It’s a long time since I started blogging. I’m in awe of those people who remember writing anniversaries and notice their hundredth or five hundredth post or whatever. I don’t. I think I would go insane if I knew how long it took me to write a novel or thought about how many blog posts I’ve written since 2005 – although given that I blog six days a week, writing about three blogs a day professionally, as well as my own blog and doing some ghost blogging for folk who aren’t good at ‘soshul meedja’ stuff, it must be in the thousands at least.
But I do remember why I started blogging. It was fear. Fear that this new thing was going to snatch the writing world away from me. Books were dead, the websites and literary mavens trumpeted, we’d all blog everything in the brave new world.
Ho ho ho.
Paid-for content is still a rarity and nobody seems to know why the business model hasn’t taken off. But still I blog.
It’s a question I’d forgotten to ask myself until a lovely client asked me this week for some blogging tips and I had to sit and face the fact that I don’t have any. Or not any useful ones, anyway,
I used to make a list of things that I was going to blog about every month – that lasted for … oh, about a month! Now I blog about whatever comes into my head when I sit down and decide it’s time to blog. I get sent books to review quite often, and I don’t review all of them, which may mean I’m making some enemies in the industry, but I don’t write negative reviews so silence is my only recourse if work doesn’t seem work praising. I also buy and review books by authors I love, because if you can’t share your pleasures you’re a sad soul indeed.
But I do have key themes for my own blog, which are probably keeping writing sustainable and keeping yourself sane.
Professionally speaking, I love those clients who give me a clear brief. I don’t care whether I have to write about white T-shirts or suitable plants for winter hanging baskets, knowing what they want makes my life wonderfully easy. Some other blogs I am paid to write are more ‘open’ and for them I tend to have developed areas that I hope are specific to me and valuable to a readership. In environmental politics blogging, for example, I focus on food security, environmental protest and the relationship between animals, environment and development. They are areas that I’ve studied in the past or areas that I think are neglected in modern discourse. Gosh, pretentious, moi?
Back to the point – why do I blog? Partly because all things become habitual if you discipline yourself. So writing a novel is easier when you’ve written six previously, writing every day, or every week, or reflecting on your own writing, or reading with discrimination and commenting on what you’ve read are all skills. All writing skills contribute to success, in my view, so blogging is one such skill that I like to keep developing. I blog because reflecting on my writing life helps keep me sane. I blog because I’ve met an awful lot of writers in the past six years and while I’m not hubristic enough to think they read my blog, I know that I read many of theirs, so it’s a way of being accessible to people with whom one might not have enough in common to engage in email or telephone relationships. Because it may help to build that nebulous thing called platform, although probably you have to be a more controversial and committed blogger than I am for that to happen. Because I don’t keep a diary. Because it’s addictive.
Do I have any advice? Enjoy yourself or there’s no point doing it. Make a list of all the things you want to write about – it’s useful in the first month. Be honest but never frank; protect the innocent and allow them their privacy, especially those closest to you. Enjoy yourself. Don’t think of it as writing, think of it as online thinking. Read other blogs. Enjoy yourself.
Jim Murdoch2nd July 2009
I agree with you on most points. I’m like you as regards anniversaries. I remember I started my blog in August just because I happen to remember that. I didn’t celebrate my first anniversary or my 100th post. I think I’ve passed 200 now but I’d have to check. I have no intention of celebrating my 2-year anniversary either.
I began my blog to attract readers who would then all buy my novel. Like that worked out. I suppose that still has to be the underlying reason why I do it but it has also taken on a life of its own. I never imagined when I started that I’d get sent all these books to review for starters and that has become a bit of a burden but it has also taken the pressure off thinking up new things to write about although I’ve managed so far to stick to my guns and only write about literary things. I believe that every blog should have clear parameters. Many’s the time I’ve stumbled across some great post, dutifully subscribed only to find several months later that that was a one off and all they want to talk about is how their college course is doing.
Where I disagree with you is on the point of writing. I have to think about my blog as real writing. It’s non-fiction but I approach every article as if I were writing a chapter in a novel. I see what you’re getting at and it’s true that a lot of my posts are me working out how I feel about things and being open about how little I know about stuff but still my purpose is to educate when I can and where I can’t then I hope to develop enough curiosity in my readers to investigate further on their own which is why I have so many links to other places who actually might know what they’re talking about.
But I don’t plan ahead. If I get an idea for a blog I’ll open up a Word document, jot down a few notes and save it in a folder on my desktop for the next time I’m stuck. I don’t post more than twice a week through. It would kill me to try. But then I don’t think my blog is very typical. I don’t talk much about my private life, what I watched on TV last night or how Andy Murray is doing. (I watched him for the first time yesterday and he’s not a bad player actually.) I stick to my theme and that’s that. I do like to have a few articles in hand (I have a stockpile of eight at the moment) in case I have a few bad days (I wrote nothing for four days last weekend) because that takes the pressure off and regular blogging can be a pressure.
Bottom line? If I stopped now I’d miss it. But if the Internet folded up on itself tomorrow I’d just pick up a pen and paper and start writing something else. It’s writing that I’m addicted to, not blogging.
Nik Perring2nd July 2009
Great blog, Kay! 🙂
Rachel Fox3rd July 2009
Thinking ascreen I sometimes call it!
Kay Sexton4th July 2009
Jim, I sort of agree, and wholly agree about the people who blog about something and then never return to it. But I don’t think of my blog as real writing, to me it’s the same thing as a run I take because it’s a great day and I have the time, rather than a proper training run that fits into my running schedule. It takes all sorts!
Rachel, that’s brilliant – I shall probably borrow it at some time and attribute it to you, if that’s okay?
Ania Vesenny7th July 2009
On-line thinking! Exactly!
Ms Baroque16th July 2009
Kay, you’re brilliant. I’m emailing you.