The State of the Union

StateUnion

Today may bring the strangest article in the history of TDYLF. For three years, the site has pumped out one article or another about movies and (occasionally) TV 4.617 times a week. Ish. Today, I’m going to go a little meta (if that word is even still a thing, and if it’s not then substitute “self-referential”). Today I’d like to discuss the current state of things and the future of the site.

akira_kurosawa_copy

Writing about this wily bastard started it all.

As I mentioned, TDYLF’s been in operation for just over three years. It’s been a fun ride, with a lot of highlights. It’s been a way to make new (internet) friends and for longtime friends to get to know me better. The site has had a lot of exposure through these few years. I’ve been published once, and there’s a 99% chance I’ll be published again in the fall*. By some stroke of hilarious dumb luck last summer, I was interviewed by NPR. I’ve even received feedback from Edgar Wright (via Twitter) at one point. And TDYLF just passed one million all-time page views recently. When I started this thing by writing a goofy little article about Akira Kurosawa, never in a billion years did I think that people would be interested in the cinematic synaptic goo pouring out of my skull a million times.

*I can’t tell you what this is all about until it publishes but I can tell you that I’m as excited about it as anything that’s happened to me while doing stuff for TDYLF.

Having said that, things have changed a lot for me personally in the last year. In fact, work that I’ve done here on TDYLF precipitated a lot of it. The people I work with saw some of the things I’d done here, and they realized that I might be able to apply that same type of work within my job. In short, they gave me a chance to succeed within my skill-set and I’m grateful for that. That may sound cryptic, but I’ve tried hard to keep my work life and TDYLF separate. Why change now? But I digress.

The obvious truth is that this is a great turn of events for me, personally. I love my job, I love the people I work with, and I’m excited about applying the things that I do at TDYLF for my employer. Unfortunately, this also means that I have considerably less time for TDYLF. Not only am I spending more of my creative time on my job. I’m also more exhausted and/or less willing to spend extra time on a site that relies heavily on at least some design.

Evil babies have taken away TDYLF's mojo.

Evil babies have taken away TDYLF’s mojo.

My interest in TDYLF has also taken a completely natural (and positive) hit in the last year or two. Many of my best friends- whose friendship has been forged in film discussion- have had their own personal changes. Namely, they now have kids. For all of the right reasons, they have less time to talk about movies. Instead, they’re proud of their infant children and the family life they’ve created. It used to be that I could turn to these sources for some amazing movie discussion, and there was ample time for it. They were fellow junkies. Now, their focus has been turned to their own futures, far more important than any discussion about anything ever put to celluloid (or rendered digitally). This means that I’m thinking and talking about movies less frequently. Justifiably so.

Moreover, the death of the IMDb Hit List took its toll. Its mere existence was a unique motivator for content. Finding my way onto the Hit List was the white whale to my Ahab, giving me an obsessive goal to chase. I would purposely try to create content that I knew their editors and readers would enjoy (with a great deal of help from my friend Marty, one of the friends mentioned in my previous point). Without that audience, the site has been sapped of my motivation. And the new content isn’t fair to loyal readers. And now I find myself less interested in creating content that’s engaging to larger audiences.

Last but not least, my attitude about movies has changed. The magic of movies is approaching routinization. And even though there’s still SOOOO much left to be discovered, I feel like I’ve exposed myself to so many different genres, decades, directors, actors, movements, and countries of origin when it comes to film. Film still pleases me, but it doesn’t surprise me nearly as much as it did, say, six years ago. This is true of any endeavor you may choose. Indulge in it enough and it eventually it loses its charm. Trust me. When you wake up tomorrow, try to learn all you can about, say, entomology. Within a few years, you’ll feel like you’ve reached the limits of what can be known about bugs.

VisitingTraffic

Visiting traffic since Feb. 2012, red/orange/yellow = more visitors. Pretty much everywhere but a few African countries, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Azerbaijan.

The end result of all of this is that I have so much less energy to create unique content. As I said earlier, that’s not fair to you, gentle readers. After all, you’re all the biggest reason TDYLF exists. Without your attention, without your readership, I promise you that all of this would’ve crumbled a long time ago. The site would’ve died on the vine. I LOVE that I have regular readers from Maryland; California; Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota; Toronto and Montreal; major metropolitan areas like New York and Chicago; Tennessee; Australia and New Zealand; the UK;  several parts of South America; and several other points in-between. Every day, I get page views from all over the world and it’s mind-blowing. And you have no idea how grateful I am to all of you for that. Thank you.

