I’m not a quick writer, and I can’t just dispatch hasty blog posts. Mine tend to be longer and take me hours, sometimes days, to write. I like to write something original and genuine and of substance—not that I’m saying quick blog posts can’t be all of that, just that for me to do it takes time! (I tend to take things to the extreme—I’m like that with everything!)
I knew when I started blogging that I was making an undertaking to post regularly, but I was a little naïve. I thought I’d have heaps of ideas and the well wouldn’t dry up. I didn’t realise how uncomfortable I’d feel posting some of the pieces I have, and I forgot that there would be days, sometimes weeks, when I wouldn’t feel like writing anything.
In addition to all of that, I didn’t realise how much my blog would take me away from my ‘real’ writing—my novel.
In short, I had no idea what I was really committing myself to.
Why have I kept going, then?
I could say it was because I was told I would need a ‘platform’ if ever I was published and I was told to start building that early.
I could say it was because my blog gave me instant readers, which is something you don’t get when writing a novel—that takes years, if it ever happens. One of the best things about blogging is that people read your words almost instantaneously.
I could say it was because blogging introduced me to a community, a supportive and encouraging writing community, with whom I’ve formed friendships and from whom I’ve learnt heaps.
I could say it was because it gave me a deadline and forced me to write, and made me keep writing, and write many more thousands of words than I otherwise would have written. That alone helped me improve as a writer.
I could say that now that I am going to be published, it’s a bonus that I’ve already written about the process of writing a novel for my blog, otherwise I’d have forgotten much of it.
All of those are valid reasons and are more than enough to justify blogging. But, for me, the most important reason I’ve kept going is because this blog has provided a safe place where I could practise my writing. It’s been a haven. A place where readers were on my side—not reading to edit my work, or to check for typos or grammatical errors, or to criticise or judge, but to enjoy and encourage and connect.
For that reason, my blog became the place where I could write the urgent, the things I needed to say, things that would have exploded out of me otherwise. The things I needed to tell someone, because writing them in a journal wasn’t enough.
It was a place where I could sort out my thoughts, as half-formed as they’ve sometimes been. A place where I could be me and write what I wanted to say. Where I could write about private, painful experiences. Where I felt safe enough to take risks and make myself vulnerable, and by doing that develop as a writer and as a person.
When I look back over some of my older posts, I can see not only the evolution of my writing and how it’s improved, but that I’ve changed, too. Me as a person. I’m more confident, less apologetic, less self-admonishing.
There are a few posts that make me wince when I re-read them, but I leave them because they show how I thought and felt at the time. There are a few I wouldn’t write now, but again I let them stay because they show how I’ve changed, and I’m sure that change was due in no small part to writing them.
Last month, our book club read ‘Seeing the Elephant’ by Portland Jones, and Portland came along to our meeting. Her book is told from the viewpoint of a Vietnamese man and Portland is an Australian female. When asked how she managed to write as someone of a different gender and ethnicity, she said she just put herself in his shoes, imagined how she’d feel.
I firmly believe that at our core we’re all the same, therefore in order to write realistic fictional characters, the best person to get to know is yourself. To know how you would feel in a situation, how you might react, what you might say.
Blogging has given me a forum, a place to write and get to know my thoughts and myself. For me, that’s been its greatest benefit, and I think it’s been worth all the time I’ve spent on it.
*If you’re a writer or blogger you might like to read the comments below, too, in which other bloggers have talked about their reasons for blogging and how it’s benefitted them and their writing.
