What Does a Blog Do For Me as a Writer?
In the same post which anounced his quarter finalist win at wotf, Jordan discussed his take on the pros and cons of blogging as a not-yet-professional writer. His general take, as I understood it, was that a blog of this kind is not worth the investment, and a couple of his points were that writers should be writing, not blogging, and that the number and quality of contacts kept and maintained through a blog at this level is negligible when placed beside the time commitment of maintaining the blog.
He had some valid points, and got me thinking, so I decided to discuss the subject myself. It might be that the discussion belongs on my writing LJ, but since I see it as involving all of you, I’m going to keep it here. The post’s also grown as I wrote, so I might try a series of sum-ups and cuts to make it easier to navigate and to keep those who don’t want to hear my oh-so-carefully stated arguments in all their gritty glory from falling asleep.
Not every writer is writing to an audience outside themself, and that’s okay, but I have always seen what I do as a craft and a business. I am an artist only in so far as I can reach my audience, and that means I need to effectively capture their attention. Whatever skill level I’m currently at, I believe my blog has helped me to grow and increase my abilities in this area.
First off, I have to say that one concern I had when I started blogging was that it would take too much of my writing time and energy, and that that has been a real danger more than once. I also know that different writers have relative speeds at which they not only write, but type, so the time commitment varies with the individual, too.
However, I feel that I am a better writer now than when I began blogging. Some of that was of course the intensive upper-class coursework I completed, and the fact that I worked through all of it with an eye toward it’s implications and improvements on my fiction writing skills. I’ve also written a dozen or two short stories since beginning my blog, and read with a critical eye hundreds of words in either the tsj slush or my friends’ manuscripts. All of this has increased the speed, perception and clarity with which I write.
But more than anything else, I credit this blog with having helped me find my voice. Often I was writing for myself, or to some unknown and, I suspected, easily bored audience. I had to find that happy medium between writing in ways which would engage and entertain my reader and writing on those subjects which most interested me. And I needed to do this without knowing who my audience was. I didn’t tell family and friends about my blog initially because I didn’t want it to turn into a blog which was written for that audience alone. I wanted to find my voice as a writer, not fall into those habitual patterns of speech and communication which I use around family and those I’m close too. Slowly over the last couple years I’ve learned which parts of myself I’m comfortable sharing, how playful a voice I can pull off and still live with myself, and how to listen to that inner writing voice inside myself while also remembering that I’m writing for an audience.
I’ve made significant contacts through my blog which have helpted me learn about the business of writing and know that I can draw on a network of fellow writers for support and friendship–my network.
As if the above cut wasn’t enough, my blog has helped me to effectively reach others and build a network I can draw on. While it’s impossible to know who will be pivotal in any one persons life, I can name a few circumstances that have already really helped me to further my pursuit of writing as a profession.
Meeting James Maxey through my blog. I honestly don’t remember when or why I picked up Bitterwood, but when I blogged about my take on the book, James was kind enough (and professional enough) to discuss my pros and cons on the book. He not only commented here, but at one point he mentioned what I’d said on his blog. This exchange gave me the courage to go up to James and introduce myself at the upcoming Trinocon, something I never normally would have done. Through this connection, I became a part of a writers group here in the triangle which was overseen by James, and this group, which also included Alex and Mike, has been hugely helpful in helping me to improve my writing. I’ve also had several chances to pick James’s brains on all things writing–from book contracts, to agents, to what to wear when promoting–and these pointers have helped remove some of the mystery which shrouds this business and increased my confidence.
Also at the same con, I chatted with the talented Alan Welch, and bought one of his prints. When he wanted to get in touch with me but didn’t have my contact info, he was able to do that through my web site/blog and the use of the email I list here–even if he had to be very patient in waiting for a reply. We have kept up that contact and I now count him as someone I can chat with at a con and look forward to connecting with. Through similar online contacts, I’ve ‘met’ other friends who I will now feel comfortable approaching at cons or arranging a signing with. These are people who I might never have met had I not become active in the online community. And while I could become a member of forums and drop comments on people’s blogs without having a blog of my own, I know that having a blog has helped me feel that my time on the forums was well spent, as people would not just hear a surface comment or two, but would also get to know a bit about the name behind the avatar. Jordan, for example, is someone who I suspect feels a stronger friendship/acquaintance with me because he has read my blog than he would had I only dropped by a forum we both frequented.
As for the low numbers of readers which were alluded to in the comments on Jordan’s post, I can’t speak for other bloggers, but I’m very pleased with the number of people who visit my site. I don’t know who you all are, but my blog recieves between 2,500 and 3,500 unique hits a month. Obviously my total hits is quite a bit higher. Considering that I’m sure the majority of these people are not personal friends or family, that’s a sizeable number of people who I can connect with which I would not otherwise ever know by any definition of the word.
my blog is an investment in my future status as a published professional writer. I have watched friends as they recieved ‘the phone call’ and went under contract, and from what I’ve seen, the euphoria of delight quickly gives way to tight schedules and a long to-do list. Imagine how nice it would be for such an individual to know that, as their name and promotion met with interested readers, those readers could come peruse previous blog content, thus taking off a little pressure on the newly discovered author to quickly get posts up and establish an online presence.
Of course, there are other benefits to a blog. I like chatting–just ask my family how often I’m on the phone while fixing dinner!–and a blog is a chance to chat with lots of people in my favorite medium, the written word. I’m a fairly fast writer and typist, so I don’t generally consider it any great sacrifice of my time, and it’s also a nice way to keep in touch with friends or family who I don’t see very often. But are there strong benefits in blogging to a pre-professinal writer? I answer that with a resounding yes.