Self-Criticism Session: May 2008

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This month was typical in that when I was on, I was on – a flurry of posts, some good momentum, I was pretty happy. When I’m off, though, it’s quite disappointing, no posts for over a week, I’m either taking care of other writing or Intl Wota. That said, the big picture has to be more about what I need to do for the future than what’s happened this past month.

The big thing for me is a decision in the past couple days to commit myself more firmly to long-term projects that have languished due to immediate day-to-day blogging concerns. What brought this to mind was a combination of two things: reading through all the TLS Survey responses as they came out, and seeing a serious dip in Intl Wota readership in the past month. (Actually, a third thing also figures into all that follows: Rilke’s famous admonition that “You must change your life.” But I won’t go into that here.)

As far as the surveys go, the main questions that concerned me were about Intl Wota and whether or not bloggers considered themselves writers. The latter question intrigued me more, mostly because I believe that those who consider themselves serious writers and are willing to stand by that designation will be the likeliest ones to take writing about Japanese music to another level sometime in the future.

Switching gears somewhat, I was looking over the recent Sitemeter results for Intl Wota and the drop daily visits became glaringly obvious. There are a couple of good explanations for this drop, but what I found most interesting was that it didn’t concern me too much. Intl Wota has become a center for bloggers and by bloggers, so as long as the core community is present and we remain cheerfully open to all newcomers, I’m fine with being in the 400-500 daily visits range or even lower. (We’re between 600-700 daily this month, and our best was in the 800 or so region in March.)

The question that came to my mind was first, “What can we do to boost visits to the site?” Then it was, “Do I care about boosting visits?” And the answer to that was No. Then I asked myself, “Why not?” And the answer was, Because I’d rather spend my time working with the serious writers and finally get Intl Wota Press off the ground. Maybe that’ll boost the daily visits, maybe not – but it’s the direction I personally want to take Intl Wota.

Quite frankly, I simply haven’t had the time or focus to devote to Intl Wota Press or Intl Wota Samizdat, and I’m thinking the Samizdat will need to wait at least a few more months if not next year. I’ve talked to several people about projects for Intl Wota Press but there’s been no formal submissions of writing samples or outlines, and so nothing to take through the committee for approval or dismissal just yet.

I want to change that, and I think the best thing to do is actually force some groupthink into the situation. So, here’s an open call to bloggers in our community: if you’re ready to do an article or essay or story of 6,000 to 12,000 words over the summer and get a little money for it (thirty bucks on publication), contact me. I’ll choose the ones I like, four or five maximum (assuming I get that many proposals), and we’ll start an online writing workshop with specific goals in mind: an eBook of your article followed by its inclusion in a POD book. We’ll share portions of what we’ve written, critique each other, and encourage each other along the way. Considering that I’ve taught college-level writing, been an editor, won some minor awards for my own writing, and continue to freelance to this day, I think I have the know-how to make a serious go of it. The workshop will be serious, but I’ll make sure it doesn’t eat up anyone’s time unreasonably.

I know the talent’s out there – I read too many blogs not to see it. The question is the faith you have in your own abilities, and the TLS surveys made clear there’s a good deal of that as well. So if you have an idea but aren’t sure you can deliver the word count, talk to me and we’ll figure it out. If you’re not sure if you’re a good enough writer, talk to me and we’ll see if your strengths outweigh your flaws. If you want to get involved just to build up your writing chops but don’t have a topic in mind, talk to me and we’ll see what interests you. All proposals or questions should be sent to ray@mescallado.com – and please put IW PRESS in the Subject Heading, so it won’t get lost with the spam.

Look at it this way: If I’m putting up some of my money to get you to write, I’m certainly taking this seriously and have a great deal of faith in you as a writer if you’re chosen. In a weird way, this seems like the natural end-result of when I first started the Sunday Blog Roundups almost three years ago: I did the SBRs because I wanted to encourage quality writing on Japanese music, and this is just taking it to the next, logical level.

On a related note, I’ve also been thinking about my own long-term goals. Again. I’ve been wanting to write a book-length work on Japanese pop music since my first year of blogging, but kept getting distracted by other things. It’s easy to have a big master plan in mind, and even easier to let it slide through your fingers when it’s low on your actual day-to-day priorities. This past month’s freelance writing projects reminded me that I can deliver the goods if I set my mind to it and if there’s some kind of accountability involved, so Ame Wota will see a more definite commitment in that direction as well. I’m hoping the first American Wota book – a vaguely postmodern appreciation of Jpop – will finally see print by the end of June or by early July.

If you’re not seeing sections of this book being serialized by this first week of June, then it’s slid through my fingers yet again. Which doesn’t mean I give up, by any means. It just means I keep moving forward and keep reminding myself that it matters.

The concerns raised by all this Big Picture talk is whether or not the smaller day-to-day priorities suffer. (Real life won’t suffer, but let’s pretend it won’t intrude too heavily on my late-at-night-writing time.) Will my posts on Intl Wota become even more erratic? Will I give up on the Berikyuu Watch for good? What about all the other categories in Ame Wota, will they just be set aside in favor of serialized book excerpts and this Intl Wota Press workshop? I’m hoping not. Intl Wota now has a plugin which makes write-ups ridiculously easy to set up, so that shouldn’t suffer. As for Ame Wota, I think once I get the ball rolling with both Intl Wota Press and the Ame Wota book, the other aspects of Ame Wota – including Berikyuu Watch – will be able to get my needed attention. As always, I start the new month out as an optimist.

Let’s see how this goes. And keep your fingers crossed.

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One Response to “Self-Criticism Session: May 2008”
  1. Craig says:

    A book on Japanese pop music by Ray Mescallado? Yes please!