Focus in an Age of Distractions

Looking to improving my social media presence, I have been looking at ways to drive up traffic, increase audience engagement, and a whole lot of other buzzwords.  The long and short of it is, I’ve been trying to make my presence online more engaging, easier to find, and simply, more of a value.  All the buzzwords in the world won’t change that social media – at least for the artist – boils down to ‘be interesting enough to warrant the attention of others’.  Seems simple enough. 

Simple, but not easy. 

I find myself struggling with one of the key tenets of this: keep your blog focused.  Keep the blog on relevant topics.  Keep the blog about what you write about.  Since the blog has become one of the go-to choices for the modern artist trying to promote themselves, it is the foundation of my social media presence (that and re-tweeting about universal healthcare and other liberal propaganda, but baby steps).  While I think other mediums are more popular (such as podcasts), I can’t help but see them as a bit too complicated (I can barely work my phone), a bit too expensive (have you seen how much a good microphone costs?!), and a bit too unreliable.  While podcasts do seem to be the big new thing and are posed to takeover mainstream radio and similar outlets, I can’t help but feel like I heard this about live-streaming a few years ago, and web comics before that.  Not saying either way, just say I can’t help but feel a wee bit of deja vu. 

So, anyway, the blog.  My blog is kind of a scattershot.  I talk about exercise, writing, the world’s events, and generally whatever pops into my head.  Okay, sure, why not?  Except that it makes for an inconsistent value.  To readers tuning in every Tuesday, it’s hard to guess what will be discussed.  I need to remedy that. 

Yet doing so is tricky.  Talking about writing feels like it will have a limited audience, mostly other writers and fans of the craft.  Talking about art in general seems vague, but not too bad, especially if I can diversify the topics, but then I’d fear my blog turning into nothing but a review site.  I can talk about my works, but that seems vain.  I can talk about the genres and industries that my books are a part, and inform my books.  That’s even trickier, though. 

Let’s take Rhest for example.  The Rhest series of stories – Rhest for the Wicked and the assorted short stories appearing here – are cyberpunk tales about a street mercenary, heavily rooted in the Shadowrun and Cyberpunk 2040 vein.  They draw heavily from the work of Kenichi Sonoda, principally Bubblegum Crisis, though I think most readers will see in Rhest a LOT of Bean Bandit from Riding Bean and Gunsmith Cats. 

But the cyberpunk genre is largely dead.  In some cases, this is because it was supplanted by steampunk and, to a lesser extent, diesel punk.  In other cases, this was due to technology moving past what was often depicted in cyberpunk classics.  Much of the technology depicted in William Gibson’s Neuromancer is positively antiquated by today’s standards.  The idea of a hacker carrying around a hacking deck (essentially a specialized laptop) seems a bit laughable in an age where everyone has cell phones with more computational power than NASA had for most of its space missions. 

It also became harder and harder to satirize a culture that seemed to be getting increasingly ridiculous.  It became hard to vilify corporations for doing things like branding food when companies were doing precisely that.  It became harder to caricaturize corruption at the corporate and governmental levels when the real world corruption was so much worse and hit so much closer to home. 

How does one talk about that?  And how does one keep that from turning into a nonstop political blog? 

In slightly more upbeat fare, I could write more about fantasy or sci-fi, except I don’t really keep up with either industry.  I couldn’t even tell you who the big names in fantasy are right now, same with sci-fi.  Most icons of sci-fi I know work in movies or television, not literature.  Likewise, I’ve fallen out of touch with anime.  There’s just so little coming out of Japan right now that I find innovative, and what America and other nations are producing seems just as rote.  These things go in waves, I know, but I find my interest waning.  And video games?  Pssh.  After gamer gate, little in the gaming industry or community held any interest for me. 

So I find myself at a loss.  How do I utilize this blog in a manner that readers will find consistent?  A manner in which readers can see an easy connection to my books? 

I found this same problem with conventions.  For a while, I tried to fix my convention panels into a narrow space.  I tried to talk about specific topics, ones that would easily segue into my books.  The problem I quickly encountered was that my topic options were limited, audiences dwindled, and I got bored.  Why give the same state-of-cyberpunk panel to the same people every year, when I could talk about politics in ancient Japan one year and the origins of Lolita fashion the next.  Not the same matter, I know, but not unrelated. 

Still, I’m going to try.  I’m going to attempt to focus this blog a little bit, make it a bit more consistent and a little less non-sequitous (yes, that’s a word; I don’t care what spellcheck says).  I hope that this will become a bit easier after the new year, when my super-secret new project unveils at MAGFest, and when I (hopefully) will have a slate of new books to promote. 

Until then, we’ll just have to see. 

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Author: Robert V Aldrich

Author. Speaker. Cancer Researcher. Martial Artist. Illustrator. Cat dad. Nerd.

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