I’m Torn

People generally don’t believe me when I say I have A.D.D. They think I’m using a trendy shortcut to explain a mood or a circumstance. Maybe I am, because I’ve never taken the time out to go get an official opinion. I’m functional, I’m smart, and when it’s absolutely necessary I can kick my ass into fifth gear even though I only feel truly whole and like myself when stopped, or even stranded, by the side of some road.

Many people probably feel that way, but I wonder if they feel as debilitated as I do when their brain has to split between the internal and the external. My brain has a 24-hour theater built right into its gray matter. I don’t see a lot of movies or watch television because, really, the shows in my head are much more custom-tailored, and they don’t stop — not when I’m sleeping, not when I’m writing, not when I’m sitting face-to-face with someone over a cup of coffee. They. Never. Stop.

And I’ve grown so comfortable, maybe even in love, with this theater of mind that I resent being pulled away from it for any length of time. I get fidgety and anxious when I’m forced to focus on things that aren’t naturally included in my loop. My children are in that loop — my friends, my writing, my blog, and other people and things I care about are in there — but so many things are not, and they are often considered necessary. Like drudgery or to-do lists. Like ambition, or concentrating on the future.

I wonder if my mother and teachers weren’t right — maybe I am just lazy. Except that I’m not, at least not in ways that matter to me. I can spend hours researching and writing a story I think is important, and even during the most frustrating part of that process I feel intact and happy. But I’m more than unhappy when I have to focus on something outside my loop, I’m miserable. Like screeching chalk — high-pitched scream — intrusively getting touched in a way I don’t like to be touched — miserable. Many of my work experiences have been like that, and I have spent most of my career years trying to, 1) look for work that would intrigue me for longer than five minutes, or 2) look for work that required as little brainpower and interaction as possible. Can you guess which was easier to find?

Yes, I’m getting to the point which is that I’m torn. I’m torn in lots of ways, between lots of things, but since I’m sharing this with my readers, you might guess that it’s this blog I’m talking about. This March will mark my 3rd anniversary of blogging. In that time, the site has recycled readers at least three times, moving from coverage of a celebrity’s death, to an unsolved murder, to its current incarnation as . . . what? Stories, Essays, Opinions. A hodgepodge of writing which more popular people have told me is way too serious or too analytical to ever gain a substantial audience.

For what it’s worth, they are right! My friend Neil can rewrite a Billy Joel song and get 33 comments in the blink of an eye. Jenny, otherwise known as TheBloggess, can write one paragraph about the evil queen from Snow White and have 127 readers feel compelled to respond. And while I don’t understand the whole “mommy blogger” phenomenon, I would guess that Miss-Britt is one, since she’s looking for corporate sponsors — a topic on which 44 of her readers commented.

It’s not all about comments, but about regular readers, of which I have relatively few. And since I hate networking and self-promotion, and that whole “look at me! look at me!” Twitter mode of marketing, I’m not likely to gain many more. Blogging, too, I think is becoming somewhat passe. There are literally millions of blogs out there. Attention spans are short, readers dissipate on a whim — because they didn’t like one story, or because their feelings got hurt in some way, or because they felt awkward after writing you an email that said they had a crush on you, or you forgot to respond to an email, or you found out they were unstable, weird personalities — or whatever. It doesn’t take much to lose a reader, but it does take a lot to keep one, especially if the shit you write generally isn’t funny, and doesn’t make people laugh. Humor is way more popular than politics and child abuse. Just ask Neil’s penis, which is so popular that it sometimes writes its own blog posts.

So torn, yes. I feel kind of stupid for keeping this blog, and ugh – when I’ve actually asked people to comment. Do I have no dignity at all? I feel dumb. And unpopular. I’ve even caught myself trying to be funny lately, which is kind of like the fat kid wearing baggy clothes to look thinner. It doesn’t work. Maybe my vagina should have written this post. That might be funny, except that my vagina is very very serious. If it could dress itself, it would wear button-down shirts, sensible shoes, and glasses. It would speak some obscure language like Faroese, and play the clarinet. It would lay on a black leather couch three times a week for psychoanalysis, and attend Scrabble tournaments on Friday nights. It would lust after wilder, more carefree, less uptight vaginas, but in a respectful, unrequited way.

