So, really, what is it? What am I doing here, on WordPress with thousands of other desperate writers, anyway? Trust me, this is a question I grapple with every time I sit down to churn out a new entry. I usually try to overcome the self-consciousness and not think about it, but this week I kept bumping up against the whole concept, whether it’s at all valuable or worth continuing with.
First was in language class, where the textbook I use for ESL (written and printed in Europe and already somewhat out of date) sometimes uses a blog as an excerpt for reading exercise. They’re not real, of course, and so are the most boring things you would ever want to read, since their primary duty is to introduce vocabulary and grammar points. But they do make great launching points for discussions about blogs in general, and what they should be. Some of my students think they should be opinion pieces, others think they should comment on current events, like editorials; others say they should be narrowly specific and stick to illuminating a single subject or principle. No one says they should be showcases for writing! And yet I would venture to say the majority are. Probably including my own.
Then while lurking—er, looking—at some of the various writers’ forums, I saw a thread about whether writers of fiction should even bother with a blog. I was a little dismayed by some of the responses. Apparently for fiction writers—according to the majority here—the only purpose a blog serves is to market and promote your own work. But the trick is, to not make it look like that! How the hell do you NOT? Most writers don’t have the skills to pull off that kind of trickery. Those who do…well, they usually go into marketing as a profession and make a killing. Another point made was that your blog should be constructed to attract and interest as many readers as possible. But why? Why should a blog writer feel obligate to entertain unknown readers…for free? The fact that there are no deadlines, no paycheck dangling over your head, should give a writer the freedom to do what he or she chooses with a blog. The most discouraging advice of all was: drop the blog entirely, and just have a cut-and-dried website, complete with lots of media and a professionally produced trailer or two, and a tab where you can set up shop to sell your own books. To all that, I say: Boooooo!
And besides, unless you’re a very famous writer, no one ever really visits those sites!
Yet I have lots of visitors here. Still, I have been re-evaluating the old blog. I admit, I began the whole thing, over a year ago, only because I felt I had to, because of the common wisdom that every writer needs a blog. (Not sure that’s true, by the way. Maybe it’s better to let books and stories stand for themselves) I stated that I was going to chronicle my path as a writer (how original is that?!), but in truth, I had no clue what I was really going to write about. And mainly it’s about whatever pops into my head or is engaging me at a particular point in time. When I write ‘off-topic,’ about gardens and cooking and such, I actually feel guilty. But when I write about writing, I feel like I’m edging dangerously toward self-promotion. Still, I have no plans to change format or mission or whatever. I think I once—mourning the loss of the snail-mail age, those long heartening letters one used to exchange with friends and acquaintances—described my blog as epistolary in nature, letters to the world. Some blogs take the form of journals, and perhaps there’s some of that here too. I’m just going to continue on for now as usual.
I love my readers, and love when I get the “likes” and the comments and all that. But I don’t really write for them. I just put stuff out there, and hope it strikes a chord somewhere. So the blog promotes not my writing or my life in any way, but my continual longing for connection and community. It really is my form of social media.
Whatever you want to use your blog for is fine: Opinion, memoir, letter, fiction exercise, personal validation, challenge to the world… Accept the readers and followers who randomly come your way as the gifts that they are. But if you’re only wantonly trying to sell your books, I’m not going to read it…