Medium now, I think the answer is no. Medium is a great platform, and I’m in love with its design and typography. But it doesn’t work for me for blogging the way this site does. I’ve given it some thought over the last few days, as I’ve pondered how to move forward, and I think there are several reasons why Medium doesn’t work for me:

1. It doesn’t feel like home

When I write on Medium, I feel like I am playing in someone else’s playground. I may have my own little spot of sand to play in, but that’s about all it is. The entire playground is shared, and I had limited success making it feel like it was mine. Part of this is psychological. There is a certain kind of post that does well on Medium, and it is not the kind that I tend to write. This, more than anything else, turned me off to using Medium as a blogging platform.

Look and feel is just a small part of it. You can paint over anything. But painting a room in California to match the room in Maine doesn’t make you feel any more like you are in Maine. It just makes you feel like you’re in a room that looks like it could be in Maine. The difference is startling, and it surprised me how much Medium didn’t feel like home.

2. I don’t feel like I own it

When I said I was going to give Medium a try, a few people wondered why I would give up control of my content in that way. At the time, I didn’t think it would bother me. I was looking for simplification and beauty–something different. But, as I wrote more and more on Medium, I found that I did feel like I was giving up more control than I’d intended. It’s not that Medium owns my content. It’s something different. See what Andy Baio has to say about it on Waxy.com. This pretty much captures my feeling. But if you don’t want to read the entire thing (I urge to you read it. It’s good.), here’s what he boils it down to:

Ultimately, it comes down to two things: ownership and control.

Last week, Twitter announced they’re shutting down Vine. Twitter, itself, may be acquired and changed in some terrible way. It’s not hard to imagine a post-Verizon Yahoo selling off Tumblr. Medium keeps pivoting, trying to find a successful revenue model. There’s no guarantee any of these platforms will be around in their current state in a year, let alone ten years from now.

Here, I control my words. Nobody can shut this site down, run annoying ads on it, or sell it to a phone company. Nobody can tell me what I can or can’t say, and I have complete control over the way it’s displayed. Nobody except me can change the URL structure, breaking 14 years of links to content on the web.

But the ecosystem for independent publications is fundamentally broken. Getting discovered, building a readership, and profiting from your work as an independent writer are all much, much harder than they used to be.

That the ecosystem for independent publications is broken is part of what I struggled with when I decided to go try something new. I was like the stereotype mid-40s guy who trades in the sensible family sedan for a Porche. Moreover, the lack of ownership and control bothered me much more than I thought. Here, it might take more of an effort to maintain, but I am in charge of every detail of the blog.

3. I felt like I was doing a disservice to readers

Especially longtime readers who’ve grown used to the way things work around here. I tried to tell myself that people would follow me over to Medium, and I’m sure some did. But that wasn’t fair. As a writer, I feel that I have some responsibility to my audience. There is a kind of pact between us, and changing things up dramatically and sending them somewhere isn’t part of the deal.

Look what happens when the smallest feature on Facebook or Twitter gets updated. The outrage fuels days worth of memes and snark. I was much more fortunate. I made a massive change–I moved the entire platform–and my readers didn’t rage. Many probably simply stopped reading, which for a writer, is far, far worse.

I have to admit that in my desire to drive the sexy new car, I didn’t think about my passengers, and how I might squeeze them all into the two-seater. I regret this. It wasn’t worth the lessons I learned about Medium, and it is something I just have to suck up and live with, and try to learn from

What’s next?

Well, I think the blogging on Medium is a dead-end for me. But I love blogging, and I don’t want to give that up, no matter how many times blogging has died. In fact, I want to do a better job. I want this blog to be a place people can come, and read, and enjoy. I want it to convey my mistakes–like this one–as well as my successes.

So I’m bringing things back here.

I know this has been a confusing time, and all I can do is apologize and assure you that I’ve learned some good lesson, not the least of which is an old classic: Don’t mess with a good thing. I’ll try to keep that in mind going forward.

Over the next few days, domains that I’ve pointed to the Medium blog will begin to point back here. The RSS feed never went away, and those reading by that feed will still find it in order.

I’ll probably spruce a few things up around here, clear out some dust, and make updates.

And of course, my regular blogging will resume here, beginning with this post.

There are some good things about Medium. One of which is the notion of publications. I like that, and because I like it, there is at least one thing that I will be continuing over there, for the time being, anyway. My Vacation in the Golden Age posts seem much more appropriate on a platform like Medium, than over here, mixed in with everything else. So for now, those posts will continue there.

Again, I apologize for the mess I’ve made, and I hope the steps I’ve outlined above will start to set things right, and steer this lumbering ship back on course. In the meantime, I am always open to comments and suggestions, and even frustrations. If you feel you need to vent about this mess, let me here it in the comments. Or, if you prefer, you can shoot me an email at jamie [at] jamietoddrubin [dot] com.

15 thoughts on “A Blogging Mid-Life Crisis

  1. Delighted to see this post in my Evernote in box (thanks to IFTTT) and I think it makes sense and is another step forward rathen than a step back.

    I agree that “My Vacation in the Golden Age posts seem much more appropriate on a platform like Medium, than over here”.

    I look forward to your musings on writing, children, work life, travel with the family and anything else you want to share from your very own sandpit.

    I got here some time ago from when you were an EN Ambassador but stuck with it because you write well and I enjoy reading your experiences and drawing parallels to mine.

    In work life I have chopped and changed were you have stayed the course in one place. In writing, my furrow is not SF but I can still learn from you and others. In family life its interesting to see your journey as my two are now in their teens – a whole different set of challenges.

    Jamie, the one thing you needn’t have done is apologise for this slight change of course but thank you for explaining your thinking.

  2. Nice to have you back. I was one of those that didn’t follow, which wasn’t personal but merely situational. This blog pops up automatically in Feedly for me, adding Medium to my routine was an opt-in I never got around to. I assume that happened with a lot of people.

  3. Thanks, Ryan. Believe me, I don’t blame you for not following. I made a mess of things while I tried figuring out where I wanted to go. Turns out that place was right where I’d been all along.

  4. Glad to see this post automatically appear in pocket (via feedly and ifttt). I never got the medium rss feeds so never set it up.

  5. I’m one of the readers who didn’t follow you to Medium. Tried it, but it didn’t work. Here, I read you frequently, dived in your archives, sometimes several years back, to read pieces and it always felt as ‘your site, your style’. Glad you’re back. Welcome home.

  6. I am one of the readers that follow you everywhere, just to find out what you’re up to now again (yes, same IT deviation). Did you stop using Ulysses as well?

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