Professional Blogging vs. Personal Connections

Two recent blog posts which talked very candidly about blogging got me thinking about the ‘cookie-cutter’ blogging advice out there. These posts are by people who put their writing first, above ‘content creation’. Most of the blogging advice seems to come from social media gurus who want to make money out of their blogs: attract millions of subscribers and therefore feature big advertisers on their sites.

AnneRAllenThe first post is by Anne R. Allen: she openly acknowledges how following advice very nearly destroyed her blog, her credibility as an author (and her health).

People will subscribe and come back if you are engaging and fun. It’s much more important to be friendly and have something interesting to offer than it is to have the right keywords, post frequency, or wordcount.

Networking with other bloggers will probably be your number one source of traffic when you’re starting out. That means making friends, not tricking people.

  • A blog shouldn’t become more important than your WIP
  • Blog to make friends, not sales.
  • For a writer, good writing is more important than SEO.
  • Manipulating people may get short-term results, but it’s a bad idea in the long run.

lucyAs for those who are confused by the contradictory blogging advice which they hear: ‘blog as frequently as possible’ vs. ‘don’t blog everyday, you will only overwhelm people’, here are some lessons learnt by Lucy (aka Blonde Write More), who challenged herself to blog every single day for a year on her blog . Lucy was successful with this strategy and won ‘Funniest Blog Award’ for two consecutive years, but she embarked upon this challenge predominantly for herself. To find her own writing mojo, as it were. Aside from the focus and discipline that the daily blogging required, it also helped her find her creative direction – the kind of writing she most enjoyed doing, find out what she was best at and what she was happiest sharing with others.

Oh, and she doesn’t intend to keep up the daily habit… She will now cut it down to 4 days a week (which still feels like a LOT), in order to spend more time on her creative writing. Daily blogging is not sustainable in the long run.

So this got me thinking about my own blogging. It’s no mystery that I started it for accounting and accountability purposes: to force myself to write something every day (not necessarily post something every day). But it achieved that goal within the first year of its existence. I have now returned to writing with a vengeance. I dream, eat, sleep, breath writing (and reading) – although, sadly, not always actual writing on my novel.

So why continue with it?

Pictureportrait
Portrait of me drawn by a charming, kind fellow member of the Geneva Writers’ Group during one of our workshops.

My blog is quite a shambles from the POV of ‘blogging gurus’. It has no clear focus or purpose. It doesn’t bark, but nor does it meow and pur and rub against you. It is neither a pure book reviewing blog, nor an author’s blog. It sometimes gets political and at other times embarrassingly personal. I have no intention of ever monetizing my blog, or using it to obtain freebies such as clothes, make-up, concert tickets or holidays. [Although, if you know anyone who is willing to trade a writing retreat for a write-up, please pass them on to me…] I don’t really believe that it will increase the sales of my book considerably when I (finally!) publish it. I never expected to have so much content, so I should probably tidy it up a bit and make it easier to find older posts by topic. It’s incredibly bushy looking at the moment!

However, it gives me two wonderful benefits:

  • A community of articulate, book-loving people with whom I can debate the finer points of a character’s unreliability without being regarded as a freak. I was going to say ‘like-minded’ people, but we are not clones, we all think and feel differently about things (in spite of some general commonality of spirit). The main point is we can debate them in a respectful and supportive way, without name-calling, and are always open to learn from one another. This is far, far less common nowadays than one might think.
  • It gives me an outlet to practise different types of writing, experiment, get some feedback. It’s an online writing group to a certain extent – especially valuable when I am in the process of moving and not sure that I will find a writing group in the Thames Valley area which will be as active and friendly as the Geneva Writers Group.

Above all, it’s poison and antidote in one. It may occasionally stand in the way of my freshest, best writing on my WIP, but it also assuaged my guilt on those days when the words refused to make their appearance. Or appeared in disguise, the rogues! Surely any writing, even if it’s dressed up as a pirate, a one-eyed cowboy, a serpent in the grass, is better than none at all…

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So, here are my resolutions. After a break at the end of July and perhaps most of August this year, I will return to the blog with a more manageable schedule (perhaps 3 posts a week, so I can focus on my writing). I will continue to blog about whatever takes my fancy, but will make more of an effort to group them into categories such as: original work; book reviews and bookish thoughts; random rants. Fear not, escapism will continue to feature heavily in here!

 

 

 

Everything But the Run

Running ShoesI used to be a runner. I started running 6 years ago and was soon training 3-4 times a week. I even took part in marathons (once!), half-marathons and 10k races. I collected medals, and lost weight and moodiness in one fell swoop.

Of course, there were many days when I didn’t feel like going out for a run. Anyone who knows what England is like in November can confirm that there are many November days throughout the year.  But I survived the rain, the snow, the few days of summer heat, a wasp sting, getting lost in a field full of rampant bulls.

Then I sprained my ankle quite badly, and was laid up for a few weeks.  When I recovered, I injured my toe.  A few months later, something else happened. And so injury followed bed rest followed pain… until I was completely out of shape.  The longer I stayed away from running, the harder it got to get back into it.

Here in France the weather is not November all year round, but did that rid me of excuses? No, on the contrary, it provided me with more of them.

‘Today is too hot’ or ‘I can’t run in the snow’ alternated with ‘I’m too busy travelling’ or ‘I’ve got to prepare for this important business thing.’  And of course, the children – handy, trusty old excuses – they always figured in there somehow, in my list of excuses.   My ever-expanding list, to match my ever-expanding waistline.

This month all my prevarications and procrastinations were laid bare.  My children were shipped off to the grandparents.  There was no work to be done over the summer.  All I had to do was get into shape, with my running and my writing.

That’s when the similarities hit me!  I was putting off running, pretending to limber up through all sorts of other exercises (Pilates DVDs, swimming, cycling).  Then I try a few abortive little run-walks, which remind me just how out of shape I am. So then I avoided running even more.  But I know that the only way to get my form back is to break through that pain barrier, to stick with it for long enough.

EditsSame with my novel.  I’ve been putting off editing it by writing blog posts, poems, the odd little bit of prose here and there, book reviews – anything but the novel, in short!  So meanwhile, my mental form is corroding.  Yes, sure, any kind of writing is better than no writing at all, just like any kind of exercise is better than none at all.  But this dilution of effort and focus does not bring me a single step closer to what I want to achieve.

You only become a runner by running.  You only become a novelist by writing a novel.

Have I learnt my lesson? Well, for the past two days I’ve started editing. And you know what?  It’s not as bad as I thought.  It’s hard work, it’s rewriting more than editing, but it’s fun.  In a masochistic kind of way.

I think I may even go for a run soon!