So what becomes of TDYLF from here? There are several options. The first option is to fight through all of this and hope that my creative mojo returns. Another option would be to take a break from writing for a week or two. This seems like a reasonable enough idea, but the odds of me returning from it are long. The third option is to produce less frequent content, but to make it more meaningful. In this incarnation, I’d be posting more visual stuff, but only every week or two (hooray for infographs!). Or maybe there’s something in the middle of all of that. Please understand that at least for the time being, it’s business as usual until I can sort this all out.

Allow me to feed my narcissism for a moment. How do you all feel about all of this? Do you have any opinions about what you’d like to see moving forward? Is it as obvious to all of you as it is to me that the quality has declined in the last year/ish? Would you stick with it if I moved to a once-weekly option with more engaging content?

50 Comments

Filed under Blogging, Creativity, Movies, Writing

50 responses to “The State of the Union

  1. I would definitely read whatever you put out, no matter how infrequent it is because I know that I’m going to be entertained. I don’t think blogging of any sort is a permanent thing for anyone, no matter the subject. I think most of us will reach the point you’re at now somewhere down the line. Your site offers something a little different; it’s not just reviews, it’s unique and interesting features, so I say keep the content along the same lines and just do it when you want. There’s no pressure to do it, and if you’re not as enamored with it as you once were, a break could be a good idea. Thanks for the great posts John and I look forward to reading your stuff as and when you publish it.

    • Thanks, Terry. You’re a great example of how this site has helped me a lot. Your involvement here has led me to check out your site, read new things, and find new perspectives. Finding places like the Pigeon Coop is one of the unwritten rewards of doing this.

  2. To me, less is more in the way that quality compensate for the quantity. However, I understand being on a dry spell. Keeping the pace and the mojo is hard from time to time and tdylf is way much more successful than my own website. Whatever you choose John, you know you’ve been one of the most inspiring and enjoyable film writer out there.

  3. You write em, we’ll read em. Since we aren’t paying you to do so, we don’t get to demand anything.

  4. I’ve noticed no decline in quality. I think the blog has gotten funnier and more insightful. Step back. Take a breath. Go watch some movies without the burden of writing about them for awhile. What does ‘meta’ mean, again?

  5. Aleksa

    I’d keep reading even if you only posted monthly.

    • Thanks, Aleksa. And like Phil and Vladdy, since you’re such a long-time reader, I really appreciate that. You long-timers add so much to this place.

  6. John, I completely understand the issues you’re trying to sort through with this post. I’ve been facing similar ones, though mine are because we have a new baby (our second) and priorities are different. Regardless, any other things in life can make it challenging to blog. I also understand how views about movies evolve.

    n terms of your question, I’d definitely still read if you posted weekly, or even less frequently. I think sometimes bloggers try to post too often and should focus more on doing the best content. The frequency that allows for the best material is different for each person. I haven’t noticed a decline in quality, so I’ll read however you choose to go in the future.

    • All I know is, between the two of us, we have to keep the STL connection going just a little bit. I think it’s great that there’s a strange STL core to the LAMB.

      • Definitely! I’m not aware of any other STL film bloggers, particularly in the LAMB. I’m hoping to hit more STL festivals and special events down the road too. We have to keep showing strong!

  7. Phil

    Of course, do want feels right for you. While we will all be sad to read less TDYLF, I certainly understand that blogs are a temporary thing. I would vote for the once per week posting. I do think if you took an extended break, or only posted occassionally, you would quickly lose your motivation and stop altogether. At least for me, having a schedule works.
    Anyways, thanks again for all the content, no matter what you choose to do. We are the ones who owe you. If you ever happen to be in San Francisco area, send me an email and I’ll buy you dinner.

    • Ha… thanks, Phil. If I ever make it out there, you’re on for dinner/drinks/whatever you choose.

      And I agree completely. Stopping would probably kill the whole site. I could see enjoying the luxury of a break too much.

  8. I’ve noticed the change and read the articles less often. I’ve had a site/blog whatever for 13 years now, and have quit plenty of times myself, and have always wound up regretting it and restarting something else, to diminishing returns. My advice would be to keep it, write less often, and leave the door open for when you feel re-inspired. If that doesn’t happen, the site’ll fade – which is not a terrible thing. You’re a great writer, and your more considered pieces are excellent. And your droided-up graphics are amazing.

    • Thanks, Jep. I really appreciate the honesty, and I’m glad I’m not the only one who’s noticed a change in things.

