A Novel Idea

To blog or not to blog: is that the question?

Posted on: June 25, 2010

Warning: mild coarse language.

I must admit that I am a lapsed diarist. I blame my mother.

In grade five or six I kept a diary (I can still smell its honeysuckle infused pages and see the shiny faux gold lock and key). It contained the minutiae of my friendships and primary school experiences. Maybe some drawings. 

Children are occassionally cruel and I carefully documented a colourful incident. Even then I was committed to an accurate portrayal, so I included a swear word.

It felt good to unburden myself on the page.

Unbeknownest to me my mother had either been regularly peeking, or was curious with unfortunate timing. She had opened my diary, read the offending material and metered out punishment.

My mother and the wooden spoon were good friends. 

To this day, I still remember the burning sense of injustice I had at her invading my privacy.

I stopped writing in that diary.

Soon after I found a way to write whatever I damn well pleased: cryptography.

It wasn’t a very elaborate system. I simply invented new symbols for each letter in the alphabet and wrote with those instead. I did this right until I left home. I never got into trouble again (for that).

Over the years life accelerated and my diary keeping became patchy.

I started this blog with the primary intention of documenting my journey to become a publisher author.

I have the distinct feeling that life is going to open further to me soon and I want to remember what this feels like.

Intention is very important to me. It is the guardian of integrity.

I attended a conference last week which included a session on authors and the internet. Blogging was central to the discussion. Rules such as blog regularly (at least twice a week) were touted. Be topical! Be controversial! Be clever!

Maybe this is good advice if you care about building a big audience you can sell to.

To blog or not to blog, is not the question for me.

Yes I blog. Yes I think you should too if you feel so inclined.

Blogging is the keeping of an online diary or simply a chronology of thoughts.

It is a very human thing to do – to talk about oneself 😉

The question for me is: why blog?

I decided to investigate the blogs of a few authors I respect and gain some insight. I went to my bookshelf and selected living authors where I have bought, read and enjoyed at least two of their titles in the last decade.

The results:

Peter Carey (‘True History of the Kelly Gang’ and ‘Jack Maggs’) – couldn’t find a blog.

Jhumpa Lahiri (‘Interpreter of Maladies’ and ‘The Namesake’) – couldn’t find a blog.

Tim Winton (‘Dirt Music’ and ‘The Turning’) – couldn’t find a blog.

Neil Gaiman (‘Neverwhere’ and ‘American Gods’) – has ‘journal’ on his website but hardly ever blogs anymore to the point where old posts are ‘reprinted’.

Mary Gentle (‘Ash: A Secret History’ and ‘1610: A sundial in the grave’) – couldn’t find a blog.

Perhaps my favourite authors are too busy writing to bother blogging?

Is there a point to this?

Yes, I present exhibit A, Derek Landy’s blog.

http://dereklandy.blogspot.com/

Landy writes the Skulduggery Pleasant series for kids. I saw him entertain a crowd of sub tweens during his visit to Australia earlier this year. I think he drank a bottle of red cordial before he presented.

Landy seems to be blogging with both personal and commercial intent. He writes great slabs of posts and I can imagine the delight he must feel when his ramblings draw hundreds of comments. His fans have even set up a separate forum to discuss his work. He includes them on decisions such as the next title of his series. He truly seems to have a community of fans.

The first book in his series is sitting patiently on my bookshelf waiting for me to read it. I suspect its violence is going to be beyond my tastes, but I am interested in what makes his fans so dedicated.

I present exhibit B, Philip Reeve’s blog.

http://philipreeve.blogspot.com/

Reeve is the author of many great books for children. While his blog smacks you in the face with big book covers and a web trailer for his latest work, the actual content is much more of the ‘look at this cool stuff I found’ rather than ‘look at how terrific my books are’ nature.

Reeve’s blog is more a monologue than a conversation as there doesn’t seem to be a way to leave comments on each post.

I blog to share, to learn and to make connections with like-minded people.

Why do you blog?

Write well. Write often.

V.

(C) Copyright of the author. 2010.

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13 Responses to "To blog or not to blog: is that the question?"

We’ve both chosen the yes blog option.
I started it to gain a network – something to which you refer in your Green-Eyed Monster post. It has helped in that way, but in other unexpected ways too. (Actually, the extent to which it has succeeded as a network was not expected either. I had no idea.)
It has also prompted suggestions from readers and above all encouragement. That’s a huge help to me.

Excellent to hear.

I blog to share, to learn and to make connections with like-minded people.

Why do you blog?

Write well. Write often.

I thing you and Paul and I blog for the same reasons.