My vagina would think that this blog looks somewhat gaudy, and I can’t help but agree. So when I’m not like the fat kid with baggy clothes, I’m like the owner of an ugly house that keeps slapping paint on the shingles. I’ve never been good with color or design, which is something I blame on a childhood spent surrounded by gloss orange and silver-veined mirror tiles, but I can recognize good design when I see it, and this isn’t it. Plus, my eyes get bored easily — I have to change things up once in awhile. So I look at really flexible themes that promise to solve most of my technical problems, like Thesis, and I think, Yes! That’s it! This thing will totally make my blog better! Then I think – $87. On a blog that earns nada. For someone who’s presently without a real job. And again, I feel just a twinge of stupid.

I hate when stupid gets in my loop. I like the reel that shows me being a decent writer — passionate about causes, productive, sensible, and engaging. That reel is motivating. This other one, where I feel like I’m adding layers of paint to a shabby house while wondering if my vagina wouldn’t be a better speaker, forces me to focus on raw, disconcerting truths I’d rather ignore. Like how many people have left and never come back. Like how many hours I spend on an unpopular blog. Like why I’m doing this instead of putting all my efforts towards something more productive.

I’m torn between fifth gear and stranded. Between the theater of the mind, and the bright lights of necessity — between dignity and humility. And the truly funny thing is — it’s not that big of a deal. It’s not like I’m the fastest runner pulling out of a relay race, or the only cake-jumping stripper scheduled for a party. The only life that would change if I quit blogging is my own, so why the angst? (Rhetorical question). Pride, a sense of defeat, constant hope, the leaving of a habit, the loss of an outlet, and of friends who were loyal and did stay.

Fuck. I hate decisions like this almost as much as I hate boring meetings. I’m going to work it out as I do almost everything else, by writing until the answer comes to me. So there will be lots of blog posts until I decide. Probably at least one a day until something clicks. I can’t promise that any of them will be good, but then I think — I’ve done too much thinking today. I’ll save those thoughts for some other post.

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33 comments

  1. I don’t know what to say. I admire blogs like yours that are authentic, thought provoking and well-written. I admire blogs that are funny or have photos, fonts and layouts that make me say “ooh, ahhh”,… and return. I’m amazed by the popularity of blogs that are none of the above. Blown fucking away, by the number of subscribers and commenters. It can’t just be “community”. One person can’t kiss the ass of several hundred people. Group think? I don’t know.

    Good luck making your decision. I selfishly hope you decide to continue blogging. I know it’s a time suck.

    PS: I don’t think your vagina should write any posts. Just my personal opinion. I don’t let mine speak or write either.

  2. Jane,
    I suspect there are many readers like me who check at least once a day to see if you’ve posted something new, who read it, who usually understand it or at least part of it.

    Mostly, I don’t respond because you’ve said it and said it well. I feel any comment I might make is fairly insignificant to many of your posts.

    You need to write and you need to be read which I believe you are. Perhaps your ego needs feedback but we’re not editors, we’re readers. Sometimes, what you write just stops us in our tracks or the subject is so frustrating and we don’t know what to actually DO about it that we don’t respond.

    That’s not kind and generous of us, your readers, since you are so generous with your work. I will try to be more responsive to your work. I need to read what you write even when it makes me uncomfortable and often too uncomfortable or simply wordless to respond.

    Your research and writing has value to me.

    Thank you.

  3. Chris, for now at least I’m keeping my vagina silent on the matter. I ramble enough as it is. :-)

    Marcie, you’ve been one of the loyal ones, and I totally appreciate it. I don’t expect people to comment all the time. I don’t do it myself. My thoughts are that if I had more readers, it wouldn’t be so obvious when people commented or not. I do think you’ve been very kind and generous, as have the 10-15 people that do comment regularly.

