A couple of weeks ago an aspiring writer wrote to me about being a writer who is a Christian (as opposed to being a Christian writer), and we had a brief e-mail conversation about a number of writing-related issues. When I concluded my first e-mail, I asked him to keep in touch with updates on his progress, “or barring that, you might want to keep a blog and let me know the URL.”
After it was too late to retract the e-mail I thought about it and wondered if perhaps I wasn’t being a bit greedy, asking him to spend precious writing time on a blog. After all, isn’t time the one commodity that writers never have enough of? Why should I ask them to take extra time to chronicle their experiences just so I can chortle over them? What if he values his privacy (as one writer I know does)? What if he’s like me and doesn’t want to reveal too much about what he’s doing?
The more I thought about it, the more I thought I shouldn’t have made the recommendation. But after a while I started to go the other way, thinking that not only was blogging a useful tool for writers, it could actually be important to the writing process – if used properly (with great power comes great responsibility, yadda, yadda…).
Ultimately, I felt the pros outweighed the cons – no surprise since I’ve been keeping a blog for more than three years. And while I probably won’t go pushing writers to keep blogs, I’m not going to discourage them from doing so either.
So here is the upside of keeping a writer’s blog. Any potential writers should weigh these against the issues of time and privacy and keeping things secret – and then do what you want to do anyway…
- I have always tried to keep some kind of calendar, list, or journal to track my writing progress. One of my original ideas for this site when it went live in 1998 was to do just that. Unfortunately, I didn’t know HTML at the time, and as I learned it, I didn’t want to have to deal with it on a daily basis. But when I stumbled upon Blogger in the late summer of 2002, I knew I had found the Holy Grail for my web site. For those of us so inclined, it gives us a chance to keep track and share our experiences with anyone who may be so interested.
- With a few exceptions (see this post, item numbers 7 and 8 ), the more you write, the better you get at it. This gives writers the chance to do a little extra writing toward getting that first 1,000,000 words under their belt.*
- I think it is important to write outside of your line of focus. My thinking is that it keeps writers flexible. Some of us have no problem with branching out into other areas, doing so with an almost ADD-like restlessness. Others of us have to be pushed. A blog can be a nice shove.
- I once read a quote by a writer (that I haven’t been able to find again) that said something like, “When I want to know how I feel about something, I write about it.” I agree with this. The problem is, with a novel, it may take you a long time to get it written before you discover your feelings. A blog post is instant gratification by comparison.
- If you blog about your writing experiences, I think it helps you internalize them. This could be a great tool for beginning writers, who don’t yet know how they work. It’s also good for the readers, who can learn from our experiences and many, many mistakes.
- Writing about your work in this manner can also generate ideas, for the Work In Progress, and yes, for your next blog post (i.e., when I wrote the previous item, I gave myself an idea for a future post about Writing Mistakes I Have Made).
- Running a blog can give you a familiarity with deadlines and discipline. Making regular posts can get you in the habit of parking your posterior in a chair and clattering your fingers over a keyboard. If you’re the type that needs to warm up before you start fictionizing, you can write your blog post first. And if you tell people your goals on your page, that can motivate you to keep up with your work (although I am infamous for giving myself impossible deadlines and then failing miserably when trying to keep them).
- Keeping a blog faithfully means you get a little writing in, even if you didn’t have time to work on your WIP. Keeping your fingers on the keyboard can keep Writer’s Entropy** from creeping in.
- Blogging about your writing can break down the isolation that every writer goes through when writing. It can give you the feeling that you’re not alone in your struggles and with the personality quirks that make you a writer. Unless you’re into that isolation and want to keep your obsessions to yourself.
- If you’re like Stephen King and have a little extra steam you need to blow off after a writing session, a blog is a natural outlet.
- The writer’s blog is exactly what you want to make it. A checklist of your daily progress. A log of your struggles as you stare into the screen. A post-it place for excerpts of the day’s work. A storehouse for notions, ideas, and projects. A place to air your fears and reveal your aspirations. Or all, some, or none of the above.
Maybe I’m just making excuses here for keeping a blog. But I can see where it would be beneficial. It seems to be a natural extension of something that we already do.
However, if you don’t want to do it, don’t. Nobody is holding a gun to your head. Least of all, me.
But it would be cool if you did.
Listening: Miracle Legion, “Little Drummer Boy” (via iTunes shuffle play)
* Based on the quote attributed to Ray Bradbury that a writer must write one million words before they start to actually get good at writing. I get asked about it a lot, so the quote has made a big impression on would-be writers.
** Writer’s Entropy – a term I just coined for the lack of will to write. Different from Writer’s Block (which I don’t believe in), which is the inability to write.