blogging is good for you: why, for the love of the gods, you should start your author blog today

 

 

Aren't you guys on Twitter?

So you’re an author — published or unpublished, doesn’t matter — and you’ve accepted the cold hard truth: you need a blog.

Maybe you’re not exactly sure why you need a blog, only that everybody (publishers, editors, agents, your aunt, your landlord, the kid who walks your dog) says you need a blog, and you have this vague fuzzy sense that a blog is supposed to help you sell books, even if you haven’t written them yet. You also have this equally fuzzy sense that a blog has something to do with an author platform, or maybe it is an author platform, you’re not sure. So long as I don’t have to use Twitter, you’re maybe thinking, because Twitter doesn’t make any sense to me and it’s probably just a fad anyway.

Okay. Cool. (And Twitter is more than a fad and you kind of do need to use — and enjoy — it, but we’ll save that for another day.)

Your blog is not — or should not — be the only sign of your life online, but it is your home. It is where your heart and soul live, and when you wander off into the far reaches of the Internet and make new friends, your blog is where you bring them and make them comfortable and serve them really, really good coffee.

And excuse me if I get all bossy and dominating, because I’m going to tell you this:

Start your blog today.

Just freaking do it.

Because if there’s anything you should not put off, it’s your blog. Thinking about it and planning it and mulling it over are kind of useless (worse than useless, because you get paralyzed). Your blog will just end up taking a life of its own anyway.

Hugh McLeod thought he was going to blog about advertising and business and ended up blogging about creativity. Danielle LaPorte thought she was going to blog about creativity and ended up blogging about inspiration, spirituality and entrepreneurship. I thought I was going to blog about writing, and ended up Livejournaling about the wealthy and privileged in Los Angeles for five years and then started to blog about writing (if still not in the way that I expected).

Blogging is not an end goal; it’s a process.

It demands forward motion.

It moves and grows beneath your hands.

That’s one reason it’s so much fun.

Sure, it takes practice. When you start, you’ll make mistakes, you won’t be perfect….but that’s okay. Few people will be reading it anyway. It takes time to grow a readership…and that’s okay too, that’s good, because it gives you time to learn and explore and mess around and find your blogging voice, which Danielle LaPorte estimates takes about six months. This includes finding your natural subject matter, the things you’re passionate enough to return to again and again and explore through your writing in a zillion different ways from just as many angles.

Besides, blogging is good for you.

To grow a healthy blog, you have to post often, which is a great writing practice in and of itself. You can’t get hung up on the past, whether it’s mistakes you feel stupid about or some absolutely great thing you wrote that everybody loved and you think maybe you’ll never write anything half so engaging and clever again so why not just shoot yourself now.

You get in the habit of sitting down everyday and reaching into your head and gut and pulling something out and showing it to people. If it works, awesome. If it doesn’t, so what, it’s not like somebody died, and you get another chance as soon as you return to your keyboard.

Blogging helps deepen your discipline of writing stuff, of making stuff up, of being productive. As Colleen Wainwright observes:

It’s crazy hard to keep making stuff, but it’s unthinkable to stop…

The older I get, the more I appreciate the good sense of artists keeping bankers’ hours, of having boring structure in one’s exciting (haha) writer’s life. The container makes the art possible, especially after the mad energy of youth passes. So, like Allen, you write out your two screenplays per year on yellow ruled pads, longhand, while lying on your bed, marking time in between with regular doses of tennis and clarinet. Or like Chaplin, you leave the French beach in the afternoon to head up to your room to write, because that’s what you do. Or like Tharp, you mark up your fresh boxes with the launch of a new project, and start filling them up with stuff.

And it’s not just the container aspect and the rigorous discipline that benefit creative output: it’s the turning of creativity into the regular-usual, and avoiding the dread terror of this next blank page, this next fresh canvas, this next blue sky. It is one of many blank pages, canvases and skies.

Blogging also stimulates you…because in order to feed the blog, you must feed your head. You can’t just write about yourself, or you’ll run out of material pretty quick. Blogging is about giving value to the reader, and you do this by being authentic and useful and sharing your passion. If you already know what your passion is, then that’s what you should be blogging about, and expand your knowledge through reading other blogs (you are not in competition with other bloggers, by the way; we’re all in this together, carving out our own little niche that no one else could ever fill the same way).

If you don’t know what your passion is, then you’re in luck…because blogging will help you find one. There is a passion deep inside you, and when you sit down day after day and put words onscreen, you’ll start to understand what it is you like to write about, and want to keep learning about, and talk to readers and other bloggers about. The discovery process of blogging helps connect you to yourself.

It also connects you to the world.

You start off as a party of one, and find yourself joining a diverse and wide-ranging community.

More on this tomorrow.