  4. Blogging is like the publishing business. I’m not sure why you would compare your blog to someone else’s blog, especially a more personality driven blog. It is like Thomas Friedman upset that the latest cat book was a bigger best-seller. Your type of writing is a definite challenge. People are scared of opinionated writers at times, even if they agree with them. They don’t seem as approachable. And bloggers are snooty. What the hell does this Jane Devin know? Who the hell is she to give her opinion? I bet if one of your opinion pieces made it into the New York Times, your readership would go up ten-fold, and everyone would suddenly be eating up your words like manna. You know and I know your skill in writing, so we know that isn’t the issue.

    You would not be happy writing posts like I do. My people-pleasing personality pushes me towards entertainment. It gives me pleasure, so readers come and comment despite my writing. It is even more so for a popular blogger like the Bloggess or Dooce. Once they have established themselves, they can post a photo of a coffee cup and create interest, not necessarily for that day’s content, but because their personality themselves has become part of the show. (Jenny, if you are reading, this — you know that is true!)

    You are a blogger of ideas more than personality, even though we all know that you have a big personality. You just don’t usually let Jane Devin be the center of each post in the way others make their blogs revolved around themselves. I think Danny of Jew Eat Yet does a good job of combining issues and his personal experience, so it becomes a hybrid type of writing that is very unique to me. You do that well also when you bring up some of your personal stories, and mix them with politics.

    As for the comments, I know two bloggers who don’t get many comments who just got book deals! I know I never judge a blog on the comments. That would be insane! I think everyone also comments more on popular blogs, just so THEY will be seen. It’s a bad system, but that’s how we act — we are humans. But publishers and editors know the difference between blogging and writing. No one is going to ask me to write a book based on my blog. But I am sure someone out there is impressed by your writing. Maybe you should stop reading me, and trying to schmooze with those who can actually advance your writing career, which I know is virtually impossible because of the sexual chemistry we have for each other.

    Maybe blogging isn’t for you. I’m sure it takes away from your real writing time. Didn’t you once tell me the same thing?

    As for the self-marketing and stuff. There’s no way out of it. Most of us can really only follow about 30 blogs fully every day. So, it is sort of a battle to get yourself as one of those 30. And the competition just gets tighter as professionals and group blogs steal the thunder from amateurs like us who also have to pay the bills. I purposely don’t read some very good blogs written by professionals and media organizations, just because, if everyone did that, we would all be out of business.

    I’d like to see you write some dopey post about what you made for dinner, or what you felt like shopping for baby clothes — just for the fun of it! I’ll even promote it.

  5. And I will comment more. Actually, I think this would be the best approach for everyone. If comments are important to you, why not ask for them!

  6. Mom, oh Mom. I think if blogging has reached it limit and is no longer fun… Then change something. Change your mind-set on what you think a “good” or “sucessful” blog should be! You have to do what makes YOU happy. Write what you feel, what you have a passion for and put it out there. Who cares if you get comments? Or you think an audience isn’t listening! (Hello, is this mic on??) Because really, its not about them. Its about you… Just figure out what you want, and go for it. There is always a way when there is a stubborn Devin at the helm!

  7. Yeah, I get why you think I’m whining. I’m not, really, just thinking out loud. And you know, daughter of mine, blahblah, that you can think yourself a good indigent, and have the finest van down by the river, but yeah. And hey, what are you doing up at 1:33 a.m.? Come over for breakfast. I’ll make you a fruit salad and super strong coffee. We can discuss the meaning of life & your party on Tuesday.

  8. Oh Jane, I so get it! The feeling of loving something combined with the sense that it’s out of the loop, or should be because it’s not productive. I know it’s not the same, but I have felt the same way about my boat. I invested a ton of money in it, I love boating, but getting friends to come along and enjoy it with me is almost impossible. I could go alone, and do, but it’s not the same and not what I was thinking of when I bought the thing. It doesn’t mean I love boating any less, just that it can be a pretty lonely activity.