I think you have faced up to a very difficult issue here. I blog because I like to write about books – it’s what I do. That’s entirely different to being a novelist where the main focus of your writing is writing novels and every other kind of writing takes you away from that. But the world of 21st century publishing means that yes, you do need to have an online presence, and you will have to do most of the promotion of your book yourself. It’s clearly a question of balance…
I’m not really in a position to give advice, but perhaps what you could do is to revise what you think your commitment to blogging should entail that’s right for you. Assign it some time, the way you assign time to getting the shopping done. And always remember, (#TimeManagement 101) if you add something, anything to your workload, you *must* take something away…
Yes, and you run a great blog, Lisa, and do a great job of promoting Aussie books and authors. The online world is a necessity, as you say, and it can feel like a drag especially when we’ve run out of ideas or when it takes us away from our other writing. You’re right about managing time—we do have to prioritise. I guess what I’m saying in this piece is that for me, despite the time it’s taken, blogging has helped because it’s ultimately writing, and all writing helps.
Wow, thank you for sharing this. I recently started blogging and for me most of these challenges still lie ahead. It’s great, and a bit scary, to hear what I’m in for.
I’ve been at it less than a month, but I’ve already met so many wonderful, giving people that it’s worth (I hope) the time it takes me away from my novel.
As you say, I’m sure I’ll look back later at wince at the posts I’m writing now. Hopefully I’ll be able to take it as a sign that I’ve made progress. Here’s to the next three and a half years. 🙂
Congratulations on starting a blog! It is a bit scary—but you get used to it. Mostly! I’m glad you’ve met encouraging people, and don’t worry if you wince when you look back over old posts—we’re allowed to make mistakes! Best of luck with your writing and your blog, and don’t give up! Thanks for visiting! 🙂
Another beautifully written post, Louise. I’m glad you haven’t stopped blogging. I always find your writing insightful and thought provoking.
Thank you, Teena. I’m glad I didn’t stop blogging, too. It waxes and wanes, of course, and its direction might change, but that’s all part of the evolution. 🙂
Thankyou Louise…beautiful photos again. You see wonderful shapes & textures in nature .I always enjoy your blogs but it is a big commitment weekly. How about a few photos with captions some weeks? They always speak to me. xx
Thanks Maureen! It’s a lovely idea and believe me I’ve thought about doing just that, but taking photos and editing them takes just as much time and creative thought as writing a post! In time, I suspect my blog will become more focused on my book and that might be easier to write about. Thanks for visiting.
From someone who is very new to the ‘blogging process’, I found this post very encouraging and heartwarming. Thankyou for sharing!
I’m glad it’s encouraging! I’d encourage any writer to start a blog early and use it for writing practice. Just plug away with it. I’ve made mistakes, especially in the early days when I was trying new things and hadn’t found my ‘voice’ and style. It turns out that making mistakes doesn’t matter! In fact, I think people find it kind of endearing—they see you’re human! And it’s all part of the learning. xx
As a writer and author myself, I admit I have faced the same thoughts and experiences. I have taken the pressure off self to publish something on a weekly basis, and do when I feel guided to. I agree with Lisa Hill that time management comes into the equation of an online presence. However, it is important we understand what our intent is behind our blog posts… is it to give/offer an experience, thought, or idea… or is it for self-validation. Like you I also feel blogging has helped me on a personal level, specifically in fine-tuning my voice and the expression of who I am. Thank you for tackling this common thought-provoking question that I’m sure all writers face. Blessings to you on your writing journey ♥
Oh yes, you do need to take the pressure off from time-to-time—I’ve done the same. Right now, I seem to be only writing fortnightly posts, and our weekly Midweek Moments aren’t as regular as they used to be. You’ve hit the nail on the head when you say blogging helped you find your voice—that’s exactly what it did for me, too.
All bessings to you on your writing journey, too! 🙂
I’m glad I’m not the only one who takes forever to put up a good post! Sometimes it seems in the blogosphere that people just whip up their posts and put them out there in the morning between drinking up their breakfast coffee and tying their shoes to go out the door to all the other fascinating and time-consuming activities their lives are full of, and I want to despair and go “I just can’t DO that!”
When I first started blogging, I took a course on it (yes, yes I did). The instructor said that keeping a blog is like having a very large dog. You’ve got to feed it, water it, walk it, brush it, bathe it – every day, all the time; it’s a big commitment. I’m glad I went into it with that in mind. And with this and your post, I’m encouraged to keep going.
