The Future of Collected Miscellany

Lined notebook and pen

Once more into the breach…

As the one or two people who read this blog with any regularity know, I have been struggling with whether to keep going. Traffic has gone down year by year. No one leaves a comment or links to this blog. On occasion a publisher might retweet or tweet a review or an author might say thank you for a review, but for the most part this site is visited by those led here from Google searches with a small trickle from social media.

My motivation and energy for posting, let alone quality posting, had all but disappeared. Largely because of the above. I admit, I struggle when I get no feedback or interaction; when it seems like no one is listening. I was hanging on mostly because I still like getting books from publishers and having a website where you post reviews helps with that.

As the end of 2020 approached, I thought it presented a good opportunity to make a clean break one way or the other. So I began to think about what I wanted to do.

The biggest motivation for me to keep this site going is the realization that social media and other distractions had undermined my ability to concentrate and focus on writing. And in 2021 I want to prove to myself that I can do the hard work necessary to write engaging and thought provoking book reviews and cultural criticism.

I also felt frustrated that I had read a great many books without coming away with much insight, opinion, or reaction. I was too passive. Writing is one way to force yourself to pay attention and get more out of reading.

The question was then whether I had the time and energy to make it work and how I would go about setting myself up to succeed. I decided that I owed it to myself to try. I didn’t want all the years CM has been around to simply disappear with a whimper.

The other question that I wrestled with was whether to design the site around book reviews, and thus book covers, or keep it as an old school blog; or a Tumblr style blog. Magazine style or blogger style? I played around with themes and looked at content and traffic. I mused on what I would likely be able to post as far as content, etc. I realized that besides book reviews, I regularly read magazine articles and blog posts and like to clip quotes and ideas from them to share. Hence the off and on again Tumblr style posting.

With this in mind, I came to the conclusion that the basic blog layout would work best for me. With one change. I decided to put the quotes and links from Tumblr style blog posts in the sidebar under Notes & Asides. This keeps the content on the site but not front and center.

Side note: I decided to keep CM focused on books and culture and to post politics over at my own personal blog. So if connects to books, literature, etc. I will post it here. If it is political or current event related I will post it at KH [Dot] Com.

I read 100 books in 2020. So I should be able to post regularly even if I only post once or twice a week. What remains is to commit to read with intention, to slow down and think. And then do the hard work of writing thoughtful and engaging prose.

So now that we have begun 2021, I hope you will bookmark this site, add it to your RSS feeds, or follow us on social media so that you can read along. I get that, like so many New Year’s resolutions, this could easily go by the wayside, but I want to give it the ol’ college try for at least a few months and see where that take us.

As always, thanks for stopping by. Please leave any thoughts or reactions in the comment section. I would love to get feedback from readers whether you have been here before or this is your first time.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season - oh, and watching golf too).

3 Comments

  1. Mr H: A comment, since you asked.
    I don’t read you because of social media, RSS, or Google book searches. I read you because you help keep my community spectrum wide. I’ve been reading blog posts since 2003/04. I’ve a long list of bookmarks, and you’ve long held a place there.
    But I’m an old white guy, in rural upstate NY, retired from teaching and all the other sources of contingent income that have supplemented my life. I’m luckily partners with a senior marketing manager, who has been responsible for almost all of our financial stability.
    I live in a small village, in an old house (1835); I volunteer, keep old motorcycles and old boats in use, and in my COVID imposed isolation, I walk the dogs and read a lot…old books, that I’ve collected for the past many decades. I don’t buy online, I don’t have a bookstore within 30 miles, and I’ve kept away from libraries for some 10 months. Some of my books I’ve read before, some I’m re-reading, and I try to keep a log of my reading.
    When I used to teach, I would require students to read Mortimer Adler’s short edit of “How To Read A Book” (photocopied from a 1940’s Omnibook magazine)–so I read with pen in hand and freely mark passages, make notes, and comment to myself. I don’t think anyone else will ever see the books again.
    I also have been printing off interesting passages I find online–one or two pages into Commonplace binders, longer full articles into a file folder collection.
    In other words, I’m a words guy, a desktop online reader, and I still have a folder in my bloglist titled ‘dead blogs’ just to sometimes scroll through the links to see if any of them are still alive.
    I hope you keep blogging. I question why you don’t join the two into one again. And I never realized that comments, even the ones to say “Hello in there” (Prine), are nice gestures. So, yeah, some (at least one) of your readers is just an ol’ blog enthusiast.

    1. Thanks for your comment and thanks for reading. Yes, comments and feedback do help you feel like you are connecting or that someone is listening (John Prine reference is a bonus). I hope RSS feeds and old fashioned blogs make a comeback but I’m not holding my breath.

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