Blank-of-the-year game: Gift-giving gift of 2009

I'm late getting on board Gwen Bell's backwards-for-forwards Best of 2009 Blog Challenge, but as La Bell herself sez, you can jump on that bus anytime you want. And turn it into a train, plane, or bicycle ride, as you like: if you are blog-free, you can tweet your thoughts, slip them into someone else's comment stream, scribble them into a notebook, etc. The juicy goodness is in the excavation. Join us!

Around this time last year, I made a decision: five days a week, for all 52 weeks of 2009, I would write here, on this little blog.

Why did I do this? For two reasons.

Reason #1: Writing for glory and eyeballs

Assuming it's done well (or is at least of some interest), regular writing translates into more readership. Cheap-to-free blog stats aren't an absolutely reliable indicator, especially when comparing a month rather than total visits per annum, but at least they offer some kind of metric. Here are my December visits* since I first launched communicatrix-dot-com, back in 2004:

  • In December of 2004, this blog had 800 visits.
  • In December of 2005, this blog had 3,500 visits.
  • In December of 2006, this blog had 1,800 visits.
  • In December of 2007, this blog had 3,700 visits.
  • In December of 2008, this blog had 5,000 visits.
  • In December of 2009, this blog had 8,500 visits (as of 3pm on 12/23/09).

The first bit of data you can extract from this is that if you're reading this now, you are part of a very elite crew: we could safely call ourselves The Tribe of People Who Like Reading for the Most Part Really Long Sh*t. We are few, but, I like to think, we are mighty.

The second bit is that what I'd like to think of as the natural growth curve of this site was severely thwarted by my asshattery in the Year of Our Lord 2006. Perhaps I should do an overlay with my liquor purchases for the year: there must be something that can explain it. The start-up of my (now-defunct) graphic design business? The launch and management of The Marketing Mix blog back in September of that year? Or my tenure as business/marketing columnist for LA Casting, which also began that month? (At least I can't blame the newsletter: I didn't start that until April of 2007.)

Reason #2: Writing because it's what you DO, dammit

I took a long, hard look at what I wanted at the end of last year. (Okay, and the end of 2007, too, bear with me, here.) And I realized that more than anything, I wanted to be the very best at what I'm the very best at. Which, well, I still haven't figured out.

But I know that the way I'm the very best at delivering it is writing. I was a passable actor and a just-barely-acceptable designer. I'm a middling teacher, a so-so songwriter and a dreadful (but heartfelt!) singer. I'm a reasonably engaging speaker, enough that, given adequate time and effort and opportunity, I might have a shot at become a great one (which would thrill me no end).

I do no such apologizing for my writing, except to say that for a while, I didn't do enough of it. If ever I had a natural gift, writing was it. And when you are given a gift, it is selfish and sad not to work at it. (To trash it with bad habits or neglect may be borderline sinful, but I check off the "spiritual not religious" box, so I tend to think that really, the worst thing about stomping on your gift is wasting potential, which I personally consider sinful in the Church of Colleen.)

Plus, with the exception of several years in advertising (which counts as stomping if anything does) and a few more recovering from the sting of Groundlings rejection, I have always loved writing more than anything. If I ever got stuck, my first shrink-slash-astrologer told me while explaining my chart, I could write my way out of it. Combing through the back catalog, even the wince-inducing sophomoric years, reveals more delights than horrors. I will get rid of every other book in the house, including my original Black Sparrow Press editions of Bukowski, before I let go of those ratty college journals and loopy, pain-filled spiral notebooks full of mid-30s angsty morning pages.

Results of the Great Writing Experiment of 2009?

I missed a few days, but very few, and more than made up for the total count with the two Salutesâ„¢ that bookended the year. (Lesson? They really do work for motivation.) It was exhausting at times and exhilarating at other times, but mostly, it just became That Thing I Do.

Can I keep it up in 2010? Do I want to? Yes and yes, although perhaps not here, and definitely not here in the form it's taken thus far. Not if I want to write anything else. Not if I want to make a living. (Note to those who would try this crazy experiment on their own: be sure you have huge cash reserves before embarking on a project that can easily siphon four hours off of your day, when you have other writing due.)

A natural question as I look back at this colossal gift I've given myself, this luxury of (largely) unpaid writing, is what I do as an encore? What will my Big Gift to myself be in the coming year, or the year after that?

I don't know. And I may not know until this time next year (or, you know, the year after that).

It's a crazy thing about gifts: the best and finest of them can start out looking a lot more like obligations than anything you'd put on your Santa list...


*If anyone is good with Excel and wants to compile a trends graph of visitors from launch to today, I'll give you the keys to my Sitemeter. We can make it public, we'll call it a collaborative cautionary visual tale!

Image by Kio Stark via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.