Saturday, November 07, 2009

Saturday Morning Musings - a change in writing direction

Each week I write between two and six thousand words. That's a lot of words! At least one PhD thesis every year.

My first ever blog post was in March 2006. Since then I have written 2,679 posts. Again, that's a lot, a very large lot.

In addition to the blogs, I maintain (?!) two web sites.

Last year I decided to move forward on my next book. I also started writing a weekly column for the Armidale Express. Yes, this also gives me a post, but it means that every Sunday morning without fail I sit and stare at a blank screen while I work our what to write. It also means that I face a conflict between my research and the constant demand of deadlines.

I used to write regular stock take posts. Over recent months I have had no time for this. I have been forced to rely on the search facility to find past writing when I need it, and this does not work very well.

In all this, I am working harder, but my blog traffic is actually dropping. Jim has clearly become a dull bore to his readers.

Time for a change.

I do not want to give up any of my blogs. They are like children to me. Yet my failure to post on some blogs on a regular basis is clearly affecting readership.

What to do?

I have decided to change direction a little, something that I foreshadowed in a Facebook comment.

Now for the first bit of the change.

I have applied to become an honorary associate at the University of New England to give me a more formal structure for my historical writing. This involves joining the Heritage Futures Research Centre with honorary associate status with the School of Humanities. The Centre describes itself this way:

The Heritage Futures Research Centre was founded in 2001 as a cross-disciplinary research centre within the University of New England. It aims to consolidate the university's range of expertise and research relating to the natural and cultural heritage of the local New England region and to revitalise links with local community organisations, local government and interested individuals.

The founding researchers were drawn from the disciplines of Archaeology, History, Education, English, Geography/Planning, Rural Science, Natural Resources, Indigenous Studies and Environmental Studies. This composition is flexible and inclusive, subject to research opportunities and needs, and has allowed group members to bring their different perspectives and expertise to a number of research projects in the New England and other regions. Many of the projects have a practical edge to assist communities to develop tourism ventures based on local history and culture.

If you look at my work and writing, you will see that this is right up my alley.

I am not sure, however, that I fit the rules for honorary associate status with the School of Humanities, so we shall see. In any case, I have slotted myself in to give a seminar next year in the School of Humanities internal seminar series, this one on method illustrated by examples drawn from my work. I am also giving a paper in the middle of next year to the Armidale and District Historical Society on New England's Aboriginal languages, a paper that will be published in the Society's journal. I number of people have already volunteered to comment on my work here.

You know, I have been remarkably blessed.

I began blogging at something of a down point. Blogging broke me from isolation, giving me structure and opening so many doors. Part of this was my own doing, I had to do the writing, but the friends and contacts I made though blogging have been quite remarkable.

I don't quite know how to explain this.

To begin with, the fact that I do have some regular readers means that I am writing to people, not just to attract search engine traffic. Then the comments, the posts on other blogs, the emails, all challenge me and force me to refine my views. I cannot remain static.

Each small step I have taken leads me to new steps. My Express column came from blogging. In turn, the need to write for a different medium changed my approach. I also added in new email traffic that showed me that at least a few people were reading what I wrote. This re-created links that then led to to the future Historical Society presentation.

This is just one example.

Michael O'Rourke's books on the Kamilaroi sit on my shelf. He sent them to me because of the posts I wrote. They are incredibly valuable to my current work. The earlier writing I did on the Aborigines including the demographic analysis has had an impact. Not a big one; just a small but useful change at the margin in a Government policy approach.

The creation of a better structure for my historical writing was a first step. I have now begun changes in direction on the blogs, starting with this one. They wont necessarily be obvious. A number are in the background, the way I do things.

I will comment on the next step a little later once I have something a little more tangible to report.              


Neil said...

I have a feeling that blog readership has been dropping a bit because of Twitter and Facebook.

Jim Belshaw said...

I am sure that's right, Neil, and it's an interesting one. There is only so much time for both reading and writing. More time on those two, less blog time.

Interesting example is the Wollombi Valley blog. This has stopped in terms of new posts. There is now a community portal combined with twitter.

The first provides the substance, the second keeps people in touch. Twitter is actually well suited to a local keeping people in touch role.

Facebook has cut out those who simply want to keep in touch with or share thoughts with friends.

Where blogs, I think, still come into their own is in the thought area.

Barbara Martin said...

I am sorry to say I have been delinquent in attending your blogs, and then find a nice link to my own blog. Thank you, Jim.

My history posts stopped because I began as a contributing writer for to write history articles. There are some history posts to be completed on the War of 1812 which I hope to be able to complete before year end.

Jim, your own endeavours are very exciting and I will link into your blogs more often to observe your progress.

Jim Belshaw said...

There is no need to apologise Barbara.

It's funny how things work out. I wrote something on 1812. This led me to you.

Then at an international conference in Shanghai the wife of the international president (Candian) was astonished to discover an Australian who knew about the war of 1812 that she sent me Pierre Berton's book.

Then earlier this year I went to Canada. With my interest now roused, I bought a Canadian history and wrote a post on it focused on the earlier period. This led Christopher Moore who wrote the chapter in question to email me. So now his blog is on my list!

And in all this I learn. Interesting, isn't it?

Kanani said...

Microblogging ....twitter and facebook are the rage.

However, this does free us up for other things --like longer pieces for blogs. Perhaps not as frequent in posting, or maybe even more structured.

I think the only thing I find annoying about microblogging is that it's an awful lot of chatter.

Let us know how the application process goes for the honorary associate position!

Ian said...

When I look at your array of blogs, obviously reflecting your diverse interests it occurs to me that you only need ONE blog. And what an interesting blog it would be!
I subscribe to a range of blogs and i enjoy Twitter as well. It's great following people of interest all over the world.

Jim Belshaw said...

I am a bit off chatter, Kanani. More precisely, I find it difficult to manage, at least so far as Twitter is concerned.

Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks, blowfly aka Ian. I may do that - collapse to one - at some point. I began with multiples to serve different audiences. A single blog with the same posting rate would turn the blog into a new type of vehicle.

Legal Eagle said...

I don't use twitter. I got a twitter account, but I haven't bothered to do more than 10 status updates in three months. FB is useful for short updates about how people are going, but not for in-depth discussion of issues such as those you canvass in your blog.

Well, I for one hope that you keep blogging because I enjoy it. But I do not know how you keep up all those different blogs - one is hard enough for me sometimes...

Jim Belshaw said...

With Twitter, LE, I am slowly wotking out its place. FB is easier; that's how I keep up with you and the kids!

I will keep blogging, but I may collapse the blogs. Part of my current experiment involves a different way of blogging. We shall see if that works!

Thomas said...

Best of luck with it Jim. I'm a fan of Personal Reflections and rather enjoy reading the type of content that you put up here. I do hope that this remains. But I'm sure that your new direction will prove to be the most successful.

Jim Belshaw said...

Thnak you, Thomas. The content will remain if with some tweeking. I have no idea as to final success, though. To some degree its suck it and see.

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