Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Last Holdout of a Dying Industry

"Face it, we are part of a dying industry."

That was my friend Bob Welch, last December as we were packing up after the book sale at the Register-Guard building in Eugene, an annual event that the RG generously hosts for its authors.

Bob Welch used to write a column three times a week, then he retired from that job and ratcheted up his already prodigious book-writing.  He and I and Carolyn Kortge are in a once-a-month rotation as columnists now.

Bill Sullivan used to have a regular column in the paper but is now a freelancer.  The cooking columnists were laid off.  Jan Eliot, writer of the Stone Soup comic strip, has retired.  So far, I haven't been cut, but you never know.

So after the customers--mostly age 60 and older--left, and the lights were turning off one by one we packed our remaining books in boxes and piled the boxes on our various wheeled haulers and carriers.

[Bob Welch also told me once that this is the authors' attempt to one-up everyone else at these events: not how many books sold but how cool of a book-hauler you have, like a techy fiberglass and steel thing that unfolds smoothly and clicks into place and glides out the door with 200 pounds of books.]

And then as we were ready to head out into the dark and cold, and Bridget Baker of the newspaper Bakers, one of the few families still running a newspaper in this country, held the door open and told us good night, that's when Bob said we're part of a dying industry.

I thought of how a chunk of the RG building is now rented out to other businesses, the definitely-older clientele who still read the newspaper, and the general sense of tightening resources at the Guard.

It made me feel sad and old and left behind.

Then, in the last week, I've heard from probably three sources that blogging is dead.  At least the rambling, storytelling, yammering-about-whatever just-having-fun sort of blogging.

A few people still blog, I'm told, but they're all about specific platforms such as decorating or theology or fashion, with well-crafted backgrounds and specific agendas and lots of photos.

All the old fun rambly bloggers have moved on, they tell me, first to facebook and then on to Instagram and Twitter and venues I haven't even heard of.

That made me feel kind of old and sad and left behind too, as though the young cool people have moved on to the new church up the road where they wave their hands in the air and sing praise songs with a band, and only a few old of us old fogies are still back at the little country church, singing Amazing Grace with a wheezy organ, and they've forgotten all about us. 

In both these cases I had a brief panicky sense of needing to drop the old and try to catch up with the new before it's too late.

And then I remembered.

I've been writing in some sort of public forum for about 30 years now.  All those years, I have heard advice, listened to talks, and read the experts' anxious sermons on The Only Way To Write And Market If You're Going To Reach Any One At All.

And I have always gone in the opposite direction.

I didn't get a degree in writing, I didn't buy a Writers Market, [that thick expensive writer's Bible]  I didn't cycle manuscripts to twenty different periodicals.  I was the last one to blog and get on facebook.  I didn't advertise.  I didn't try to get on radio, TV, or YouTube.  I didn't turn my blog into a platform, I didn't have a ladder of ads up the side, and I didn't have a Twitter account.

Well, I tried just a few of those, now and then, and soon learned that I was way better off doing it all wrong.  I advertised a time or two and barely broke even.  Recently I got on Instagram and quickly realized I am not the Instagrammy sort at all because I don't have enough white in my house, I don't travel to dreamy places enough,and I get too jealous of all the cool dreamy travelers with white backgrounds, so I quit following them and just keep up with my kids and their friends.

This is what I did do, over the years: I sort of moseyed along and wrote letters to people and raised children and jotted stuff down and mostly met my deadlines.  And, if God brought me up to a door, I figured I was supposed to go through it.

The successes I've had were mostly surprises.

So.  Why change my ways now?  Newspaper and blogs might be outdated and dying, but I plan to keep on writing for them until God nudges me in another direction.

Remember not so long ago when the watchmen up in the crow's nests of the book-industry ship were all warning that ebooks were speedboats overtaking the paper-book industry and all its authors were  doomed?

There were a lot of nervous authors out there and a lot of fear in the air at writing conferences.

Well.  This is what has happened: paper books are alive and well, the ebook industry is thriving as well, and authors have more options than they could have dreamed of 15 years ago, more open doors, more volition over their own work, more ways to reach an audience.  What isn't very alive or well are the huge monopolizing publishers and bookstores that made it almost impossible for specific-niche and first-time authors to publish their works or to make any money.

