What is the Expectant Blogger? I’ve been thinking about blogs a lot lately and I’ve been thinking that blogging is a lot like being pregnant. When you’re pregnant, or trying to join the baby-makers’ club, you see bumps and babies everywhere you look. It can feel as if you’re witnessing a population explosion. Since launching my website in November and becoming an occasional blogger, I’m experiencing the blogger’s version of those old symptoms: I see blogs everywhere.
For the first time I’m actually opening Twitter blog posts. Even as I write this I’m being distracted by Twitter feed I can’t seem to resist (Hello @PatriciaAWolf). I’ve been visiting the websites and blogs of other writers and having a poke around their worlds. It’s addictive, though it can feel a bit like doing a back-alley-snoop before buying a house.
Also like pregnancy, when it comes to blogging there are no shortage of people out there with advice on what to think and do. As an expectant blogger, nervous about getting it all horribly wrong, I found myself listening wide-eyed to discussions about merits, morals and machinations surrounding websites and blogging. Turns out I am… ahem… the teensiest bit opinionated.
I was doing some Christmas baking and, as I always seem to do in the kitchen, I was listening to BBC Radio 4. My ears perked up when a writer – I believe it was AS Byatt though I can’t be certain – poo-pooed blogging. The gist of the argument was that blog posts and webpages are unlikely be worth reading because they’re unedited. Good writing requires that … editorial eye and that… toing and froing between a writer and editor which helps ideas germinate, become refined and eventually… presentable.
That was seriously nervous-making for someone like me. Advice from AS Byatt (if it was indeed her) is not something I’m willing to take lightly. So I began to make a list of the blogging discussions I’d witnessed, participated in and eves-dropped.
The first and loudest point seemed to be that writers these days are expected to have a social media presence. Facebook Pages. Twitter activity. Websites. And yes, Blogs. We are expected to put ourselves out there and blog. Blog about writing – our own writing, other people’s writing, the mechanics of writing it doesn’t seem to matter. There is a new and growing industry devoted to advising writers how to build an effective on-line presence. Since the explosion of graduate degrees in Creative Writing there must be thousands of graduates each year and each graduate is scrambling for a voice on social media. It’s crowded out there. Like riding the Tokyo subway at rush hour.
I’m no different than most of those grads. I have a new degree. I have new book I want to sell (which btw, is a cracking good read, nudge wink). I also have a website now, and a blog. But…
I don’t want to blog just because I’m supposed to. I want it to mean something. I’m not willing to blog if it’s just the writers’ equivalent of jumping up and down, waving my arms in a crowded room saying, ‘Look at me, look at me. Pick me, pick me.’ I won’t spend hours writing and posting ‘How To’ writing pages but I will happily direct anyone to other people’s blogs and websites containing interesting, helpful or provocative material I’ve discovered (see Learning Links). Occasionally, I’ll even add a personal story about an issue, like when I ruminated on the possible reason we see an abuse of adverbs in writing (see Writing Tips – the Adverb Taboo-A Nasty Habit). But to write a blog just so I become searchable on Google? No thanks. I’d rather write, than write about writing.
Then there is the debate about writing for free v being paid for services. I log on regularly to my graduate school’s website to keep abreast of these sorts of discussions. Just last week someone mentioned this hot-button issue again, writing that she used to have a blog, but blogging felt far too much like giving her writing away for free and she was firmly on the side that states you must always be paid for your writing and editing work.
On the surface a writer’s decision to be paid or volunteer seems like it should be a personal choice. Right? But the argument is that writers who give it away end up undercutting, and as a result, negatively impacting standard writing rates, editing rates, fees for school visits or personal appearances, etc. When this happens too often it seriously impacts those professionals who count on a certain wage standard for their writing income. You only have to surf Elance or other contract writing sites to see some of the sweat-shop rates being offered and bid. But I digress…
I have no interest on stepping on anyone’s toes and I most certainly don’t want to take the bread out of anyone’s mouth by choosing to occasionally volunteer my services to friends or colleagues. But… I also don’t want to be silenced. There are so many people out there competing for publication in for-fee journals and magazines. (And even when you succeed and publish in a journal which pays, the payment is often $100-200 dollars. And that for a story which may have taken you a year to write. Not quite bread on the table.) For some people writing is just a way to clarify their thoughts, work out their issues. For me however, writing is communicating. I write to be read. I want an audience.
This week on the website I had some comments left on an old blog post. And I’ve got to tell you, it was great! Great because of what they said, but greater because it shows me that someone out there is reading what I wrote. There’s an audience out there reading my blogs, maybe even downloading a story. And they’re not other writers who already subscribe Prism, Event, Malahat Review, Grain or any of the dozen other magazines and publications my work has appeared in.
I write to be read.
Without an audience, it’s lonely.
And so… I’m full circle, back to pregnancy and life in stay-at-home-mommy-land.
I noticed when I stopped work to have kids and then continued to stay home to raise them, that my voice was slowly being silenced. The value of my opinion in the world seemed to be on a steady decline, unless you counted issues like, What constitutes a healthy snack, Creative birthday party ideas, or Scrapbooking your child’s memories. I did find moments of social relevance as a fund-raiser for school or minor hockey. People seem to like you a lot when you can raise a lot of money. But in general, the longer I was out of the workforce being a Type-A mom, the smaller my voice seemed to be. Add to the mix, since 2001 I’ve lived in countries and cities where English isn’t the first language so even if I shout loud enough to be heard, there’s a good chance I won’t be understood.
In one glaring instance, my husband had work colleagues to the house. One chap asked a question. I volunteered the answer. The gentleman looked right at me then repeated his question to the group. It wasn’t until he heard my answer delivered from the lips of a work colleague, that he was satisfied it was correct. (And for those of you who know me personally, I did not rip him a new one. In fact I was so shocked, I was silent.)
You’ve heard the old saw, “If I wanted your opinion I would have asked for it’? Well that’s just fine but….
- If I wait to be asked what I thought, I could spend the rest of my days in silence.
- If I wait until the world decides I’m an important enough writer-essayist-thinker to want my opinion… well hell, I may dead before that happens. But joking aside, waiting to be asked just makes me complicit in my own silence. No thank you.
- If blogging gives me a voice and a readership, I will blog unpaid and unedited for now because not doing it seems like letting someone else think and act for me.
So… for those folks who have stopped the website and done your own back-alley-snoops… Thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
For those that have left comments, I want you to know that appreciate it so very much. It makes my day. It’s almost as fun as getting an acceptance letter for a story or poem.
And for those who have subscribed to the blog – You ROCK baby!! Signed copies of the novel will be waiting for you when The Realm finally hits the stands.