Thursday, October 13, 2011

Promotions, Pneumonia, Charity, and the Blogging Experience

Perhaps you noticed the static on my blog the last few days? That silence is indicative of an interesting week. For one, I was promoted at work, and I am now the Senior Editor at the wonderful editorial company where I spend so many hours of my week. It's a very pleasing promotion, but it does mean more responsibility and more work. Also, a shift change, with my work days switching from Thursday-Sunday to Sunday-Wednesday, which means I actually have a weekend day off. Break out the potato chips and Manchester United football. But... more work. More hours.

How will this affect the blog? I have no idea! But I'm not too worried. Nathan Bransford and Natalie Whipple started a trend of posts discussing blogging burnout over the last week, as well as discussions on how and why people blog. Apparently: Full-time blogging is hard work! And not always so profitable! Scaling back is okay!

Which is great. Because I scaled back the day I started. Three cheers for a lack of blogging ambition!

Seriously, though, I think it's kind of interesting to see a swing toward doing what you want, in terms of the ol' blog, and doing it when you want it. I've always been selfish like that, and when you throw in my laziness, as well, it's just a great mix.

I think part of the reason the shift seems to be happening is because blogs don't work quite the way that people thought they worked. I think the assumption a lot of writers had was that they were supposed to do this, and it was going to be networking, and building a big platform, and in a few months they'd have a huge following and agents and editors would want to snap up their work when they queried.

But I think there's a sort of fishbowl effect in the writing-blog world. It's self-contained. And, even in this fishy little world, it's hard to build followers. Even the most fabulous blogs, by people who are really good at social networking, usually only have about a thousand followers or so. And this isn't going to sell a publisher a lot of books (though they might like the proactive stance). And this problem is accentuated by the fact that blogging writers are mostly writing to blogging writers. In other words, people just like themselves, who are trying to do just the same thing - not exactly the target audience. The problem is that, in general, the blogs don't actually reach the readers who would be buying the books (at least pre-publication).

So: vast amounts of networking work; little direct payoff; and a slow growth of followers. It's a bit like self-publishing: if you want to take this route, you really need to embrace it. Embrace all of it, even the icky parts, and be willing to invest time and copious amounts of blood. Sweat and tears will be there, but invisible beneath all the blood. Lots of blood.

A lot of writers, however, simply don't have that sort of time. I don't. Busy work schedule, three small kids, my own writing - endless platform building and selling is out. If I get a book published, there would be time for targeted promotion, likely, but endless pre-publication platform building? No time. And, frankly, no inclination.

And blogs really aren't all that great for this, anyway. But what they are good for is making connections within that fishbowl writing community. It's not a platform network, but a social network.

I think blogs are relevant in the connections you can make with people. Because, yes, it is a fishbowl, but we're not the only fish swimming around in there. It's nice to find little schools of fellow writers to swim around with, and occasionally bum a critique off.

There's an organic quality about this, a sense of shared experience that I like, which is so much better than the vast babelish tower of a mechanical platform used for shouting mercantile propaganda. I think, if it's organic and true, blogs can become connected with your life; they become part of you.

Part of the reason I haven't blogged the last few days is because my daughter has pneumonia. Life intrudes. It always does, and perhaps it always should. On Friday, my daughter went to the hospital to have some dental work done under anesthesia. First, she didn't react well to the Versed (mazilopam). Pliable and happy! No! Anxious and hysterical! Yes! And then, apparently, when under full anesthesia, my six-year-old girl aspirated.

This led us back to the Emergency Room on Sunday night, with a little girl who had delusional fevers, continuous vomiting, headache, body aches, nausea, and dizziness. We carried a bucket, and people shrank away from us in the waiting room. But, because of the fever and the possible anesthetic complications, they emergency staff got us in quickly. Chest x-rays showed pneumonia.

Better to discover this sooner than later, however, and the antibiotics have worked wonders. But no blogging was to be had.

