Category Reformation

If you’re a sidebar solicitor, you might have noticed recently the “Realms of Wonders” category list has begun to change–“Essays” is slowly vanishing (but not quite slowly enough) while new categories like “Poverty” and “Equality” have popped up. This, I’m afraid, is but a small echo of what’s to come–tidings of the new face of the Writingwolf that I simply cannot keep secret until the forthcoming reveal.

Where do you belong?

Category confusion strikes again!

However, instead of trying to subtly ignore these obvious alterations, I thought I’d take a moment to peer into the future (and look deeper into myself) and try to answer an important question that’s begun to bother me: Why are tags and categories all that important after all?

When I began blogging, I tagged sparingly; in fact, my first post had only three–Gay, Jew, and Writer, fitting as they have become the defining features of my blog, although perhaps “Leader” should have its place among them, too. I soon learned that tagging increases traffic, and so as time went on, I made a conscious effort to tag more thoroughly–indeed, most of my recent posts exploit the fact that posts containing a combined total of fifteen or fewer categories and tags will appear in the WordPress topic lists, thus ensuring I can reach as many potential readers as possible.

But alas, readership is no longer my only goal in tagging and categorizing my posts.

As I move toward unleashing my new blog upon the world (I shouldn’t say this, but I have folders of new material ready for the reboot), I want to firmly root this blog in my vision for it–to be a vehicle for inspiration, motivation, and empowerment–a vehicle of change.

I also want to make my blog a more complete reflection of who I am–and as such, I want my new categories to mean something, to be more than just traffic lights and “NOW OPEN” signs.

The fundamental challenge has been answering the question “What should my categories accomplish?”

On one hand, they need to be descriptive. If they’re going to do their job of attracting new readers and reinvigorating those already here, all while making it easier to find specific content, categories need to be specific and precise. General catch-all categories like “Life” and “Thoughts” need to be reimagined or completely removed–and as you’ll soon see, that’s precisely what I’m doing, respectively.

On the other hand, the true descriptive weight of WordPress stresses a post’s tags, not its categories, per se. Furthermore, the handful of new categories I first proposed were either too general or so particular that any post would fall under three or four of them–and at that point, a category loses its significance.

I was at a loss, sitting before my computer, so I did what I generally do when I need to make things concrete: I grabbed a pencil and some paper and got to work. Since I want my new blog to mirror me–my interests and my values–I wrote at the very top “Identity” and began building a flow-chart of hierarchical tiers of possible categories–and in places they did overlap, and in places I had nodes with no leaves, but in the end I had something possibly usable. But I still wasn’t satisfied.

The beauty of my current, if haphazard, category system is that it came about organically. I started with only a few categories–Writing, Life, Fiction, Judaism, GLBT Activism–and as my interests and passions expanded, so did my category cloud. Things like “Thoughts” and “Thankful Things” arose, as did “Politics” and “Poetry.” As I grew, so did my categories. But what I hadn’t imagined happening was this: That such general categories, intended at first to be merely occasional endeavors, would end up holding more than half of my blogging space. As it stands today, 46% of my posts fall under “Life” and “Thoughts”–with nearly 60% of that in “Life” alone!

Starting a new system out of the blue just seems to disregard the organic structure I’ve already got. An intelligently designed system is still a designed system–it isn’t one that’s grown and cultivated over time, slowly rising to become the amazing thing it’s destined to become. It’s static, immovable, lifeless.

Those are three things I never want my blog to be.

But as I lay there on the floor, contemplating new categories, it occurred to me that I’m not creating a new system, I’m merely reorganizing what’s already there. I’m not changing my content, and certainly moving forward it’s only going to become more focused if yet somehow equally more diverse, and so creating new categories to properly capture what I have is merely fitting the bones in a body that’s already there.

In writing we like to speak of “fleshing out” a story. For the longest time I didn’t understand what this meant, but then slowly I realized you could start with a good skeleton, some nice bones of the story, but that doesn’t mean it has all the features we like to see–it doesn’t have the muscles to stand on its own, for example, or the skin and blood that brings blush to its face when caught in a compromising position. It needs some flesh, something to give it character and identity, to uphold and define its inherent structure.

So that’s what we mean when we flesh out a story.

With the Writingwolf, however, I’ve worked in reverse–I’ve started with a whole lot of flesh, but no obvious bones amid the mass. Things are floppy and disorganized, there’s part of a smile, but the cheek bones can’t hold it up–and don’t get me started on breathing when the ribcage can’t protect the lungs. By adopting new categories and revisiting old posts to place them properly upon the blog’s new body, I’m not undoing the growth I’ve fostered here, but instead I’m helping it to gain greater definition, to at last learn to stand on its own.

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11 thoughts on “Category Reformation

    • Thank you, Semation!

      I’m not sure I fully understand what you’re asking, but I definitely think there’s a strong correlation between how social media is always changing and how we need to change the way we present out writing to reach others.

      I’ve currently got a Facebook page for the Writingwolf, and although I haven’t spoken about it very much yet, I have new plans to help engage people through Facebook to continue making my blog a vehicle for change. One way I’ve started doing this is incorporating hashtags when I update my Facebook page, and so far, it’s been wildly successful.

      The beautiful thing about change–especially organic change–is that it tends to add more than it takes away, and when we can build upon the good in life, life only gets better.

      Thanks again for reading!

      Darren

  1. I guess it all depends on why you are writing. Are you doing it for enjoyment, validation, a means to grow a fan base to then publish a book or is it a form of therapy. I think regardless of what catergories you put you posts under people will find you I the content is good and noteworthy.

    • When I started blogging, my goal was “to grow a fan base to then publish a book,” but unfortunately, I’ve neither grown a large fanbase or published a book–but hopefully both will happen someday. Now I want to use my writing to help change the world for the better, and I want my blog to reflect that.

      Thank you for replying, and especially for your kind words.

  2. Isn’t it fun how blogs can change so much over time? I started mine as a way to learn WordPress. Then it became a blog with a purpose, and then I discovered tagging, and just recently categories. I stuck with two for now – on topic and off topic. But I too gave it a lot of thought before choosing them and I don’t doubt I may add more later!

    • Yes, it’s terrific how blogs change! I love watching people, and things, grow over time, and I’m honored you shared a bit of your story with me–thank you so much, and I wish you the best with your blog.

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts, John. I hardly consider myself a veteran blogger, but I can attest to how rewarding it can be to share yourself with others. I wish you the absolute best as you continue writing.

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