Friday, May 13, 2016
HEARTFELT THANKS FROM ME TO YOU
As often happens to free-lancers, for the last couple of months I’ve been very busy. That’s a fact, not an excuse.
But then again, no excuse (or fact) is worthy when it means taking for granted the kindness and loyalty of the people who support you, and one fact that comes home to me every time I check my blog stats is that the readership I’ve gathered for this blog is loyal and kind beyond all logic. The facts speak for themselves: In the past eight years, this blog has burgeoned from a mere handful of readers to peaks of literally thousands of hits for certain particularly popular entries. But what inspires me the most—as well as shames me—is that, during long periods like my latest hiatus, when I fail to publish a single line for weeks on end, the stats show that a faithful core readership checks in here between six hundred and seven hundred fifty times a month to see what’s new! Furthermore, many of those who find nothing new go back through the index and read pieces they might have missed in the past.
I just want you all to know that I am overwhelmed with gratitude for this, the kindest gesture any writer can ask for—that people are eager to read his/her work. That’s why I decided this week to impose a twice-monthly blog deadline on myself, and I will give those deadlines for The Southern Yankee priority over any other activity, not for the sake of self-discipline, but to reward the extraordinary persistence and loyalty of my readers. That said, as of today, The Southern Yankee will present a new entry, at the very least, on the 13th and 27th of every month...as well as whenever else the spirit moves me to post additional pieces.
When I started this blog in 2008, I really didn’t have very high hopes for it.
For one thing, although I became a professional Internet user very early on, in the mid-nineties, it was out of necessity rather than choice, since I had decided to leave the big city (Buenos Aires), where I’d been making a living in journalism for twenty years, to take up a life that my wife and I had long dreamed of, in the relative wilds on the outskirts of a Patagonian ski resort in the Andes Mountains. Though we had actually wanted to make our new life in an even more remote area, this was as far away as we could get from civilization and still have access to at least barely adequate communications.
The Internet (in a timid dial-up version) arrived, only shortly after we did, through the local electric power cooperative and I was one of the first customers for it. Before that, I had to send work I did for a magazine, a news agency or other publishing operations via fax, first through a telephone exchange five miles away and, a little later, from my own mountain home, after a long, uphill battle with the phone company—that convincingly reached the office of its president in Buenos Aires, a thousand miles away—until they finally agreed to put up twenty-five posts and string cable over a mile in from the highway along a twisting, climbing mountain lane to my cabin.
So it wasn’t like I was a nerdy Internet enthusiast. On the contrary, everything I learned, and continue to learn, about life on line is basically intuitive and via trial and error, since I have never been able to muster the interest or wherewithal to sit through any sort of course on computing, cybernetics, apps or the Internet per sé. For me, all of that is merely a tool—if an absolutely marvelous one—for sharing my work and my writing with my clients and with the world. And were it not a matter of necessity, I would surely still be writing this on one of several sturdy desk model manual typewriters that I’ve owned over the years.
For another thing, I had no knowledge whatsoever of the effectiveness of the social media in getting out the word about what you’re doing. The fact is that I only joined Facebook and then started a blog to placate a New York writer friend with whom I had worked in Buenos Aires, who was trying to help me find a literary agent and/or publisher for my fiction and non-fiction creative work. His point was a valid one: namely, that I would have to be a really egocentric ninny to think that anyone would remember my days as a Buenos Aires editor, columnist and foreign correspondent when I hadn’t had any serious visibility in the mainstream media for over a decade and a half. Blogging and Facebook were, he insisted, good tools for rebuilding my writing reputation after years of anonymous editing, research and translating.
So, applying a strategy called “controlled folly”, as suggested by brilliant if controversial writer Carlos Castaneda, I set out to write a blog, and the first article was on the subject of precisely the question I’d been wrestling with: Why blog? (http://southernyankeewriter.blogspot.com.ar/2008/07/so-why-blog.html) My answer, sifted through Castaneda’s sieve of the ridiculous, was the same as that of John Updike, who was quoted in that first entry: Why not?
At first, it was just a matter of getting the material out there. Having a blog gave me an “excuse” to write for myself instead just for hire. It challenged me to come up not only with new topics, new angles, new creative ideas, but also to revisit old memories and issues that had haunted me for years. It further challenged me to dig long lost manuscripts out of their hiding places in drawers, closets and disused briefcases and re-read them with a judiciously self-critical eye to see whether they were truly the serious works I’d thought they were when I wrote them or if they were, in the end, no more than random doodles of little or no value.
And so I started publishing. At first, practically no one read my blog. But I was also learning the ropes of communicating through Facebook and once I figured out how to post a link to the blog, things started looking up. Having written, back in the day, for a daily paper with a readership in the tens of thousands, and having been a stringer for major mass circulation newspapers and magazines in the US and Britain, the paltry early results of blogging seemed hardly worth the effort. But like a novice writer, despite a thirty-five-year career as a wordsmith, I found myself beaming when I would check my stats and see that a piece in my blog had gotten fifty or sixty hits. And when I started getting my first comments from readers, I was ecstatic. Why? Because this was all mine—the ideas, the words, the medium, the writing and, above all, the readers.
In short, I just want to say a heartfelt “thank you” to all of you for reading me, for identifying with what I write, for telling me how you feel both here and in Facebook, for taking the trouble to register as regular Followers of this blog, and for giving me the key element every writer needs to keep turning out stories and ideas: a faithful and responsive readership.
Many thanks, and I’ll see you here every 13th and 27th from now on.