A few quick self- aggrandizing stats before I get on to the meat of this piece, since self- aggrandizing stats seem to be traditional with a blogday post. As of this writing: 553 total posts, including this one. 4,832 total comments. 613,626 total hits. Average traffic: right now, between 1000 and 1500 hits a day. Whoopie for me! And I have to give a huge, grateful shoutout to Susie Bright
, who convinced me to blog in the first place. Susie, you were so right. I never should have doubted you.
Which brings me to the actual, substantive, non- self- aggrandizing point of this piece.
I want to talk to any writers out there who are reading this but who don't blog.
You have to blog.
Don't look at me that way. I get it. Really, I do. Yes, it's an enormous time-suck. Yes, you're giving away for free what you're trying to make a living at. Yes, it's not worth doing unless you're going to do it right — and yes, doing it right is hard work. I felt exactly the same way, and made all the same arguments, when Susie first tried to convince me to blog. And I'm not going to lie to you. All of that is true.
But here's the thing. If you're a writer in the early 21st century, and you don't blog? It's like being a pop musician in the mid 20th century, and refusing to let your songs be played on the radio. You're denying yourself what is probably the single most powerful outlet currently available for publicizing your work.
Blogging gives you something that no other publishing medium gives you: a direct line to your readers, in which you can reach them directly and without any intermediary — and in which they can reach you back. You don't have to deal with lousy editors who muck with your text without understanding your nuance (a mixed blessing, but a blessing); you don't have to deal with publishers with an insultingly narrow vision of what The People want to read.
You can say what you want, when you want to say it.
Opinions, memoirs, political commentary, fiction, movie reviews, philosophy, recipes, conspiracy rants — anything. If you have archives of old work that you want to get more widely read, you can put it in your blog. If you have work that you like but never managed to get published, you can put it in your blog. If you want to say it, you can say it (assuming it's legal, of course). And if people are reading your blog, they'll read it.
Blogging does something else, too, something very important. Blogging gets you writing. You know how the single most important thing you can do to improve your writing is to just write, a lot? Blogging gets you writing. Every day, every week, three times a week, however often you do it: if you keep to any sort of semi-regular blogging schedule, you'll be writing regularly. And you'll be writing better.
Blogging did something for me that I absolutely didn't expect it to. Blogging turned me into a real writer. Blogging turned me from the kind of half-assed, semi-pro writer who does good work infrequently and erratically…into the kind of writer who writes almost every day, who actually wants to write, who makes writing a priority and makes sure she has time for it in her schedule, who resents the fact that she has to eat and sleep and shower because they're an annoying time-suck away from her beloved computer, who would rather write than do almost anything else. And all it took was doing it several times a week, for an appreciative audience that was able to to give me direct feedback.
It's a nice non- high- pressure format, too, one in which a certain degree of casualness, lack of perfect polish, and thinking out loud is expected and accepted. You don't need to limit your publishing to the works of genius you've spent months rewriting to a perfect gleam. A few hundred words on whatever you're thinking about that day is just ducky. It's like a journal, but with an audience. For someone like me, who's never seen the point of keeping a journal (what's the point of writing if nobody's going to read it?), blogging is a perfect balance between an exquisitely wrought essay or story, and a scratched- in- a- noteboook- to- keep- your- hand- in journal entry.
And it can, in fact, lead to actual paying work. Example: I'm currently getting paid to write for the Blowfish Blog — a gig I probably never would have gotten if I hadn't been blogging on my own. Blogging gets your name and your work recognized in circles that they wouldn't have otherwise. If your blog gets enough traffic, you can even start to take ads if you like, and that brings in a little money. If you have books, you can advertise them on your blog, and hopefully you'll sell some. And, of course, bloggers sometimes get book deals. If you blog with that sole intention, you'll probably be disappointed, but it does happen.
But that's really not the point. Even if I didn't get paid a dime for blogging, I'd still do it.
The point is this: Blogging gets you writing. And blogging gets your writing read.
Tomorrow: unsolicited advice on how to do it.