    Whatever you decide, I’ll enjoy reading as you write yourself through it. Hang in there!

  9. I too am one of your fans that checks everyday, but never comments. I have thought of taking up a blog, but also thought “who would care!” I was never one of those women that kept a journal so why would I want to start one now! I think blogs are a great way to check in with people you really don’t know, but like to hear their thoughts that make you go, “hmmm!” in your real life. Cyberspace if a wonderful way to make “friends” that you nevery actual meet, but always want to know what they say!

  10. ahh Jane, I hear you and I get it.Blogging does seem to have lost some of the lustre. I have been posting less and less and that is for an audience of about 7 (on a good day).I agree with your other fans that your work is good, well researched, poignant,topical, informative, thought provoking and more than a little intimidating. I check everyday, first thing and don’t always comment because I have no words sometimes.I admire what you do, appreciate the intimate sharing you provide and the honesty with which you do it. I don’t share that much in comments because I guess– a. it’s your stage, not mine, b.I’m a bit more guarded, c.it isn’t a forum and you didn’t ask for input. You have asked for at least an acknowlegement and that is certainly reasonable.
    You will do what is best for you, but I, for one, would be very sad if I couldn’t start my day with some of your thoughts.

  11. I was SO excited today when I finally got on the computer and you had written several pieces! I do come to the site nearly every day during the work week. I always have this bit of disappointment when there is nothing new. I have gone back and read old posts, re-read ones that were particularly meaningful to me. I would miss your thoughtful dialogue. However, I can understand your internal dilemma. I appreciate your sharing a little of the conversation that flows through your busy, intellegent mind. Frankly, I would be ok hearing what your vagina had to say as well. I can imagine her comments would be saucy and amusing mixed with some anger and indignance! You do bring light to my neurological day——

  12. Tammie – that is awesome that you took the time to introduce yourself. Thank you, and welcome!

    LBJ – It’s exactly like that. :-)

    Doris – I love your input, always. I also love your photographs. I’ve stolen them on occasion to use as a screen saver. I probably owe you a royalty.

    Anne – The conversation in my head is ongoing. I’m pretty certain that if I live long enough, I will be a dotty old woman who mentally time travels and talks to herself.

  13. Ok, hilarious. I actually heard your sighs and responses to my comment from 50 miles away! I already had the complete conversation between us, on this subject matter, right in my head! Certainly saves on gas money!

  14. jane…you should listen to your daughter more often….and she needs to chime in more often. ;)

    and that bit about your VaJayJay had me in stitches.

    as for what to do, i have three words for you:
    follow your bliss

  15. Jane – I agree that you should do what makes your soul hum but I would ssoooo miss your postings. And, you already know why. Hugs from far way in California.

  16. Daughter, you know me well, but our psychic communication cannot make up for face time where I can hear your sighs-mumbles-and-groans in person. :-)

    Kris, oy, you shouldn’t have said that! Now she’ll be like, see? People agree with Meeeeeeeeee. We can’t have that. ;-)

    Jeanne, my soul hums when I write, but gets all frustrated and sad over other things. It probably needs therapy like my vajay. :-)

  17. Selfishly, I hope your blog does not end. I enjoy it when you interrupt my internal theater with your essays. Because of circumstances (nothing tragic), I do not come in contact with many thought provoking people. Unless of course you count the thought “WTF”. I don’t comment often, but I look forward to reading your commentary and short stories because you are interesting. So, as with many things in life, do what works for you. You were ahead of your time in roller derby and maybe now the blogging medium? Just a thought during an intermission.

    Two more things, I consider A.D.D. to be a form a triage when you get older. You know your time here is limited so why not focus your energy on things that interest you! And now I have the old Jim Croce song “ Roller Derby Queen” stuck in my head, thanks.