      And I appreciate your perspective, too. Have you had the same site running all 13 years or have you shifted each time? I’ll admit, one of my (rough) ideas was to go to a new site with a very different focus (actually… fixating on the more visual side of things). But I’d hate to dump all the good karma here.

  9. Do what you gotta do, man, we all have much respect for you. Publish when you want, I’m sure people will still love to check it out!

  10. Vladdy

    I’ve said on many occasions that yours is the only blog on the entire internet planet that I read consistently. I haven’t noticed so much a decline in quality as just too many Netflix reviews and maybe a wee bit less inspiration from the films you were watching.

    Two things:

    1. Sometimes forcing yourself to watch too many classics that don’t really interest you can take its toll on movie-watching. No matter how famous the filmmaker or what list a film is on, if you don’t like musicals, every one you watch will be homework. So maybe your movie year resolutions are hurting your enjoyment of movies in general? Slow down, you move too fast, got to make the moment last, as Simon & Garfunkel once said (sang).

    2. Post once a month and I will still read it. I could never give up on a blog that has articles with names like “12 Other Things Natalie Portman Didn’t Do” which almost made Diet Coke come out of my nose.

    • Vladdy, you’re one of my favorite readers because you’ve been here for so long, so you especially have the perspective to speak about the flow lately of the site. I appreciate the feedback about the viewer reviews.

      The good news is, now that I have CS6 at home, I may be able to get back to doing more photoshoppy-type stuff (like the Natalie Portman article).

  11. None of us can do this indefinitely.

    I’ll echo what Aleksa said and say that if you decided to scale back your posts to once a month, I’d still drop by to read. Whatever rhythm you choose, your audience will keep tuning in.

    Glad to hear things are going so well for ya mate!

    • Thanks, Ryan. Like I said with Jessica, it means a lot coming from someone who’s so well-respected in the movie blog/site community.

  12. Glad to hear you’re able to apply your skills honed here to a paid job – great work! Don’t become disenchanted with cinema – there is still so much happening, and still a lot to come. Just watch what you want to watch, when you feel like it – don’t force yourself or it’ll become a chore! Secondly – just take a break from blogging and come back when you feel like it – we’ll all still be here :)

    • Thanks, Georgina! I’m trying out my new pace starting this week and we’ll see how it goes. I’d still like to keep on SOME kind of regular schedule, but maybe it’s every Monday, or every Monday and Thursday, or… whatever, but just not every day.

  13. I’d definitely continue to read no matter how often you posted.

    • Thanks, Dave. And that goes both ways. I’m a regular reader at your site regardless. Your screenplay for Deuce Bigelow is seriously one of the best things I’ve ever seen on a movie blog/site.

      (you should all go read Dave’s Deuce Bigelow screenplay over at kl5film.com)

  14. I’m in the exact same boat, man, right down to most of my friends having kids now. This month has been go-go-go for me, and now I’m so far behind that it feels like near-impossible to get back on track. Things should be slowing down for me soon, but yeah, posting less often is awfully tempting.

    Anyway, I hope you don’t abandon TDYLF completely. I’m always excited to see new entries from you pop up in my reader. At the very least, I hope we still continue to get your New Year’s resolution updates and occasional weekend wrapups. Your mini-reviews are great.

    • One thing I’ve always liked about TWS is that you have a great variety. It’s predominantly film, but there’s also beer, video games, and occasionally baseball. Those four things are an unbeatable combo and I imagine it helps, a little, to keep your content fresh. If you get bored with one, you can easily shift to the other.

  15. It’s funny — I’ll be hitting 5 years with FilmFather this July, and was thinking of doing this same kind of open letter to my readers to gauge if I should carry on. Many of the elements you mentioned are reasons why I’m contemplating whether it’s worth it to continue — full-time job, two kids, burnout, a drop in readership, a yearn to get published, etc.

    But enough about me. I come here probably one or twice a week on average, and even if you didn’t post content as frequently as before, I’d still be a loyal reader. Plus, following you on Twitter will help keep me abreast (huh, huh) of any new activity at TDYLF.

    Like other people above me have said: Do what ya gotta do. We’ll still be here.

    • Thanks, FF. And likewise, I’ll still hit up your site if you slow down. You’ve got a great niche. People will always want good opinions about kids and movies, and you provide hard empirical evidence. I love that.

  16. heyzeus

    I think you should rededicate the blog entirely to MS Paint masterpieces. Also, I want to be able to say the following some day: “TDYLF switched over to hard core pornography so gradually, I barely even noticed!”