Yes, I’m envious of those bloggers who can write posts in twenty minutes! I need thinking and marinating time for mine, and even then they still need work! I don’t believe I’ve published a single blog post that didn’t require post-publishing revision, including this one. As I read it over today, there are still changes I’d make!
I love the large dog metaphor. I’m sure you’ll keep your blog going because you know what it entails. Good luck! 🙂
I read this post with interest, Louise, as I was keen to know which side of the fence you were on. Like you, I find that blogging and keeping up with other blogs does cut into my actual ‘writing’ time. Yet, had I not started blogging, I wouldn’t have met so many wonderful people, including you. Plus I’ve learned so much from other bloggers and, I think, it’s made me a better writer, by challenging me to produce regular content within time constraints. And, as you say, it’s a record of the writing and publishing process, as well as other things we go through in our lives.
I think what Angelika has commented above, about having a blog being like having a very large dog, is an excellent way to describe it. Blogging does take regular maintenance, and it is a commitment. However, I know I would have missed reading your rich and wonderful posts, as well as seeing your lovely photography, so I’m very glad you blog. I hope you continue to do so, even at a reduced schedule.
When I went to the Blogger’s Bash in London this year, we had a presentation by a WordPress employee named Luca. He asked us all ‘Why do you blog?’ He went around the room and took a few answers, and it was so interesting. Everyone had different reasons – one person was very honest and said they were trying to sell books, another person was using it as therapy, another person to connect with others. I suppose as long as we each remember our reasons for blogging, and it gives us what we need, then it is worth doing.
Yes, a blog is something personal and we’re all using it for different reasons, all of which are perfectly valid. I’ve used this blog for all the reasons you’ve cited—including as therapy!
There have been times when I’ve read your blog posts with envy—they’re so well written and say something lovely yet insightful—and wished I could write posts like yours! I still remember your post about your fear of flying, which skilfully told the story of your flying life in a few hundred words. But we can’t all be Helen Jones! The thing is, though, reading yours and others’ blogs helped me learn how to write.
I love that my blog is a kind of diary of writing my novel. It’s already come in handy in a practical way when I had to send in ideas for potential articles for Allen and Unwin, and I’m sure it will come in useful in the future, too.
Long may we blog!
Oh, thank you, Louise – I often think the same about your posts. They’re so well thought out and lengthy, whereas half of mine are dashed off in the twenty minutes I have before school pick up! So to know that you appreciate them that way is wonderful, and I feel the same way about your blog. Long may we blog indeed!
Funnily enough, as an aside, a pilot got in touch via Twitter after I wrote the fear of flying post, directing me to a course I could take to overcome it, which I thought was rather sweet 🙂
And… articles for Allen & Unwin? How interesting. Can’t wait to see how the publishing experience unfolds for you, Louise xx
You’re very lucky to be able to write quick posts! I wish, wish, wish I could. But I need time to work out what I want to say, and even then I often don’t convey my thoughts as well as I want.
How funny about the pilot! You’ve highlighted one thing I’ve noticed about blogging, actually: Sometimes what we write on our blog makes people think we need advice on how to overcome it. I must admit, I’ve done it myself and written comments that are quite sanctimonious, thinking I have good advice to give! Now I’m aware of it, I try not to. Because that’s not usually why someone has written the post—they’re just telling their experience. Like your post about flying.
Yes, A&U publicity department want articles related to my novel, and I was pleased I’d written about the process as I went. When I re-read a couple, it reminded me of the struggle I’d had—I’m already wearing rose-coloured glasses and have forgotten how hard it was!
You really have been on a journey with your writing, and your success is so well-earned. I bet some of those posts make you shake your head 🙂 However, they were wonderful to read, and also to learn about all it takes to write a book. It’s not just a case of sitting down with a coffee and laptop, la-di-da ing our way among the prose – it really is a battle, and sometimes it can feel like a losing one. So I’ve really appreciated you sharing your experience, definitely 🙂
And oh, I’m sure I do that too in comments – yikes! It is hard not to want to help, isn’t it, even though, as you say, the person writing may not be looking for assistance.
