Let me make one thing clear right off the bat: I started my blog because I needed an outlet for my thoughts and feelings during the 2004 elections, not for the prestige and loyal readership it might bring me. I just needed a personal creative space where I could jot some things down that someone might be able to Google.
Now, if my friends happen to read my blog, great. If they e-mail others about it, fantastic. If people I don't even know check it out—and according to my hit counter, as many as 62 a day have—so much the better. And if, say, Harper's, Rolling Stone, or any other publication ever wanted to publish some of my blog entries for money, I guess that's their prerogative.
My blog is more of a hobby than anything else, something to do for fun when I get home from my bookstore job. I've never dreamed of making a living from it. Though hypothetically speaking, if The New Yorker—a publication that I'm sure pays top dollar—wanted to publish my August 9, 2005 post "Creative Thinking Spots" in its "Shouts And Murmurs" section, I'd consider it. Didn't cross my mind when I wrote that post, and that's certainly not why I wrote it, nor why I have a Google news alert set up for New Yorker editor David Remnick, but I can understand how someone on their staff might think the piece is a good fit for that section.
The No. 1 rule of my blog is that there are no rules. I write about everything from movies I've seen to crazy observations that just pop into my head about Starbucks. And sometimes I'll just write, "Had a pretty boring day today," take a picture of myself eating cereal for dinner, and call it a night. It's a web log, people. I'm not striving to be a great essayist, but if by chance some amazing commentary flows out of my keyboard, so be it. I don't write my blog to entertain anyone else, especially not some uptight Esquire editor. But if an Esquire editor is crazy about my work, and wants to run a three-page spread on my hilarious reviews of horrible movies, who am I to dismiss it out of hand?
If the Old Media bigwigs ever do decide to visit my blog (http://bentiedemanntellsall.blogspot.com) they would see it doesn't have that familiar opportunistic "look at me, look at me" feel of so many others. They'd see I'm just a small-town guy, humbly making his way in the big city, who happens to have a lot of unique and humorous outsider perspectives on that experience. For example, I got a few comments (from as far away as Boise!) on how interesting my post was about how in my hometown of Akron everyone is really laid-back, but in New York City, everyone is always on edge. I could see how these types of entries could be adapted into a syndicated column with a title like "Small Town Takes A Bite From Big Apple" that could run in a dozen papers. Though I'm not one to put myself out there and try to initiate these things, I wouldn't turn my nose up at them either.
Some of you are thinking that I'm just a sellout. But the true sellouts are blogs like Daily Kos and Talking Points Memo that blatantly rely on advertising. Sellouts are bandwagon bloggers like my colleague AudreyGrrrl, who recently got written up in Wired as one of the best bloggers under 30. Have I spent the last three and a half years trying to get profiled in Wired? No. Do I think some of my daily musings, such as the times I've blogged about missing the bus, are more interesting than the entries posted by those so called "best bloggers"? Yes. But blogging shouldn't be a competition. It's not about getting published in an anthology with a foreword by David Foster Wallace and going on a 30-stop book tour. I don't need that kind of attention. AudreyGrrrl might, but not me.
Look, if I wanted to be a "professional" print writer, I could easily do it. Last week I posted a very insightful piece on why Saturday Night Live is emerging from the bleak shadows of the past several years and may be on the cusp of experiencing a renaissance. Nearly three of the seven people who commented on the posting said they could envision the piece being published in the New York Times' Arts & Leisure section. Hey, I didn't say it, they did. And to be honest, by the looks of the section, they could use some new blood over there. Just saying.
I'm not some pathetic, lonely soul who sits in front of his computer refreshing his e-mail in hopes that somebody from HarperCollins, Three Rivers Press, or Random House will offer me a book deal. In fact, to prove how little I'm expecting from the blog career-wise, I'm taking the next few weeks off to focus on my spec script for Two And A Half Men—which I'm doing strictly for the practice, you understand. I could care less if it lands me an agent and a three-movie deal with Paramount.
I'm just doing this for me, after all.