    All the best,
    Lisa

  18. Jane, I read your blog on a regular basis and I don’t usually comment. You’re a wonderful writer. My interest varies according to topic and think you shine most when it’s personal. I don’t think you can have a successful blog if it’s not personal. The story about your mother was so memorable, this is where you glow. You also do well with political topics as you know. So if you want more readers, you may need to choose–I know, I know, I know…like choosing a major. That being said, I just read a story about a writer from Forbes (article is a few weeks old, on Gawker)–and he didn’t have that many comments, but swung a book deal. So it could pay off at some point? Also, I am a Minneapolis writer, used to do music reviews for the Pioneer Press and was a special features editor for Sun Newspapers. I have two kids and a boyfriend, but if you’d like to meet sometime for coffee to share ideas on how to profit from writing (I’m working on a few ideas myself and have just finished a book but this economy has me worried). I live in Edina and have a website and you can google me. I think you probably need to make money and do something you love and there isn’t anything else besides writing. One idea I have for you is to teach a blogging class at the Loft–well, email me if you feel like it, but I don’t think you can give up writing if you’re a writer….Also, LOL–the new “I Love Comments!”

  19. Lisa, I just listened to that song again today. And thank you for cracking me up with the line “I do not come in contact with many thought provoking people. Unless of course you count the thought “WTF”.” I think you and I must be on parallel courses. :-)

    Annie, thank you! Sent you an email.

  20. Neil just sent me your way, based on a post I wrote about being Mediocre in the Blogosphere. I might be you or you might be me… down to the ADD and need to constantly change, rearrange, fix, update, move on and sometimes even give up. You explained me in great detail in this post and I take comfort in that… knowing that if I’m crazy, I’m not the only crazy one. :) Excellent post.

  21. I just found your blog via twitter from user “Neilochka” he always puts up awesome links to great writing. I trust the power of his links. I enjoyed your thoughts and this was my first time here. I am leaving with a great first impression and liked the entry enough to write a comment. I get where you’re coming from. I am struggling all the time with my blog. I write an entry I love and am proud of the writing and almost nobody says a word. Then as a joke I put up a yes or no question about whether you believe in ghosts and got like 50 comments. Really?! It’s time. People want to skip to the bottom, and leave something in the hope you follow them back to lavish them with praise over their 25 things about me Meme they think is a hoot.

    As a rule and a promise I made to myself, whenever I start to feel ruled by readers or comments, I write a post with the intention of losing readers. When I become unwilling to do that I need to just shut the thing down because writing for comments and followers isn’t going to do me or my writing any good.

    I lost a ton of readers when I made a comment about how I wasn’t going to always write about my family, because people that just talk about their kids are fucking boring. So yeah. Mission accomplished. I will be back to read more.

  22. I think what sets your blog apart is a positive, compassionate “atmosphere.” Many, many blogs are just places where people vent and are scarily mean-spirited. You have created a small community where people are supportive—not exactly a support blog, but you’ve somehow established boundaries. I was reading HuffPo and there are many negative venters there–it’s popular though. For example, the majority of comments about the mother of the octuplets were a long the lines of welfare b**** or Take her kids away! etc.

    I also think when you respond to your ,that’s a unique asset and can drive up interest. Pretty sure that’s how Perez Hilton got his going.

  23. I do this solo dance all the time, Jane. Because I deal only with issues of mental health on my blog, I get lots of readers and almost no comments. People don’t like to jump into this particular arena. When I look at my stats I’m stunned by the numbers and figure I’m serving a purpose and will keep it up until I no longer can. But I really miss writing for joy and must find greater balance between the two. It’s a perpetual challenge.

  24. I still read your blog and I swear I’m not unstable or weird.

    I’m with your daughter on this one. Write from the heart, what you want, when you want and if you want. If you no longer enjoy it don’t do it. If you get 7 thoughtful comments and someone else gets 70 comments that say “I agree, LOL” or “You’re so right” what’s the difference?

