Back at the end of July, I had a bright idea: I signed up for the WordPress workshop Blogging 101, a month-long series of assignments designed to introduce brand-spanking-new bloggers to the whats, hows, whys and wherefores of blogging, scheduled to begin August 3rd.
In my mind, I thought I might find some humor as an
ancient experienced blogger working my way through daily assignments for creating, writing, and maintaining a blog.
Here’s the first assignment (I know, I know, it’s late. The dog ate my homework, or something):
Day One: Introduce Yourself to the World
You’re going to publish a post today. Don’t worry about how your blog looks. Don’t worry if you haven’t given it a name yet, or you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just click “New Post,” and tell us why you’re here.
Today’s assignment: write and publish a “who I am and why I’m here” post on your blog.
I saw the assignment and thought if a reader wants to know who I am, he/she can click on my About page.
Now, if a reader wants to know why I’m here . . . Well, that’s more of a mystery.
I started blogging
212 213 posts ago, back in 2010, when I couldn’t find steady work and thought I’d write to keep current on professional issues, but even the very first post on Do Not Get Sick in the Sink, Please is only tangentially related to law (and not even American law). By the way, you don’t need to go back and read that first post, it’s absolutely cringe-worthy, but I keep it in the archives because I’m a masochist to maintain historical accuracy.
So despite my intentions, I wound up blogging content that was very different from what I set out to blog.
Fast forward about five years, and it’s August, 2015, and I’m signed up for Blogging 101. One morning, two blog posts show up in my Reader that get me thinking more about this “Why We Blog” issue. The first came from Amiecus Curiae in Writer’s Life Wednesday–Blogging to Build an Author Platform and it’s a response to a post from Dylan Hearn over on Suffolk Scribblings. Dylan’s post shows up in my Reader, as well, as I scroll further down: There Are Easier Ways To Sell Books Than Through Blogging.
If you read both posts, and you also read Do Not Get Sick in the Sink, Please, you’ll probably already have guessed that I’m mostly in agreement with Amie’s perspective on writers who blog in support of their writing careers.
But, and here’s the big but, the way to make this work, to actually build a following is to blog about something other than writing!
I’m reluctant to give writing advice (because, after all, who the fuck am I to give advice to anyone?) but let me share my experience as a reader: the last two novels I’ve bought were because I read op-ed pieces written by the authors on subjects that had absolutely nothing to do with the novels they’d written and that I (eventually) purchased. Ann Patchett wrote a very funny take for the Washington Post on what it’s like to own an independent book store (I bought State of Wonder) and Diana Spechler wrote about sexual obsession in the New York Times (I bought Who By Fire).
And I mostly agree with what Dylan’s got to say–at least, I don’t disagree with it.
So why should writers blog?
Because it’s a wonderful opportunity to write something different, to let off steam, to connect with like-minded . . . to find comfort and community, to help others much earlier in the process than yourself and be helped by those further down the line. It’s a way of making new friends, for discovering excellent books and for improving your craft. It’s a place to be yourself, to be someone else or to be the person you’ve always wanted to be.
All good reasons to blog, to be sure. However, I’m not sure if Dylan’s approach is going to support a goal of making money (even just a little bit!) from writing, but I realize that’s not everyone’s goal. And while there are established authors who do not blog, and do not have much of a social media presence, any new author is expected to play the social media game (on FB, on Twitter, on Instagram, and on and on and on). I’m not sure if being all over social media sells books, either (you can read more of my thoughts on this topic in Is Your “Social Media Platform” Killing Your “Brand”?), but if you’re a novelist who’s blogging, you need to find a way to connect with readers, the folks you hope will buy your book(s). That’s my “big but” (heh! That sounded like I said “my big butt”) which is different from Amie’s, as I don’t have a tough time droning on about any number of topics other than writing (see my recent posts on adultery, ants, and, um, summer activities)–yes, blog, but find a way to reach readers of novels.
It would probably be helpful right here if I could tell you the ways to reach those readers, wouldn’t it? I’m sorry, I wish I knew. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t going to be offered the opportunity to write op-eds in the Washington Post or the NY Times anytime soon.
Anyway, if you came here looking for useful advice, you took a wrong turn somewhere.
Ok, so back to Blogging 101 and that question about why I’m here: I guess I’m here ’cause I got nowhere else to go.