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.