Wednesday, May 8, 2013

No. 500

You are reading the 500th post on this blog. It began on February 4, 2009 with a piece about "Outlaw Pete," a new song on Bruce Springsteen's latest album Working on a Dream (which in retrospect looks like one of the Boss's weaker efforts, though the song holds up well). In the years since, a new post for American History Now has gone up on average about once every three days. They can be categorized the following ways:
  • Posts that chronicled the lives of fictive students and teachers (The Felix Chronicles, The Maria Chronicles, and the abandoned Horace Chronicles);
  • Posts that functioned as excerpts of first drafts of books, principally Sensing the Past, which was published in January 2013, as well as A Brief History of the Modern Media (forthcoming) and an abortive project on the history of the self-made man;
  • Book reviews that were cross-posted at the History News Network, where I have been Book Review editor about as long as I've had this blog;
  • Short posts on what I've been reading, watching or listening to on vacation or traveling;
  • Some miscellaneous stuff (ranging from tributes to Abraham Lincoln to Billy Joel).
I began this blog for two basic reasons:
  1. To participate in some of the excitement about new media, and the opportunities for ordinary people to become bloggers and publish work in ways that had previously been limited to those with access to capital, the professional publishing infrastructure, or both;
  2. To give me a creative outlet at a time when I was between book projects and was unsure what do to next.
So, has American History Now been a success? I guess I'd say yes: any enterprise that helped keep me out of trouble -- which is to say has given me at least an illusion of purpose for the last four years -- has been valuable. The blog has had about 100,000 page views, which is strictly small potatoes, though a few of my pieces have been accessed hundreds of times, which I think counts as a small audience, one that's both global and unlikely to have exposure to my work any other way.  On the other hand, I haven't exactly found fame and fortune.

And I'm tired. I began the blog four years ago amid a fallow period in my writing career. In the last four years I wrote two books and prepared second editions of two others, but my momentum has stopped: I'm back where I started, unsure where to go next -- or, indeed, whether to go any further, writing-wise. American History Now no longer seems like an exciting new experiment. Actually, it feels like an experiment that's run its course. I have no clear deadline for ending it, but I believe it will be soon. That may not matter much, not only because it won't be missed, but because on any given week it's old posts, not new ones, that get viewed by readers. This is actually what I hoped for; I conceived the blog less as a vehicle for journalism than as a repository for a body of work that would become a very small part of a very large public record.

In closing, I'd like to thank three sets of people: my family, for sustaining (and putting up with) me; Google, whose Blogger platform has been a truly marvelous gift, and you, dear reader, for the privilege of your attention. May you find a lifetime of pleasure in the written word, wherever you may happen to encounter it.