Gotta keep starting somewhere

David Newland blogging20 years now, where’d they go?
20 years, I don’t know
I sit and I wonder sometimes
Where they’ve gone

-Bob Seger, “Like A Rock”

Twenty years ago now, give or take a few days, I started a bit of a journal in this space, taking up with some trepidation the hot new internet craze of blogging. I called my first post Gotta start somewhere. Like Bob Seger, I do sit and wonder sometimes where those years have gone. But what’s more important to me is what I’ve done with them. This blog is a case in point.

I didn’t have much of a purpose in mind when I started, except to work at my craft as a writer, and to augment my modest musical endeavours with some reflection on the process of getting out there. Initially, I wrote about whatever was happening for me musically: hosting open mics, making live recordings in old wooden buildings, and gradually building a bit of a foundation in the Ontario folk scene.

Over time I began to dig a little deeper, posting various musings about hockey, carpentry, travel, matters in the world at large, and sometimes, my own mental, emotional and spiritual state. It’s a blog, after all. I’m conscious that at times I over-shared. But many matters of deepest import never made it to these pages.

This forum has taken many forms. In the early days I coded changes to my website by hand, which meant cutting and pasting navigation updates page by page. (Blog software solved that problem). At one point I separated my main journal from a more whimsical section I called “The Shed Out Back”, which I later integrated into the main blog. I took posts down and put them back up. For a while I started putting my lyrics up; then I unpublished them later. I folded in work done for other outlets, including Roots Music Canada and The Canoe Dossier. At times I have posted my show posters, and at times I have forgotten or not bothered. I posted the playlists from my radio show, Spirit of the Song, for a while, and then let that trickle off. There are dead links and missing photos throughout. I was working as a web writer and producer for much of that time, but as the old saying goes, the cobbler’s children are poorly shod. I never managed this space very professionally. At least three different podcast efforts have been hosted here. I’ve also had, over the years, a MySpace page, several Twitter accounts, a Tumblr page, LibraryThing, a group blog on Blogger, personal and professional Facebook pages, and more, all of which served some kind of journaling or publicity function.

None of it ever added up to much. I had a bit of a following, I think, in the days before Facebook and other social media began to provide the daily fix for many readers–and writers. I sometimes think with regret of all the status updates that might have been grist for this mill. Or the readers that might have found me if I used Instagram properly. Or if I hadn’t dropped off Twitter. On the other hand, at least one person is still subscribed to my blog by RSS, I think, and if I post a link to this latest musing to Facebook, I imagine it will draw a few supportive readers. That’s a nice feeling. I don’t take it for granted.

I knew very early on that my journaling was pretty much just about staying creative, and “putting it out there”. Over time I realized that amounted to building a brand, or a persona, and I have intermittently taken that somewhat seriously. But that’s mostly a matter of editing what I say, or don’t say. There hasn’t been a lot of deliberation. I never had a content plan, an editorial calendar, or much of an urge to drive traffic. What I wanted was a workshop, where I could mess around, and reflect on my own efforts. If other people wanted to look they were welcome. They still are.

Lately I’ve thought about taking down all these posts. I’m not sure what, or who, they’re for, and sometimes I feel they clutter up the attic of my little corner of the internet. On the other hand, they’re not doing any real harm. And here I am, sitting in a favourite cafe on a Wednesday morning, twenty years along this trail, writing another blog post.

Maybe I haven’t finished doing what I originally set out to do here. There’s no way I can write, perform, study or make music without generating drafts, notes, half-baked schemes, unfinished projects, and a bunch of self-reflection. It’s part of the process. And for now, at least, this is where that stuff lives.

Anyway, I’ve only been doing it for twenty years. Maybe it’s still early in the process. After all, every day is a new beginning.

Gotta keep starting somewhere.

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