So you’re an author — published or unpublished, doesn’t matter — and you’ve accepted the cold hard truth: you need a blog.
Maybe you’re not exactly sure why you need a blog, only that everybody (publishers, editors, agents, your aunt, your landlord, the kid who walks your dog) says you need a blog, and you have this vague fuzzy sense that a blog is supposed to help you sell books, even if you haven’t written them yet. You also have this equally fuzzy sense that a blog has something to do with an author platform, or maybe it is an author platform, you’re not sure. So long as I don’t have to use Twitter, you’re maybe thinking, because Twitter doesn’t make any sense to me and it’s probably just a fad anyway.
Okay. Cool. (And Twitter is more than a fad and you kind of do need to use — and enjoy — it, but we’ll save that for another day.)
Your blog is not — or should not — be the only sign of your life online, but it is your home. It is where your heart and soul live, and when you wander off into the far reaches of the Internet and make new friends, your blog is where you bring them and make them comfortable and serve them really, really good coffee.
And excuse me if I get all bossy and dominating, because I’m going to tell you this:
Start your blog today.
Just freaking do it.
Because if there’s anything you should not put off, it’s your blog. Thinking about it and planning it and mulling it over are kind of useless (worse than useless, because you get paralyzed). Your blog will just end up taking a life of its own anyway.
Hugh McLeod thought he was going to blog about advertising and business and ended up blogging about creativity. Danielle LaPorte thought she was going to blog about creativity and ended up blogging about inspiration, spirituality and entrepreneurship. I thought I was going to blog about writing, and ended up Livejournaling about the wealthy and privileged in Los Angeles for five years and then started to blog about writing (if still not in the way that I expected).
Blogging is not an end goal; it’s a process.
It demands forward motion.
It moves and grows beneath your hands.
That’s one reason it’s so much fun.
Sure, it takes practice. When you start, you’ll make mistakes, you won’t be perfect….but that’s okay. Few people will be reading it anyway. It takes time to grow a readership…and that’s okay too, that’s good, because it gives you time to learn and explore and mess around and find your blogging voice, which Danielle LaPorte estimates takes about six months. This includes finding your natural subject matter, the things you’re passionate enough to return to again and again and explore through your writing in a zillion different ways from just as many angles.
Besides, blogging is good for you.
To grow a healthy blog, you have to post often, which is a great writing practice in and of itself. You can’t get hung up on the past, whether it’s mistakes you feel stupid about or some absolutely great thing you wrote that everybody loved and you think maybe you’ll never write anything half so engaging and clever again so why not just shoot yourself now.
You get in the habit of sitting down everyday and reaching into your head and gut and pulling something out and showing it to people. If it works, awesome. If it doesn’t, so what, it’s not like somebody died, and you get another chance as soon as you return to your keyboard.
Blogging helps deepen your discipline of writing stuff, of making stuff up, of being productive. As Colleen Wainwright observes:
It’s crazy hard to keep making stuff, but it’s unthinkable to stop…
The older I get, the more I appreciate the good sense of artists keeping bankers’ hours, of having boring structure in one’s exciting (haha) writer’s life. The container makes the art possible, especially after the mad energy of youth passes. So, like Allen, you write out your two screenplays per year on yellow ruled pads, longhand, while lying on your bed, marking time in between with regular doses of tennis and clarinet. Or like Chaplin, you leave the French beach in the afternoon to head up to your room to write, because that’s what you do. Or like Tharp, you mark up your fresh boxes with the launch of a new project, and start filling them up with stuff.
And it’s not just the container aspect and the rigorous discipline that benefit creative output: it’s the turning of creativity into the regular-usual, and avoiding the dread terror of this next blank page, this next fresh canvas, this next blue sky. It is one of many blank pages, canvases and skies.
Blogging also stimulates you…because in order to feed the blog, you must feed your head. You can’t just write about yourself, or you’ll run out of material pretty quick. Blogging is about giving value to the reader, and you do this by being authentic and useful and sharing your passion. If you already know what your passion is, then that’s what you should be blogging about, and expand your knowledge through reading other blogs (you are not in competition with other bloggers, by the way; we’re all in this together, carving out our own little niche that no one else could ever fill the same way).
If you don’t know what your passion is, then you’re in luck…because blogging will help you find one. There is a passion deep inside you, and when you sit down day after day and put words onscreen, you’ll start to understand what it is you like to write about, and want to keep learning about, and talk to readers and other bloggers about. The discovery process of blogging helps connect you to yourself.
It also connects you to the world.
You start off as a party of one, and find yourself joining a diverse and wide-ranging community.
More on this tomorrow.