And not all my posts are quick ones – plus even the quick ones, with a few exceptions, have been marinating in my mind for a little while. I tend to work that way – let the words build in my brain and then release them once they’re ready. Walking helps to sort them all out (though I am struggling a little with Ambeth four at the moment!). 🙂
It really does feel like a burden sometimes, doesn’t it. I’ve never been tempted to give blogging away completely—I know I’d miss it because I do like having this place where I can write what I want, without anyone telling me, ‘You can’t say that!’
I have been tempted to take time away from it, though. But then I feel as if I’m neglecting my regular readers, and I don’t want to do that …
It’s a double-edged sword, that’s for sure.
I like how you write your posts in your head while walking. I try to do that, too, but by the time I sit at the computer, the words have often disappeared! What I’ve found, though, is that if they’re important enough and really want to be written, they’ll recur, sometimes weeks or months later, and I’ll think, Aha! I must write that blog post I never wrote! 🙂
I’m sorry to hear you’re struggling with Book 4 of Ambeth at the moment. As a friend of mine says, ‘Trust the process’. You can’t force it, can you? It just comes when it’s ready. (See what I mean about giving advice—I can’t help myself!) 🙂
I don’t mind your advice at all, Louise – it’s very much appreciated 🙂 And yes, I can’t force this at all. It’s almost as though I’m holding the idea of book four in my mind, then, when the right moment comes, I’ll be able to see my way forward. I keep going back and ‘testing’ the thought, but I think it’s not quite there yet. That sounds a bit weird, doesn’t it? But I am learning I need to trust my instincts when it comes to writing – for example, I’m trying to enter at least one short story comp per month, and when I find one I want to enter, I know immediately whether or not it’s the right thing to do, and whether I have a story or not. So that’s taken me down some unexpected paths.
As for blogging, I’ve felt the same way at times – as though I’d like to take some time away. But, like you, I then feel bad about my regular readers – plus I would miss all the interaction with everyone. It’s a great thing, really – I’m not exaggerating when I say that blogging has changed my life.
I’m glad you don’t mind my advice! I know exactly what you mean about Book 4—I’m experiencing it with Book 2 at the moment. It will come when it’s ready …
Blogging has changed your life—I haven’t really thought about it, but yes, it’s probably changed mine, too, and for the better. 🙂
Lovely thoughts here, Louise. I agree with them all, that idea of finding a safe place in which to express half formed thoughts, however much you might try to polish them before they see the light of day; a place to practise your craft; a place in which to connect with others. All these things and more. A place where we can come out of hiding and share some of our intimate struggles as well as puzzle over problems that beset us.
Blogging is one of the best things I’ve discovered and so it seems it’s been good for you, too. I’ve heard tell that blogging is dead, past its use by date but I’m not sure that’s true, at least not in my experience.
I’ve also read a bit about theories of blogging. Of course blogging exists in academia, though it’s also considered anathema to the academic, in part because blogs don’t require footnotes.
Also the blogosphere welcomes opinion pieces, the more personal the better. People talk about other people and their ideas all the time, but they are also free to offer their own opinions without apology, though often apologies take the form of a certain level of humility.
I often feel the need to qualify my statements, to recognise a multiplicity of views, but even the bigoted get a Guernsey in blogdom, simply because the nature of a blogger’s personality reveals itself over time through his/her posts and this is what we look for, information sure, aesthetic pleasure in art, photography poetry and prose, but more than anything we look for signs of personality in our fellow bloggers.
We look for someone with whom we can relate. We look for that spark of recognition, whether as far as commonalities or differences, something that resonates from which we might gather ideas. We/I look for connection. And it’s clear you do, too Louise.
