Last month, Jane Friedman, a woman I’ve regarded as the editor for Writers Digest (though she’s since moved on to the Virginia Quarterly Review), shared this post by L.L. Barkat on her blog.
In it, Barkat told writers to stop blogging.
The title cycled like a nasty Google Display Ad traveling from one webpage to another as I browsed my Twitter feed.
Of course I disagreed. Of course I believed in blogging the way engineers believe in calculus or truck drivers believe in the speed limit (emphatically, that is to say, even when the rest of us groan trapped behind the mammoth beasts crawling our fast-lane interstates).
What he was saying was maybe, probably, OK definitely true for experienced writers. They’d done the dance and shimmied and shook for the whole literary world and we just craved more from them.
But for those of us who cannot make a small booster seat out of our published works, blogging is still a core component of writing growth.
We Blog For Ourselves
Writing is a personal act of creative expression. If that definition hasn’t hit you over the head yet, let this be a reminder.
You write because you need to say something and it’s bottled inside you like a message bobbing through the ocean of your heart for a hundred years before making landfall.
But your publishing content online should never ever smack-me-over-the-head-if-it-does alter that fact.
Blog for you and watch yourself grow. Watch your ideas converge. Watch your self-expression refine.
You don’t have to blog to do that, and sometimes the criticism of a few measly pageviews at the start will be enough to make you click the red circled (or blue squared for my PC lovers) X at the top of your web browser.
(That’s a shame, kids. That’s a real big shame.)
But if you stick around because it’s for you — or at least the people you care about — and you’ve got direction and drive, you’ll grow emotionally and intellectually from the experience.
We Find Our Voice In The Abyss
There will always be a difference between those who start blogs and bloggers. It begins with dedication and follows through with a mission.
Imagine starting a new cereal brand. You’ve got a wacky name in a stiff all-caps serif typeface printed across the top of each box (all different sizes, too) and you’re wondering why Wegmans and Shop Rite and Giant and Piggly Wiggly and Krogers refuse to put that future household name on the shelf.
Because. It’s Not. Going Somewhere.
You could have the tastiest blueberry vanilla almond granola sitting fresh and crunchy in a tight sealed eco-friendly recycled plastic pouch but ain’t nobody got time for your discordant cereal dreams.
There are too many other product lines featuring blueberry vanilla almond granola for anyone to even dream of picking your hott mess off the shelf, even if you didn’t get shut down by the big guys.
The same thing happens when you load yourself up with blogging ideas that don’t meet in the middle with some larger goal.
You write about the final exam you failed and then about the time your grandmother walked in on you toweling off from a hot shower.
You write about the reason you love one-for-one campaigns and the art of mastering the Facebook page as an Etsy storeowner.
And ya wonder why nobody put you in their Google Reader (oh, sorry, forgot that that ship has sailed out to the Bermuda Triangle)?
The abyss of blogs is too great for you not to write with a common thread, a dedicated mission of sorts, and expect somebody to stick around.
When you get serious about blogging, you find two things: your voice (because err’body decided writing didn’t have to be boring but nobody wanted to write with a little fear in their bones) and your purpose (for blogging).
It’s a little bit magical when you don’t think too hard on it. When you do, though, you realize that all those shenanigans you’ve been pulling by messing around, treating your blog like a diary that the whole world is privy to, only prevented you from practicing writing as a thing you, like, get paid for?