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Happy Blogday To Me… and an Exhortation to Writers About Blogging

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Happy blogday to me!

I started blogging three years ago today. Loki H. Thor on a raft. I had no idea. What started as an attempt to publicize my writing career has turned into the centerpiece of it. It has totally taken over my life. Who knew? (You can look up that first post if you want to, but it's not very interesting — it basically says, "Hi! I'm blogging!" My second one is a bit more interesting — it's a review of Richard Dawkins' "Unweaving the Rainbow." Funny how certain themes of the blog have been there from the beginning…)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

And that's why you're writing, isn't it?

Tomorrow: unsolicited advice on how to do it.
P.S. If you're worried because you're not a techie, don't be. Blogging software is specifically designed to make it easy for the layperson to do. You don't have to be a web designer or an IT genius to do it. You just have to not be afraid of a computer.

P.P.S. This applies to musicians and visual artists, too. If you're recording, or taking photos of your work, you should be blogging. You don't have to write if you don't like to — music and art blogs are cool, too.

Comments

  1. says

    You’re absolutely right. A year or two ago, when I first started reading blogs with any regularity, I couldn’t possibly see myself writing one. But a few months ago I finally started my own blog, which has been growing along slowly ever since. I’m not a writer, but a student heading for a life in academia, and with the excellent examples of science and math blogs out there I’ve been able to hone my own skills.
    So happy blogday, and may we all be blogging three years from now!

  2. says

    Cool post. Happy birthday to the blog. I just had my one year and to contrast the stats are flat! 200 posts though. I don’t actively expand the readership – yet.
    But I will back everything Greta says about blogging and its benefits to the serious writer. As a WGA screenwriter who stood the line, blogging provided a side outlet of creativity I otherwise might not have enjoyed. Jason Rosenhouse at evolutionblog recently posted a piece about how blogging has therapeutic health benefits and even assisted recovery in surgery patients.
    And like Greta said, blogging can get you read. And it’s great writing practice, as is commenting. If you are a serious writer and not blogging, well, I suppose we can’t fault you, but we can make a strong case that you’re limiting your writing. We can revert to pen and pencil anytime, and most of us often do. But if you haven’t created a blog yet, you don’t have the technological option!

  3. says

    Sorry if this comment appears twice. I hit a glitch last time, but I essentially said happy blogday and that I just had my one year blogday, so I’m stoked for you. I just hit my 200th post but I don’t have much of a readership. I don’t link or actively promote the blog as much as I could.
    But I’ll back everything Greta says about blogging and the benefits of daily discipline that come from writing. Blogging helps you get a handle on your thoughts and lines of unconscious organization will often emerge. You can also gain a readership, and taking it even further, you can occasionally reach out to someone or even save a life. Jason Rosenhouse just posted a piece at evolutionblog relaying therapeutic benefits of blogging including assisted recovery of surgery patients. As a WGA screenwriter who stood the line, blogging gave me an outlet of unchecked creativity I might otherwise not have been able to enjoy.
    Bottom line, if you’re a serious writer or even aspiring to be one, consider a blog. We can revert to pen and pad anytime, and often many of us do. But if you haven’t created a blog yet, you limit yourself from a valuable technological option. We live in the new millenium; take advantage of it!

  4. Ezekiel David says

    I know that you wrote a little about this, but I wanted to let you know: as a of-many-months (yes, Atheist’s and Anger was my first taste) reader, when I had a “Special Study” to design (about sex work, and the legality of it), I went out and bought Paying For It. Later I asked the local comic book store if they had “Best Erotic Comics 2008″ (they didn’t, but maybe it made them think).
    Seriously, reading your blog everyday has made me probably a better person, and definitely made me interested in buying your work.
    Afterall, there aren’t a lot of writers whose style I can almost instantly spot. And you’re one of them

  5. Zipi says

    “3 años” = “3 years”
    “3 anos” = “3 anuses” (ani?)
    Was this a typo or did you do it on purpose?

  6. says

    Happy blog anniversary, Greta! I can say with complete honesty that you’re one of my top three favorite writers on the web, and I look forward to every new post of yours that appears in my feed. I love your style, your enthusiasm and your clarity. Long may you continue. :)
    I had a lot of the same concerns when I started my blog – most notably that it would demand a degree of productivity from me that I wouldn’t have the time or motivation to supply. (It annoys me greatly when good blogs go dead except for the occasional “sorry I’m not posting more” post, and I didn’t want my site to become one of those.) But to my surprise, I found the complete opposite to be true. The more I write, the more I want to write! As you said, it’s a great way to hone your craft and teach yourself to stick to a regular writing schedule, which makes it easier to be productive on demand. Reader feedback is also a major motivation to me. It’s extremely encouraging to post something and be able to read responses in minutes. No other medium can capture that directness and openness of interaction.
    If you want to get your name out there, keeping a blog is a great way to start. As my site’s grown, I’ve even been approached by publicists several times who’ve offered to send me free books to review, which I never expected at all. And as I work on a book of my own, I know that it will come with a built-in audience whose existence can only help when it comes time to pitch the idea to an agent or a publisher.

  7. says

    Happy blog birthday! I have to back up what you said about regular blogging being good for artistic growth. I’m not a writer, but I started a painting blog, and although external circumstances have limited my contributions of late, it’s been one of the best vehicles for improving my painting and keeping the creative pump primed. I’m looking forward to blogging more regularly soon!

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