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.