It’s wonderful connecting to you and your writing and what fun it will be when we can hold your book in our hands and read your novel, your polished writing, that piece you’ve been honing behind the scenes for so long. It strikes me the reverse of what usually happens in the creative world. Usually the audience only gets to see the finished product at the end but in the world of blogs we get to go to rehearsals.
Thanks and apologies for an overly long comment. The topic inspires me.
This is a beautiful comment, Elisabeth—thank you! It’s a blog post in itself—I’ll see if I can add a link to it in the actual post.
I agree with everything you’ve written—a blog is a kind of half-way house, it’s more than a private journal because you have readers, but it’s also not published to a huge audience, so it feels safer, as if you’re amongst friends.
And a blog post doesn’t have to be finished, like an essay. You write a post and then people comment and take it further, as you and the other commenters have done here!
Thank you for this! 🙂
Another fabulous thoughtful post Louise. It takes me days to write a post, and I no longer feel I have to post regularly. Quality over quantity, I started blogging to practice, grow and develop my writing. Thanks to Amanda Kendle for her learnings and encouragement. I love the community and the friends you make through this medium to as we are one xxx
I’m so glad there are other snail-paced writers out there! You have plenty of excuses to post less regularly, Rae, with study and weddings going on! I like the ‘quality over quantity’ idea—I’ll use that, too! I agree with you that Amanda’s a gem, and how it’s nice to get to know people through their writing. x
Guilt-inducing is once way I look at my own blog (shameless promo ahead, go to: olsolomeoh.wordpress.com to read). It began as a way to get the suffocatingly numerous thoughts and opinions out of my head as I went through an emotional relationship break-down. I had so many women in a similar situation ask me how I coped, so they could too – it’s confronting to be thrown into a world where you are on your own and responsible for raising children). Writing about it seemed natural. That was long ago though, and now my blog has grown and changed with me. I don’t get the chance to write for it as much as I’d like – hence the guilt-inducing. But when I do, it’s enormously satisfying. Even if I am just writing about the sore lack of pockets in women’s work dresses! And that’s another challenge – what pet peeves, experiences or epiphanies should I share. Not all are interesting or appropriate, so it takes constraint, too. Hence the guilt, again. I will write a new blog soon, I will write a new blog soon, I will write a new blog soon…
Wow! I didn’t realise that’s why you started your blog. I don’t think I’d read your old posts, but I just had a quick flick over some of the early ones—they’re amazing! Group them together and signpost them so readers can find them easily because they’re really, really good. They’re beautifully written and show the impact of relationship breakdown on families—they’re the kind of stuff I love to read!
I feel like I did a similar thing here but with my childhood, but now I feel as if my blog wants to change direction, that I’ve written enough about the past. I’m still trying to feel the direction in which the blog wants to go. I’m sure it will tell me …
Don’t feel guilty for not writing on your blog—it will still be there when you want to return. And I don’t think there’s anything uninteresting or inappropriate about your blog posts, and even if there was, that’s what a blog is for! Some of mine are probably ‘too much information’, but I don’t care. Like I said above, I wanted to share my story—writing about it in a private journal wasn’t enough. I needed to tell someone …
I couldn’t have written my novel without writing about the personal stuff. The two went hand-in-hand. You’ve no idea how much I used to suppress, how little I used to listen to myself, and how many of my feelings I used to dismiss. Every day I used to put my head down and just get on with it. Of course, feelings as strong as I had didn’t want to stay buried, and every day was a battle to keep the lid on them.
I’m so thankful that I finally let myself experience my sadness and write about it. It was the making of me. I know who I am now, and I trust myself. That’s how much having this blog has helped.
Thanks for your comment. xx
PS. I just realised I should have written some of this in the actual blog post!
I am so thankful Louise, that writing for an understanding, intimate audience has helped you in so many profound ways. Writing is a form of growth, like branches, fronds and leaves sprouting from the very writing as it forms on the page. I am proud of your bravery and inspired by your story. Thanks for sharing it with us. Michele
Thanks, Michele! I think you’ve weathered some storms and been rather brave yourself! You inspire me! xx