I seldom blog.
At first, as I was wrapping up some novel writing, I thought blogging was a clever hook, a sure-fire way to lure potential readers toward my wares. Then I took a look around and realized there was an abundance of people meta-texting themselves all over cyberspace. No need to be a whisper amid a surfeit of noise, right?
(That, and was anybody really listening?)
So I took a hiatus from what was already an estimably poor blog posting schedule and focused on the re-write of my book.
Once I pulled my head out of that hole, it was time to dive into marketing and promotion. With all the urgency around social media and blogging, and the purported, inviolate necessity of being an avid social mediate in order to be deemed a worthy writer, it seemed I had no choice: Either fall into the folds of the blogosphere, Facebook and Twitter universii, or wither away into obscurity, the fruits of my labor withering along with my pride.
Naturally, my first thought was, Well shit… I’m a fiction writer, not a blogger. I intentionally didn’t go into journalism because I didn’t want to have to have a daily deadline for producing finished pieces. I need to labor over my words in a more self-indulgent way.
You’ve got to be joking
Gripe as I may, I’m generally a good sport. So I flew to Portland to spend the weekend with a friend who is in marketing. I ate her home-cooked food and drank an abundance of her wine, and I begged, “What am I supposed to blog about? How should I use Twitter? What is..? Why..? Whatever..? Will..?”
My friend shrugged and pointed me to some avid bloggers and tweeters that she liked. So I investigated. I started following them. I checked out their blogs and Liked their Facebook pages. Some of them, I discovered, output more verbiage in a day than the meth addicts who roam the Tenderloin. (Trust me, it’s a compliment. Backhanded though it may sound.)
After a few months of being overwhelmed by the prodigious volume of other people’s postings, and of struggling to generate some lavishly banal postings about what it’s like to be a writer in the modern age, I called a graphic designer and brand consultant I know because now the talk was about how important social media was for reinforcing the writer’s BRAND.
Fabulous. Now I need bar codes.
In frustration, I took my designer friend to lunch and we drank some red wine. Many glasses of it. Had to. (I won’t mention the place because they have a really nice patio but a really weak pour. You have to drink twice as much to get an equal amount of bliss offered by other, more generous places.)
I lamented to my friend: “I’ve been tweeting. I’ve been blogging. I’m receiving no joy from any of this. And now, praise Madison Avenue, I’m expected to have a BRAND? I’ve just finished a novel and yet I feel like the literary equivalent of division by zero.”
My friend nodded her head sympathetically and talked a bit more about some of the visual imagery she might use to help brand me.
Find your bliss…
On the matter of blogging, Anne R. Allen, a writer, summed up a writer’s ‘obligation’ to it well recently: “Do what works for you.” She was also right in quoting Steve Jobs, who died recently: Life’s too short to live somebody else’s life. We often hear talk of ‘making peace’ with ourselves before we die. I think that’s overrated. We should be making peace with ourselves while we’re still healthy and very much alive. Like Steve did. He lived and did what he felt was right for him.
It sounds almost ludicrous to be philosophizing about social media, but as intertwined as our lives have become around it, there’s value in contemplating it. Possibly even in discussing it. Ultimately, though, a writer has to decide how to use (or not use) social media. When and how and for what reason.
What sucks, in my opinion – and maybe this is completely self-imposed – is the notion that blogging must be a daily, rigorous and perpetual endeavor. I don’t have time for that. I don’t know how other people do. I have a day job. I have a novel to promote. I have other writing projects in varying states of progress. I have friends’ swimming pools to lie around. I’m not going to fabricate 500 words a day because of some theoretical obligation.
So I don’t. And I’ve stopped worrying about it.
One of the freest moments in my writing life was when I realized that I didn’t have to take time away from paying the rent and marketing my book in order to publish fabulously rich, alluring material into the blogosphere once a week or every day. No longer was I burdened with the idea that I had to cough up the equivalent of one novel-length book each year for free. Damn the promises made to my marketing friend in Portland; I wasn’t going to do it. I am a writer of fiction.
…and pull up a chair
My recently liberated philosophy on blogging is this: I blog because it allows me a platform to present my work – some facet of my work, a few carefully selected bits and tastes of my work. I have no expectation of bringing ten thousand ready and willing book buyers to a publisher’s table by virtue of the fact that I blog. However, if I should run into a reader, an agent or a publisher at a cocktail party… Should I arouse a bit of interest on their part… Well. Welcome in.