I woke this morning to an email congratulating me to the fact that this blog is ten years old today. I really hadn’t realised.
Occasionally I get fed up with commemorations and anniversaries, but here is one that I suppose I ought to mark.
Ten Years. Quite a while.
I began the blog for a variety of reasons. One was that I had just begun my Ph.D. Research, and was coming across things that I thought fascinating, amusing, or sometimes even important, but I knew that they would not find a place in my thesis. The blog was a way of recording these, and of sharing them.
Secondly, I knew that there were other researchers out there interested in the same sort of thing as myself, and a blog was a way of making contact with them. Over the years I have been very grateful for the comments, corrections and sometimes fierce arguments that have greeted my posts.
I had two models for blogging, back in the day. One was Esther MacCallum-Stewart’s very lively ‘Break of Day in the Trenches’, which set about war myths with marvellous gusto. The other was Dan Todman’s Trench Fever, in which he worked through many of the ideas in that excellent book The Great War: Myth and Memory. Brett Holman’s Airminded blog was an example, too, and later, Tim Kendall began his excellent War Poetry blog. There are others, too that have been inspirations and sources of information and amusement.
At first my blog was mostly snippets and oddments, and accounts of what I’d chanced upon. Then I began writing about things that annoyed me – especially sentimental and inaccurate fiction based on the war. Recently I’ve tried to limit the amount of invective I write – it’s too easy, and one shouldn’t waste too much time on combating the utterly stupid. I even resisted the temptation to blog about the film of War Horse, or the second series of The Village.
Sometimes I look through the back posts, and am surprised by what I find: a mention of a book I’d pretty well forgotten, or a reminder of a lovely day spent in an archive somewhere. Some of the blog posts have acted as first drafts for longer pieces of writing. Once I got stuck in a paper of some kind, recalling a rather good and apposite critical phrase that I was sure I’d read somewhere, but not able to recall the author or context of it. In desperation, I googled it, and found that I’d written the phrase myself, in a blog post long years ago.
Over ten years I have published 1,299 posts, which have attracted 623,958 views from 152,000 visitors. These days the blog averages between 150 and 200 views a day. Which is paltry by Kim Kardashian standards, but maybe not too bad for a niche subject.
I sometimes look at the statistics and think how much better this is at reaching an audience than more conventional scholarly publication. I’ve had chapters in books and articles in journals, and feedback has been minimal. These publications sit respectably on the shelves of the better libraries, but how much are they read? I doubt if the readership matches the 39,000 views of my ‘White Feathers’ paper, published online.
Will I go on? Definitely. I’ve been tempted sometimes to call the blog Great War Fiction plus, and widen it to include cultural things I’ve noted outside the subject of the Great War. I think this would spoil it, though, and as it is I give myself plenty of leeway and often talk about subjects whose relevance to the war is tangential.
Has the blog been hard work? Not really. A lot of it is just note-making, and other posts are a chance for me to sort out my ideas about a subject before developing them elsewhere. And I enjoy doing it, so I’ll carry on.
Plans? I’ll tackle whatever comes along. I suspect that the Somme centenary is going to be interesting.
At the moment I’m busy thinking about Arnold Bennett, and will be for the next month or so. After that, yes. I really must get down to putting my book together.