  17. I don’t leave comments much, but I enjoy your articles a great deal and would continue to visit even if the frequency tailed off a little. Just keep writing as long as the passion is there, the readers will always be there.

  18. goregirl

    John LaRue this makes me feel sad. Although I congratulate you on your work-related acheivements I don’t work with you and therefore can only appreciate what you do for a living in a very superficial sort of way. What I do however appreciate immensely are stick figures with boobs. You make me laugh LaRue. Maybe I need to come to St. Louis with several bottles of liquor and a dozen films and lock us in your dwelling. Sorta like those people who de-program cult members. I’ll dress like a female Nazi officer and yell in your face in a bad German accent. You Vill Vatch DAISIES and You Vill Rezite achtl lines From Za Film. I will of course yell this mere inches from your face (because that is how it is done). I understand needing to feel it though….and Satan knows there have been times when I have wanted to call it quits with my blog. If you posted once a week I would still stop by…if you posted once a month I would still stop by. If you abandon ship altogether there is ALWAYS room for a once monthly LaRue post over at my place! But only if you let me dress up as a Nazi officer and yell in your face.

    • Goregirl, She-Wolf of the SS?

      I’ve tried to embrace the stick figures a bit more lately because they’re, honestly, ALWAYS fun, and they’re pretty quick and easy to do. But, they also don’t get as much traffic and I don’t want to burn anyone out on them.

  19. Blogging should be fun and rewarding and not a chore. It’s ok to feel it’s a chore once in a while; it’s just a sign that you need a few weeks break to get your mojo back. But if it keeps feeling like a burden you need to reconsider what you’re doing, unless it’s your job. (well even then you might reconsider).

    When I read your post it doesn’t seem like you’re in the state where you need to end it. But you need to slow down a bit and get comfortable with your new pacing. I hope the comments here will help you to see the truth: we’ll love you and keep following you regardless of how often you post. Once a month is ok too!

    I don’t say this often enough but I’ll grab the opportunity here to say that you are awesome. Simply top notch, one of my favourite bloggers. And I’m not throwing out such statements carelessly. I mean it.

    • Thanks, Jessica. That really means a lot coming from someone as well-respected (deservedly so) as yourself.

      My first article “back” from my break posts tomorrow and for the first time in a long time, I actually had a lot of fun making it. I think it’ll be sort of a trial balloon for the kind of content I’ll have moving forward.

  20. This is not the most original comment, but I say do your thing however often you feel like. I’ve never posted to my own blog as often as others post to theirs. I too am working on a huge project that I can’t talk about. And when blogging stops being fun, I’m gonna stop until it sounds fun again :)

    • Thanks, Paula. Nobody would ever accuse you and your site of sacrificing quality for quantity, that’s for sure. You’ve got more awesome info packed into one of your articles than a lot of places have in five articles.

  21. jackdeth72

    Hi, Droid:

    You write. We read. Though I am looking forward to the day you put some big round Harold Lloyd glasses on C3-PO. I think it would be a nice, unique, dignified look.

  22. Pingback: Everybody’s Talkin’ 5 – 24 (Chatter from Other Bloggers) | The Matinee | Cinematic Passion & Perspective

  23. Mark

    Have you considered taking this to the next level and incorporating more reader input or external contributors?
    Or, eventually take the site in a different direction and compete in an alternative way with more reknowned review sites.
    Either route would make you more of a website manager but also gives you space/time to recharge your creative batteries.

    • I’m always in favor of contributing sources (you should know… your five year old has given me content in the past). Although I don’t think I’m big enough to shoot for external contributors, if only because I don’t want to gobble up anyone’s time without actually paying them. And TDYLF is definitely not at that place right now. Maybe ever.

  24. I’ve been in a similar situation to you, John, where external life events have conspired to potentially bring all your hard work to a screaming halt. I can only speak from my experience, but I found that in reducing my blog output to a level I could maintain consistently and be happy with, was the only way to keep things going. Eventually my mojo came back, and I could refocus my energy on the fun rather than the work of running a blog.

    Whatever you decide, I’ll be here, lurking in the shadows, reading your stuff (which is often hilarious, by the way!) all the way down here in Australia.

    Best of luck!

    • Thanks for your support, Rodney. I’m finding a decent stride now at 2 to 3-ish times a week and I’m liking it. Or better yet, just writing when I actually have something fun to write or post. It makes a HUGE difference.

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