I have been torn between seeing my writing – on any subject really – known as useful (I give readers background info on issues (Paul found the blog this way) and doing the biographical and essay and other writing of non-fiction not created to draw in people and etc.

I don’t even link my posts to other websites much anymore. If someone finds me that’s all to the good. If there are two or three people whose writing I admire share ideas and criticism with me that is worth maintaining the blogging.

Blogging is something I adore and I have a passion for the feedback with the unexpected as Paul says. But it is also a kind of discipline. I look at it as if I am writing for a local paper in between writing what I hope will be accepted as writing qua writing.

The only concession I make on a regular basis is to write at least a post a day during the week. Tuesdays are usually slow so that’s also a good day off.

I use controversial titles SOMETIMES but there is a sense in which they are dishonest.

Nice to have found you through Paul’s blog.

Oh and writers workshops and forums – as group therapy to overcome various things that get in the way or bug you but to learn how to write – waste of time. Best to get criticism from trusted fellow bloggers who come to know your work.

I went to a well-known writers workshop here in the states and the author sent a student who had submitted a fabulous manuscript off to a publisher. The rest of us enjoyed group therapy and the word from the author that you are either a writer or you are not.

PS – I use a tab “writing” to take it off the main blog and leave it for the truly interested then I blog about Royals to suck people in and Obama for the disenchanted. I have learned a great deal from tracking current events and background info. Think to put your journal in a tab.

I love it! A little evil (in the sense of the naughty little pinky finger up to Dr Evil’s mouth in Austin Powers not in the absolute good and evil sense)

Although you do run the risk of ticking people off if you’re purely name dropping and not at least forming a sentence around the subject 😉

It started out as a class project. Start a blog . . .learn the fundamentals (links, embedding, sharing, etc.) Yet I found it almost cathartic. Just by talking about what I do almost everyday, helps me understand the days events better. I find it interesting that random strangers are reading what I put on a webpage. I usually never know what I am going to write about until I sit down an write.
While I consider myself a creative person, I never knew what I was walking around with all day, until I started putting text into HTML.

I’m glad to have found your blog. I started mine this last year with a mix reasons. I would love for my blog to turn into a book, it’s a way for me to keep writing with the fantasy that someone will NOTICE, and while I won’t just *journal* I want to write. I guess bottom line, I do want someone to notice, to be a real writer (oh, shades of Pinocchio), and connect with readers and other writers. The best feeling, whether from a comedian, a writer, or a speaker, is, ‘me, too!’
Carry on and great work!

Thanks Erica. May the sun shine on you.

well, sign me up, guys 🙂 i already gave up a blog (deleted from wordpress) where i posted some of my early writing attempts. i won’t post fiction anymore on my new blog, just a diary of thoughts, but i agree that you must attract people on a blog by addressing the actuality. you should see the stats on the posts about england at the world cup, and about maradona!
for the kind of authors like those in your little club here, i think the main purpose of blogs is to keep writing often, even if it’s not THE writing, just petty things.
and the ultimate goal of THE writing is to be read by many other people. this used to have only one meaning – being published; but i’m sure it’s about to change. the next version of being published, in the commercial, lucrative sense of the term, might also be a blog. i don’t believe e-books and online libraries and the various ‘amazon.coms’ have the same potential, though they’re already established and growing markets.

This may be undoubtedly the best post I’ve read since having joined the WordPress family and I must say I feel much more at ease to have found such a great community of fellow bloggers (if not writers). Of course it would be grand to receive hundreds of comments working their way to boost some confidence that, no, my post is not boring! However, I’ve found blogging to a few rather than a hundred serves just as great a purpose for me. It serves to unload all my tangled thoughts and leaves me with fond memories. Plus, I get to write. =]

Thanks for this!

Thanks Meghan. As long as you aren’t boring yourself, I still think it’s worth putting your thoughts out there.

I blog because it’s my online diary, like you mentioned. It makes me feel good to know that fragments of my life are out there, on record, even if no one reads it.
I’ve tried to write in journals and diaries–my mother encouraged it–when I was little, but it never worked. I always neglected them.
Maybe the possibility of an audience, or the fact that a blog could be read by anyone, was why I kept on turning mine, instead of abandoning it a few weeks after its creation.

I too had my diary invaded as a young girl. It was “found out” that I hated my Godmother. I don’t remember if I got in trouble, but being tattled on (gotta love little brothers!) and the fear of getting in trouble for my most private feelings were so scary that I ceased my journaling at once. I had to smile when I read your cryptographic work-around. I wish I had been that clever! Brilliant. Thank you for sharing.

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