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Dec 14, 2009
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12 comments · Add Yours

This will surely inspire a one two many (..I am betting ‘more!’) to resume on a vivacious journey in the world of blogging.

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I love how you write! You really motivated me to start my own blog just that I don´t know how.
Awesome! You just made a new fan and reader! Keep it up!

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thank you! and yeah, i didn’t really get to the ‘how-to’ part. some notes on that tomorrow. :)

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Have you been hanging out in my head? Because this sounds suspiciously like a point by point repudiation of every single excuse I’ve made as to why I haven’t started an actual poet’s blog yet. I’ve spent the last month fending off friends who keep asking “When the hell are you going to start listening to Nike and just do it?” And I keep making excuses about needing to generate content first, and figuring out what I have to offer a potential readership, and blah blah blah blah blah. Give them another week or two and all those excuses will probably become paralyzing.

So, thanks for the kick in the pants. This was exactly what I needed to read.

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Justine,
Nicely done. I just started my blog a couple of weeks ago and, as you observed, I’m still trying to find my voice. I want to write about my writing, but I feel drawn in a million different directions!

I also hope I’m not using it as yet another procrastination tool. I have plenty of those already. But I do get the whole “author’s platform” thing, and I understand that ANYTHING we do that can make more people aware of our writing is a good thing.

Thanks again. I look forward to part two tomorrow!

Terry

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Alexander — You raise a really interesting question. I have sons who are still years away from even thinking about blogging, but I’m thinking about what I would tell them if they asked me the same question.

I think blogging and developing a responsive audience could be an excellent exercise in encouraging your writing skills — and anything that gets a teenager writing is a force of GOOD.

However, the Internet is like the Force — there’s a good side and a dark side. The dark side involves all kinds of nasty people who seek to take advantage of you or just insult you and mess up your day, which can be difficult enough for *adults* to handle.

You also have to remember that anything you put online stays online *forever* — any future teacher, college admissions person, employer, friend or potential girlfriend/boyfriend could potentially access it.

So if a teenager were to blog: what I would NOT do is any kind of personal diary. NO. NO. NO. Cut your arms off before you consider the thought. Absolutely do NOT hang your heart out on your electronic sleeve for you to cringe over and feel embarrassed about months or years later. Leave that to us adults. :)

No rants or anything even remotely negative. Stay away from the personal, period. Take on a fake name, develop an alterego — like developing a character for drama class. Keep yourself as anonymous as possible as far as the public is concerned. Choose an impersonal subject you’re passionate about — basketball, video games, the civil war, global warming, a social cause you feel strongly about — or assign yourself some kind of task that would make for interesting blogging (“I’m going to commit 25 random acts of kindness and blog about them and what happened” “I’m going to visit 10 different places around my hometown and blog about them” “I’m going to take up bodybuilding and learn everything I can about it” “I’m going to review 100 science fiction/fantasy movies”….you get the drift). Find an adult who would support your project to edit your posts before you publish them. And consider using Livejournal, which is easy, social and fun and also gives you the option of *locking* your entries so that you can *allow* who sees them. Then, when you’re comfortable and experienced online — or, more importantly, when your parents are comfortable that you’re comfortable online — you can go a little more public.

Remember…it’s the Force. Be like Luke. And remember that even he lost a hand. (I know, I know, there’s a bit too much amputation being mentioned in this response. But you get my general point.)

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This is my blanket advice to anyone about starting a blog: If you’re thinking about doing it, do it.

Because the worst thing that can happen is that you stop. And the best thing—well, you can’t even imagine the best thing. Literally. You can’t. Because it doesn’t exist when you start writing.

And for anyone fussing over this or that—voice not being strong enough, not being “ready” in whatever way—I say “ha.” Also, go look at my archives from November of 2004, when I started.

That’s why I leave my shame up there. No lie, Cy.

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Yeah. What Colleen said.

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Alexander, what would *you* like to do with a blog? And call me Justine.

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Yeah, the procrastination thing. I wrestle with that too…There’s definitely a balance to strike between blogging and fiction-writing, and I can’t say I’ve found that yet. Then again, I have the sneaking suspicion that balance is overrated…There will simply be times in your life when your focus goes one way or the other. I like to think that blogging in many ways prepares and primes me for my fiction. It *has* had an impact on the kind of fiction I want to write, and it’s definitely honed my use of detail and ability to get to the point of the scene…Then again, I might just be conveniently delusional.

Of course, a favorite form of procrastination — and I am not proud of this — used to involve episodes of Judge Judy.

Blogging is better.

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oh no, I didn’t mean for you to think I was asking a goodgirl/badgirl kind of question — truth is, I realized I’d been talking at you instead of actually asking you what it was you wanted to do.

i say go for it. protect yourself, of course, but just go for it. blog!

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helo verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry good

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