Newspapers and blogs might be a thing of the past, but words and stories and communication are forever.

Here are my favorite verses about panicking over the latest thing the culture around you is freaking out about:

Isaiah 8: 11-12

11 This is what the Lord says to me with his strong hand upon me,warning me not to follow the way of this people:
12 “Do not call conspiracy
    everything this people calls a conspiracy;
do not fear what they fear,
    and do not dread it.

So. I plan to keep writing about whatever I feel like.

And I do appreciate all you old-fashioned folks who  still stop by the Shoe.

Quote of the Day:
"Sometimes I feel like a VHS among a bunch of DVD's."


  1. I will stop by the Shoe and read as long as you keep writing! I also love books and have every one of yours. So thank you.

  2. Please.. don't stop The Shoe! I am a faithful reader but will abandon you if you only post on Twitter and Facebook :)

    1. Yup! Me too! Please, please don't leave!!! You have no idea how many ppl are impacted. We NEED you!!!

  3. Please carry on just the way you are. Not enough white in my house for instagram either and the day I start painting everything white is the day my family can assume I have gone crazy.

  4. Here's something to think about. I work as a reference librarian at Oregon State University. When I tell a student that the only format the book they want is as an e-book, he/she almost always asks me if I can find it for them in print. There's hope!

  5. Please never stop writing the "Shoe". Sometimes I think it, and Bob's writings, are the only sane things to read in this insane world!!

  6. Please never stop writing the "Shoe". Sometimes I think it, and Bob's writings, are the only sane things to read in this insane world!!

  7. you are one of my favorite reads - so sane and funny and honest and insightful. I love your formula for "success" - and please be cheered that my family still has a subscription to a real-paper newspaper! Does me good to see my kids fighting over the paper in the morning at breakfast.

  8. Amen to all of the above...

  9. I don't think blogging is dead quite yet. I have lots of well known bloggers I have followed that are still going strong. HOWEVER, I think blogging as a platform for monetary means is what everyone is abandoning. Almost all of the bloggers I followed who were trying to use it as a platform for making money/publicity have moved to other mediums. I see this as a good thing since what is more annoying than a thousands bloggers trying to sell themselves? I say let blogging become a small stubborn few who just write humorous, honest content about their lives and leave the masses to go on their endless scramble for a better, more trendy medium.

  10. While the subject of your article concerned blogging, I am grateful for the reminder of the verse you quoted from Isaiah 8:12. One reads so many articles on the web about how our country is doomed - and it is I am sure - and the remedy, some of which no doubt is Biblical. But then again one cannot manipulate God. So, I go back to these verses in Isaiah 8:12-14a: “Do not call conspiracy everything this people calls a conspiracy;do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it. It is the Lord of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread.Then He shall become a sanctuary;"

    Comforting, is it not?

  11. Great post with so many true observations. I don't live in Oregon anymore, but all three of my older siblings worked their way through their degrees at the UO while working at the RG. I have a few memories of the people and place as well, and it's just always been a landmark building in my eyes. It's sad to know it's slowly losing ground.

    I think you DO have a niche with blogging, and I think your kind of blog is what people look for now (at least I do if I'm going to spend time reading a blog! I skip over sites riddled with ads or affiliate links or perfect, unrealistic pictures of their homes that somehow dodge around the messes of life). When I started blogging about Alaska, I decided to do so as a labor of love from the heart and NOT a platform to make money from. It keeps my writing fresh and challenged to share my perspective on the beautiful natural world up here and make it of interest to whoever might stop by to read!

    Thank you for the Scripture. Applicable in so many ways in our lives. God's Word is the ultimate comfort and get-your-head-screwed-on-straight standard!

  12. I came late to the game of blogging, but I love it as a way to communicate what I know and do, even if no one reads it, as I believe it will be there for my posterity. I'm glad to know the "old fogeys" of the world, they have wisdom, insight and perspective! Keep up the good work.

  13. God has given you the gift of communicating truth through everyday experiences, Dorcas. Keep going in whatever venue He provides you!

  14. Thanks, everyone, for sharing your insights and experiences, and for the encouragement to keep writing. I needed it.