And this is a good thing. I think when you force things on a blog it simply becomes a weight. You're in that fishbowl, and it seems that you're being dragged to the bottom, down to that sparkly gravel where the rotten bits of food and fishcrap are lying around. Not so good.

Better to write what you want, and write it when you want it - write in when you need it. Find what works. I think the blog will then reflect you better, and the writing will be more beneficial. Because that's what I truly like about the blog: the writing. Because writing something is not the same as thinking it. There's a clarity and completeness that comes with writing something; the writing demands it. What was a vague thought, something felt or intuited, becomes something concrete and real, something worked-out and solid. In the end, I suppose, I write the blog for me, as a way to work out my own thoughts on the page, to find that moment of clarity.

My blog is useful, first and foremost, to me. But if I'm writing what's useful to me, hopefully this can translate, and others might find it useful for them, too. Because blogs can work wonders. Help yourself and you'll help others; help others and you help yourself. Make a few connections. Who knows what might happen? You might help another writer in writing something great. Or you might help fund a health clinic on the far side of the world. Sometime today there will be a critique by me up for sale over at the Rejectionist's. Please check it out, if you have the time. Sometimes blogs can do good.


Ted Cross said...

I've certainly cut way back on the blogging. It's not really my choice, for the most part, as it has more to do with Blogger not working on my computer at work anymore than any desire not to blog. I don't do the blogging thing at home, so it looks like I'm stuck.

Bryan Russell said...

I think the US Government should spring for a new computer for you...

Mieke Zamora-Mackay said...

Congratulations on the promotion! I'm glad to hear your daughter is doing well. It must have been a frightful experience.

Thank you for your thoughts on the blogging experience. All the discussions about the blogging issue has weighed down on me. I like your take on it.

Matthew MacNish said...

I think you make several great points, Bryan. I can only speak for myself (and I even discussed this on a blog yesterday--can't remember where) but my blog has accomplished everything I ever hoped it would.

The thing is, for me, the blog isn't about reaching readers, or customers, or PEOPLE-WHO-WOULD-BUY-MY-BOOK. That's the not the point. I don't even have a book to sell yet.

The point for me was connecting with other writers, because I knew none before I started blogging, and maybe a few publishing professionals.

I think the whole idea of running a blog, at least one that is updated regularly, to try to sell books, or even just reach readers, is kind of silly.

I mean Andrew Smith writes amazing, award winning books, that I assume sell quite well, and his blog has 300 followers and gets no more than 10 comments a day. Most of them are not from readers.

But that's not the point. Andrew blogs (well, I can only assume) to express himself, and to be accesible if someone does want to reach out to him.

I don't think readers care about blogs. They want books.

maine character said...

First, so glad your daughter's okay. Second, congrats, Senior Editor Ink! They know quality when they see it.

And finally, way after all that, about blogs, yeah, that's how it is and should be. It's a cafe for writers to hang out in and share tips and tell stories and commiserate.

I remember showing my teenage niece her favorite author's blog, and she looked at me like I'd brought up the author's third grade report card. Like, so what? The same way we might like a movie, but not care a whit for the director's blog. We tune in, we tune out.

I've followed Laurie Halse Anderson's blog for years, and at the height of her blogging she reached only librarians and teachers and fellow writers. All the kids wrote straight to her, and that was for help with homework. Since she started Twitter, she blogs now about once every other month.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Glad your daughter is all right!
Blogging is hard work and does take time. And while it didn't land me a publishing contract (since I wasn't even online at the time) it has since sold a lot of books. I'm fortunate that my followers are an eclectic bunch. Probably a result of what I blog about, which is rarely writing. I've made some great connections and found some loyal fans. The effort I put into blogging has paid off in every way imaginable.

Rick Daley said...

Hope your daughter is at or approaching 100%. It's so tough when your kids get sick, as a parent you feel totally powerless. I hate to hear that you had to go through the ER visit.