    My blog is my whatever/whenever I want depository. If no one reads it or comments or someone reads it and comments it’s all the same to me.

  25. Annie, I recently read that Nadya Suleman and her publicist received death threats. I tend to think that things like that are helped along by blogs that let the nastiness pile-on. If I ever think my world is too kind or rational, I read the comments on sites that cover celebrities, like Perez’s or TMZ, or even HuffPo’s entertainment section, where even the children of celebs are fair game.

    Kate, I always write for my own pleasure. It’s just a matter of being on the internet, and yes, the insecurity that goes with that. :-)

    Mary, oh thank god. I wasn’t sure about you. ;-) I admire people that don’t care if they get comments or not. I’m totally not one of them, though, and I admit it. Writing is very much a solo act, but sharing it with others on the internet isn’t, or at least I feel like it shouldn’t be. I like the conversations that follow – I like the stories people tell – I like to spark those kinds of discussions. I think it’s possible I might be a discussion voyeur. :-)

  26. Loved this and love your writing, although I was way too ADD to read through to the bottom. Shitty, huh? :)

    Over from Ryan (Panic Room) – (please don’t feel compelled to visit my blog or leave comments there; I comment because I truly want to.)

    I started getting too many comments (for me) once and had to step way back. It sent me into a blog induced social panic attack and I suddenly felt like people expected something from me. I like that there are only a few people that still come back. Even when I don’t post for weeks, or when I just post crap. The happiest I became with my little blog was when I stopped checking stats and how many people subscribed. So much less pressure… just a me outlet.

    Relevant? I don’t know. But nice to meet you!

  27. Jane-

    First time here, I followed Ryan’s link. Don’t you love how the blogosphere is such an incestuous place? Any way, I have about 6 loyal readers and commentors, so I get where you’re coming from. When you put yourself out there for literally the entire world to see, it gets intimidating. Especially when you think no one except your family is reading what you’re posting (and not commenting). I’ve been doing this less than a year and at first it was hard to get going, but I think I’ve found my voice. Some days I post multiple times, some days once and some days not at all. Finding things to write about can be really difficult at times. Ultimately, I’m going to keep writing as long as I feel like I’m getting something out of it. You should do the same.

  28. Oh I came over from Ryan’s place too. Wow. This was a great post. We all feel this way I think. I’ve only been at it for like 4 months and I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. I wanted a creative outlet. Just for me. Plain and simple. A place to decorate with some thoughts and some photos and some stories and wow – it keeps changing and evolving and sometimes, like now, I am going through an identity crisis. I try not to care about what everyone else is caring about here in blogville but like others have said, it’s the human in us. Wanting to get validation for who we are and we attach our identity to our blog of course. So anyway – from what I have read here, you are so super smart. And that in itself can scare people away. No one wants to feel intimidated you know? People like commenting on coffee cups because it’s something they know. Not everyone feels comfortable when Ayn Rand is quoted. :-) For me I don’t mind feeling dumber than most. I’m used to it. I have super smart siblings. :-)

    Okay enough rambling…I’ll be back to check you out again.

  29. my magazine having been the target of The Bloggess’s vitriol, I have to admit that she scares the devil out of me. It’s so weird when people who have never met you or know anything about you say shit about you or your creation to all their readers. But I share your conflict over continuing to blog when what I say seems so irrelevant. And beyond that, is it just narcissism on my part? (I love it when a post gets a comment and I would be stats whore if I knew how to generate them better!) I come to your blog for honesty and big, difficult thoughts, something in short supply on the internet. Keep writing, Jane.

  30. Hi Jane, I just stumbled on to your site and I must tell you I absolutely love it. Since this is an older post I can tell that you have made the decision to keep on blogging. I am so happy about that, as I have added you to my RSS reader. As some one who suffers from ADD as well, (I also have depression so ain’t that a grand combo) I can tell you, your description is better than any I have been able to come up with. Thanks for the writing and the sharing and even for being serious.

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