4000 Words a Week

July 14, 2008
A thought by James Berardinelli

Since I began writing reviews in 1992, I have devoted more than 3.2 million words to film criticism and commentary. That's somewhere between 5000 and 6000 pages of a hardback book. The sheer volume of what I have written didn't occur to me until I started converting the old archives from their previous html format to the new database format. I'm about 1/3 of the way done, but there are a lot of reviews there. Yet, with the number of ReelThoughts entries approach 500 (this one is #482), there's more than reviews to consider.

I first started Reelthoughts as a means to communicate thoughts that didn't have a logical place in reviews. At the time, I didn't really think of it as a "blog" (the word was relatively new in 2004) but as the next generation of my sporadically written "Commentaries." Over the years, the frequency of ReelThoughts posts has ebbed and flowed as my writing time has waxed and waned. I try to limit my movie-related writing to approximately 4000 words per week, so that means that if I'm writing more reviews, the time and space allotted to ReelThoughts may suffer.

There's a certain freedom associated with being able to sit down and write about anything that strikes my fancy, although there are times when readers become irate if I stray from movie-related topics and/or write something self-indulgent. I received a couple of negative e-mails a few weeks ago when I devoted a ReelThought to my disdain for flying. I'll probably get a few more for today's posting, which is more about blogging than movies.

It's fascinating to consider new blogs as they start. A couple of months ago, Roger Ebert began one - long overdue but most welcome. Roger has such a wealth of knowledge and such a rich history of stories to relate that this is a perfect forum for him. Like most new bloggers, he started out strong, with daily posts. Then, like many bloggers, his production slowed and he settled into a relaxed groove. The same thing happened to me and I'd wager it has happened to most bloggers (at least those who write other things beside blog entries).

The percentage of my readers who come to ReelThoughts is about 20%, so a majority of those visiting this site don't bother with ReelThoughts. That's the reason I devised a recent "perk" for those who are loyal readers of the entire site. (By the way, a reader suggested amending the way I use the asterisk in the "Upcoming Reviews" section. He proposed that, rather than placing a * next to a review that will be available in the database before it is officially posted, I add the * when I enter it into the database. That way, the * indicates that the review is available for those who want to use the search feature.) Most of those who click on ads are from this select group, so they carry the burden of keeping the site financially viable. Less than 25% of ad clicks come from those who visit ReelViews only for reviews.

I am occasionally asked if I run out of topics to write about. Not really. I keep a scratch pad will all sorts of potential ReelThoughts issues scribbled on it. Today, for example, I could have written about "blogging" or "lost and found (part 2)" or "looking for lost treasure." I'm also planning a combined ReelThoughts/reviews feature to highlight '80s movies. More on that next week once I have finished writing about Batman. Now that I have seen The Dark Knight, I can put Nolan's take on the franchise in perspective. I also want to say a little about counterprogramming The Dark Knight with Mamma Mia!

My opinion is that blogging should never be overly time-consuming or tedious. It's a way to communicate with readers in a more informal way than a review. I have a certain set of "pet topics" that I come back to repeatedly. (Those who are regular readers of ReelThoughts can tick them off on the fingers of one hand.) Hopefully, I don't repeat myself - too often.

So welcome to the blogging world, Mr. Ebert. Now there's another voice worth listening to.