Yesterday I was scrolling through a writing forum and I read a post by an author whining about blogging. Specifically she was moaning that writers are increasingly being urged to blog, to tweet, to engage in social media. Did writers really have to write blogs, she said? My answer was pretty simple: if you don’t like blogging, don’t do it. Doh. Horses for courses and all that.
But then I thought a bit more about it and I started to scratch my head. This is a writer speaking. A WRITER. Someone who uses words; who communicates with words; who presumably loves words. And I was really puzzled.
People often ask me why I blog. After all, writing is my day job. I’m a journalist and an author. Words pay my bills. Well, in theory. J So why on earth would I want to spend my spare time writing for free? Er, because I enjoy it.
This blog is my place: the place I can rant, moan, emote, pontificate, whine, laugh, throw all my toys out the pram, whatever… There is no editor telling me to cover this and that; no marketing department asking me if I'm reaching my demographic.
A blog post – 500 words or thereabouts - takes probably half an hour maximum to write. It’s a limbering up exercise, if you like, before I flex my fingers and start on the usual writing work of the day.
|Hmm, maybe not a good reason...|
‘But what should I write about?’ say the reluctant author bloggers. Holy crap! Look around you. What excites you? What interests you? What flirts with you? What tugs you by the shirt-tails? If I had the time I could probably write four or five posts a day. Seriously. Because life is interesting. People are interesting. The world is interesting. Isn’t it? Surely, I wonder, it should be, and above all if you're a writer.
I think maybe the problem comes because writers feel they should write about writing (yawn). Or they should be reviewing books (which is all well and good but it’s bloody time-consuming) or interviewing other authors (which can be interesting and is something I do occasionally – but not all the time). But why? Why should you limit yourself to anything?
Some people are very focused in their blogging. They write purely about parenting, or food, or pets, or fitness, or politics or knitting or gardening or…hell, I dunno. Alpacas or juggling. Niche. And niche is nice if you can do it. Niche can be madly commercial. A guy I knew made a tidy living out of baseball mini-league or whatever it’s called. And all power to his bat. But you have to be one of those single-minded people, someone with a particular hobby or a focused passion (or, alternatively, your blog is your business and so you’re talking work). Personally I can’t do that. I get bored staying on message.
But let’s think about writers and blogging again. What purpose does a blog serve a writer? Why might a blog be a “good thing” for a writer? On one hand, it’s a showcase. Firstly, it shows the raw state of your writing, without any editing. Trust me, the copy of even some of the most famous writers looks a bit ropey round the edges before it’s knocked into shape by editors (I would name names but, having been discussing Online Defamation Law with some lawyer friends, I’ll be cautious…) Secondly, it shows you’re flexible, that you can write up a storm on any bloody thing you choose. I’ve been given journalism work via my blog. I’ve been approached by agents because of my blog. I’ve been taken on amazing trips (giving me huge inspiration for my writing) because of this blog.
|Connect with your audience...|
On the other hand, it’s a way to connect with your readers. A lot of people who read my books also check out the blog. At first I worried that my honesty, my fallibility, would put them off. But it seems not. I think blogging is maybe a way of giving a bit of yourself; of showing what makes you tick; that you’re approachable, human. Of course, as an author that might be exactly what you don’t want to give away. In which case I’d say, why not share other aspects of your work – poetry, short stories, character sketches. Or share some of your inspiration – music, other people’s words, images. If people love your writing, they will want to know more. Why not be generous? Oh how I wish more of my favourite authors would blog, or be more generous in their blogging.
And then, on the one foot (having run out of hands). Blogging as sales ploy? Hmm. Do people buy my books because of my blogging? I doubt it. I don’t mention my books that much. Maybe I should. But then, see, blogging becomes just a form of marketing and that’s boring again. However I’m sure that some people’s blogs encourage readers to buy their books. Why wouldn’t they?
|Can I squeeze out another fecking poem?|
Then, the argument continued, aren't there too many blogs out there already? Aren't blogs just self-indulgent waffle, word-wanking? Well, maybe. But then again, you could say that about a lot of writing in general, couldn't you? Someone said that they would rather spend their time writing their fiction, or coming up with a poem or whatever. And that's a good argument. Providing you are writing those things. I dunno about you, but I have a limit on sustained creativity of the novel-writing kind. And I sure as hell couldn't sit writing poems all freaking day.
Anyhow. I ask myself again. As a writer, should you blog? No, of course not. No should about it. Do what you bloody well like! Should you want to blog? Well now, that’s a different question altogether. What do you think?