January 2018 marks my 7th year of blogging. JP began as your average anime review blog and morphed into the history and analysis blog you read now. It’s also a platform for my writing hobby. At first, I had delusions of making money off of JP, and I guess, in a way, I have through book sales. Although the sale of my books only covers the hosting fees. Editors are expensive, after all. But I find writing and educating people in the process rewarding. I am pleased with between 1200-1800 readers visiting JP most days. I used to have advertising on JP, as I’m sure some of you remember, but after some thought, I stopped that income stream because, well, I loathe advertising. There is far too much of it, and I felt morally obligated to stop adding to the problem.
So what have I learned in 7 years? Well, that I still have a lot to learn for one. I’ve learned, much to my surprise, that I can stick with a single topic (as broad as it is) for 7 years. That is quite a feat for me. I have a bad habit of jumping from project to project before any are finished. It’s been a source of frustration for me, and I still flit to and fro, but I’ve managed to finish several books (of various quality) and stick with JP. It’s quite an achievement.
I’ve also learned about fear. People have quoted me, used my articles in academic articles, and even as part of high school and college lessons. Many see me as an “expert,” that amorphous word that makes people view just some joe as important. As if my keyboard mashings mean something more than another person’s eloquent pose. I keep waiting for someone to point at me and call me out as a phony. All of this adds more fear to the writing process. As any writer will tell you, fear always lurks whether you are drafting a novel or banging together a blog post. We fear how other people will receive our writing. Is it good? Or rather, did I minimize its sucktatude? As people accept your sucktatude as worthy of citing, you add in the fear of being revealed as the schmoe you are. But here’s the secret, every writer and researcher is just a schmoe. Writing is profoundly human. After all, writing is just a form of drawing. We have a habit of viewing experts as more-than-human. The only difference is the level of practice and carefulness of thought experts do. I make no claims of being a careful thinker, as many of you have noticed with my sloppy image selection and sometimes slapdash writing.
Over the last several years, I’ve seen how the Internet can shape behavior offline. As I study the anime community, I notice how much the hobby affects identity. It’s no different with sports. People often identify themselves with a certain team or another to the point where it becomes a part of who they are. Identity is a complex topic. Habits shape identity, and identity shape habits. We tend to behave as we think we should behave which becomes a habit that reinforces that sense of self. I’m a writer (identity), and writing (habit) reinforces that identity. Likewise, writing has created that identity. In fact, the habit of writing came before anyone began to identify me as a writer (I still don’t see myself as a writer). Anime as a culture has the same influence and habits associated with it. Cosplaying, attending conventions, watching each new anime season, blogging, chatting about anime, reading manga, collecting figures/manga/anime, and other habits form the identity of otaku. Much of the behavior is done online.
I’ve been reading a book about Christian ethics that spends much of its space speaking about how narratives shape identity. The Internet contains various narratives that shape who we are. The anime community is just one example. You also have 4chan and various other subgroups that have their own narratives. I’ve noticed whenever I dig through Reddit, 4chan, or even just browse Facebook for research ideas my attitude and views change a little. I find myself feeling depressive or angry as I read so many depressive, lonely, or angry comments. The narrative begins to shape my perception. Of course, it fades when I stop reading, but if you consume that narrative day after day, hours at a time, it will shape your viewpoint for the worse. Likewise, the messages of anime–seen hour after hour–will shape your perspective. Of course, much of anime has positive messages of loyalty, friendship, perseverance, and the like, but it also have negative views of women and skews perspective of sexuality. Habitual consumption of such stories will affect your identity. We are often not even aware of such influence. For example, most societies today believe in the narrative of scarcity, the idea that resources are finite and we are in competition for them. Consider how different it would be if we lived by the narrative of shared, plentiful resources. Yet, we often don’t consider the narrative of scarcity in our everyday lives even though we live according to its narrative. Likewise, those who consume the Internet’s delusional negative messages or those who consume anime’s messages will live according to those narratives, often without awareness of that fact.
Of course, over 7 years I’ve learned the value of citations and how misleading Wikipedia can be. I’ve also changed how I write and research. I’ve shared those realizations in the past. Change is the only constant. Well, that and typos and grammar fowl ups (see what I did there?). As I’ve changed my perspective over the last few years, I’ve moved away from anime reviews and rather superficial editorials to more academic-styled articles. I hope I didn’t write them academically. After all, when one pontificates as academia would desire the one writing to do, writing can be difficult to comprehend and assimilate into one’s own collective experiences to reduce vicissitudes within one’s own life. Academic writing hurts. But the change in writing has brought more of you to my website, for which I am grateful and humbled.
I’ve considered what new directions JP will go in the future. As I write this, I have about 1 year of articles waiting in the queue. I like to write ahead so you get a new article every week as you’ve come to expect. It also lets me take breaks. Seeing the number of drafts drop is oddly motivating too, but I’m a gamer so I guess that makes sense. I’m also a Christian, and I’ve been considering writing a few more anime and culture related posts from that perspective. So far, I’ve mostly been writing from my secular, well as secular as anyone can be, librarian perspective. My first research love is early Christianity. I enjoy reading Pliny the Younger, Josephus, Tertullian, Irenaeus, Eusebius, and other early Christian (and Roman) writers outside of the New Testament. My interest in Japanese culture and history is secondary. But I’ve been considering how (and whether) to merge these two interests together. Is this something that would interest you?
I am always open to suggestions for articles. In fact, some of you have sent many that have turned into articles. I do what I can to dig up information, but sometimes I’m limited in what I can access (I’m still searching for an accessible copy of the book The Catalpa Bow for an article, for example. It’s an expensive book that’s out of print.) so it can take some time for me to write to your suggestion.
Over the last 7 years, I’ve learned (or rather, I am learning) anew how to learn. And that has made writing JP for you a great experience. I can’t say for how long I will continue to write about Japanese culture, otaku culture, and anime. Life can force change when you least expect it, but until then I’ll see you each week.