I actually knew this was coming through various ultra-secret intelligence sources. I think it’s fair to say now that most blogs have a fairly definite life cycle. Most never really outlast a brief initial burst of enthusiasm, but those that do last rarely hold on for more than about three or four years without either transmogrifying into some other kind of format (a group blog, a paid gig of some kind).
Mostly blogs ebb and flow with the life rhythms of their creator. Graduate students with blogs get deep into their dissertations, or finish a dissertation, and decide to put aside a blog. Babies arrive, or people get seriously ill. Work makes new demands, and takes energies away from a blog.
However, I think there’s also something about the form itself that poses a problem, and that the problem has gotten more acute as blogging has evolved as a practice. A self-aware blog writer eventually starts to recognize static or repetitive patterns in their posting that threaten to devolve into schtick. Readers may not object: in fact, the larger and more stable a community of readers a blogger has, the more they may in fact come to rely on the blogger to merely convene or spark a rolling conversation among commenters, to be the rhetorical equivalent of comfort food.
For anyone hoping to sharpen and complicate their own writing, or to use a blog for exploration and discovery, however, this repetition and cumulative expectation can become a problem. I’ve talked here before about how much I find my sense of humor drains out of me when I’m writing here, because I’ve gotten trapped by compulsive reasonableness. When I write in this format, I find that my humor is sharpest when it’s snarky and a bit cruel (I don’t think this is true in person), so I often put it aside. There are times where that and other self-imposed limits and expectations frustrate me as a writer and even a thinker, however.
I’ve also hit a point where I’m frustrated by the rigidity of discussions across the blogosphere. I honestly see a big difference between the kinds of conversations about academia that used to happen in the comments of the Invisible Adjunct’s site and the meta-conversations about academic and disciplinary issues that now roll across a range of blogs, from Erin O’Connor to the Valve to Long Sunday and so on. We’ve gone past the point where many conversations had the plasticity to go in unexpected directions. We’ve gotten instead to the point where many participants in the meta-discussion are defending fixed terrain, sometimes terrain that they’re paid to defend by institutions with a largely instrumental interest in blogs as extensions of some larger project.
So I have to say I was recently tempted to go the way of things Berubean, and close up shop. I don’t think I will just yet. There are still a lot of things I enjoy about blogging: conversations I find rewarding, discoveries to be made, skills to be honed. Plus if I don’t blog, I’m going to start excessively unloading on anyone unlucky enough to be in earshot with my opinions about everything under the sun. For their sake, I’ll keep this outlet going.