Great points on the blogosphere, though. I've always been one to post when I feel like it; I've never had a set schedule, which may be reflected in my relatively low number of followers, but so be it.

I also try to write about life, I rarely write about writing (unless it's in comments on a writing-centric blog...just not in my blog posts).

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

OMG Bryan I can only imagine how awful that was to go through. I'm glad she's doing better, but my heart hurts for you and your little girl. No one prepares you for how scary it is when your children are hurting.

As for the blog - a while ago, I realized that I could only blog as much as I enjoyed and no more. And that didn't interfere with my writing, but enhanced it. If those two criteria were met, then I could keep going.

There are SO MANY people/ideas/connections I wouldn't have, if I didn't do this. This IS my connection to the writing world. Even the twice monthly writer group that's face to face with Real People doesn't compare.

So people should blog (or not) as fits their purposes, but for me, I'll still be here for a while. :)

M.A. Leslie said...

Glad your daughter is doing better and Congrats on the promotion.

I completely agree with you about blogging. I onlu blog when I feel I have something that I want to say.

My husband blogs a little more but not as much as he used too. Because yes life gets in the way and that is more imporant. A.

D.G. Hudson said...

Glad to hear that your daughter is improving. We've spent our share of time in ER with one of our daughters - it's gruelling.

Congrats on the Promotion! Hard work pays off.

As for blogging frequency, I blog once a month on two blogs I maintain. That's my balance, but I try to put a lot of information as well as photos on that one post.

Most of your readers will understand, there is life outside of blogging.

Jedi Knights do get called away at times. . .

Arlee Bird said...

Followed over from D G Hudson's site.
I appreciate what you are saying about this oft bandied topic of blogging. My current approach is somewhat antithetical to what you are saying and yet in line somewhat at the same time. I'm adding more blogs, hence more posts, but attempting to keep them shorter and looking for more guest posters. You make excellent points here. For me, as well as many others of us, this blogging thing is experimental and multi-purposed.

Now following.

Tossing It Out

Adele Richards said...

AGH Bryan! So sorry to hear about your daughter being so poorly - so horrible for you and her. Glad she is doing much better.

And hoorah for your promotion! The best of times, the worst of times indeed.

Oh and "Which is great. Because I scaled back the day I started. Three cheers for a lack of blogging ambition!" hahahahaha

Munk said...

Well said... pre-publication platform building seems a less than productive row to hoe.

Tasha Seegmiller said...

I loved this post. I'm just getting into the writer world aspect of blogging and am learning so much, but really like the feeling that there are people out there who are balancing everything to chase their passion. Thanks for sharing - I look forward to following future posts, whenever they may come.

Donna Hole said...

Exactly. I blog because I think it has improved my writing; made me think about the craft, and my own processes. And, I like the social aspect. I like discussing writing with other writers in all stages of novel/short story development.

I like to think that if an agent/editor/publisher did like my query or submission and they visited my blog, they'd like what they see of my online presence. I don't have a platform - I just blog. Its nice to see that is acceptable in the fishbowl :)

With your daughter sick and the excitement of a promotion, hanging with your family was so much more important. Bloggers have to remember there is a real person behind the screen and keyboard.

Congrats on the promotion, and best wishes for your daughter's speedy recovery.


Eric W. Trant said...

Found you from the shout-out on Donna Hole's site, fyi, since she referenced this post.

Great points. I blog not to sell books -- I suppose that's a secondary effect, but is not my primary interest -- but to network with other writers, and ~learn~ from them. Read Matt MacNish's WFC experience, and how many fellow bloggers he met at a conference.

It's funny how competitive writing is, and yet so supportive. It's like we're all fighting some invisible battle, and although many of us will lose, we cheer like crazy when one of us tops the hill and plants their flag.

Great fishbowl analogy. I see it as My Little Blogosphere, same thing, but without the fish and underwater castle.

- Eric

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