I haven’t addressed this subject until now; the uproar has finally died down, or I’m late to the party, however you prefer to look it it. Still, it’s an interesting subject.
What does any writer hope to gain by maintaining a weblog (which, if done well, is a fairly time-intensive project, and one that you’re almost invariably doing instead of writing the book that’s due)? What do readers deserve to expect from a weblog, what do writers need to consider when doing one? And is it worth the time and effort and risk?
As always, I can only offer my own experiences with this.
What do I hope to gain?
I have done a weblog on and off for a number of years now — since 2001, in fact. The old blogs are still on the site, and still linked to this weblog. My approach to doing this has changed, but the old stuff is representative of who I was at the time, so I’ve let it remain.
- The first reason I maintain a weblog is to pay forward. A lot of beginning writers struggle with the illusion that only they have shitty writing days, that only they tear out huge chunks of material because it’s utter garbage, that only they drive themselves nuts trying to get from one end of the book to the other. So I chronicle my progress, because I’ve been doing this professionally for a lot of years now (longer than I’ve done any other sort of work), and one of the things I’ve discovered is that the more things change, the more they stay the same. If I can offer something useful to someone who doesn’t yet do this for a living, but who wants to, then I will.
- The second reason I do this is because I genuinely like my readers. I’ve met them at conventions and booksignings and in bookstores and online, and I’ve found most of them share a lot in common with me: they’re generally interested in all sorts of odd things, they have cool hobbies, they’re passionate about their lives, they dare to dream. They do not accept that life is the box they were shown in school. I think it’s good to know people like that, and to stay in touch. So I do. (Yeah, there have been a few jerks in with all the great folks I’ve met, but damned few. I’ve apparently been lucky, but I’ll accept that luck, and be thankful for it.)
- This weblog is a marketing tool, though there were years when I refused to post ads for my own books on my site (and FM, when it was mine), and I loathe rampant self-promotion. My attempt here, though, is to make it a marketing tool that includes truth in advertising. If you don’t like me here, you WILL NOT like my books. The me here is the me my readers meet in person, and that same me is evident in every word I write. I don’t write about myself, but my writing is informed by a whole lot of personal pain and personal experience and personal opinion and personal belief. I don’t deal with politics in my work, or with many “issues of the day.” Nonetheless, who I am and what I believe colors what I write, and subliminally, all of that creeps in. Unless I restrict myself to writing pablum, it has to.
- This weblog is a writing tool. I keep the word counts for me. I track my progress on various books for me. If you get some value from them, that’s cool — but that’s not why they’re there. I’ve found it useful to see how I’ve managed to hit (or miss) deadlines in the past. I’ve found it helpful to search back through past entries to discover that I HAVE tossed out massive chunks of book before, that I HAVE beaten my head against the wall over plot issues before … and I’ve found it useful to then see what I did to get out of the fix I was in.
What do readers deserve from my weblog?
Honesty. A certain amount of connection — as much as I can and am willing to offer. Entertainment. Maybe a few freebies and sneak peeks for frequenting the place. My personal thanks for taking the time to read the damned thing.
As for personal connection … I’ve disabled e-mail and most comments because it breaks my heart not to be able to respond, and when they’re enabled, I’m flooded. If I selectively cherry-pick the occasional topic to which I can offer comments, I can — sometimes, sort of — keep up with that. I’m seriously considering not adding a second guest book when this first one fills up (it almost has), because the notes in it are wonderful, and I’ve not been able to respond to them in anything like a timely fashion. Most of them I haven’t responded to at all, in spite of the fact that I keep promising myself that I will. I could plead work, stress, home-life, home-schooling — or I could just admit that in opening up a guest book, I bit off more than I can chew.
What do I think I need to consider when writing this thing?
Not as much as you might suspect. For the most part, I’ll say what I damned well please. You may consider that part of my personal campaign for truth in advertising. If a subject interests me, I’ll talk about it.
I will stay off the topic of politics, because politics makes me queasy. It always has. Politics in this era is divisive and ugly; and, both the main parties have few good points and a shitload of bad points, damned little integrity, and agendas that start and end with gaining and holding power. I don’t think they’re the same — in issues that I consider essential, the Republicans currently hold such high ground as might be found in the political septic tank. Doesn’t mean I like them, or that I consider their few solid issues a mandate for all their crappy ones.
And the minor parties are toothless, and for the most part crazy. Politics is not the savior, government is not our friend, and what we do to make our lives and each other’s lives better, one person at a time, on our own and at our own expense, is of more value than all the government programs ever put together, and all the damned bills ever passed.
I’m won’t stay off the topic of religion. I don’t like religion. I’m not in favor of it. As a missionaries’ kid who lived on mission fields, who has belonged to (read this as “had shoved down my throat”) a number of religions, and as a human being who has read the whole Bible and the whole Koran and the whole Book of Mormon and big chunks of other people’s religious books, I consider that I have both lived with the issue and done the necessary research to offer intelligent commentary. (Which mostly boils down to “I don’t like religion, though I get along with God just fine.”)
But I firmly support the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of, NOT from, religion. And I firmly believe that, so long as your religion does not endorse overthrowing or infiltrating the government or forcing everyone else to worship as you do, you have the freedom to worship as you choose. If the people in your area, by simple majority vote, agree to have prayer in schools or the Ten Commandments on the County Courthouse steps, then you should be able to do so, so long as you aren’t requiring everyone to do as you do. Even if I find a great deal of truth in Carlin’s Ten-Commandment Reduction routine. When your freedom entails everyone else’s loss of freedom, however, you have to go.
And everything else is fair game.
What do I consider when writing this thing?
That I could piss people off. That they’ll walk away and tell all their friends that I’m a horrible, evil person because I vehemently disagree with their favorite cause or theory or thang (global warming, abortion, radical feminism, quotas, Christianity/ Islam/ Buddhism/ Wicca …. and on and on and on.) That I’ll hurt the feelings of people that I like. That I might forget that truth and opinion are not the same thing, and I don’t own the one and cannot claim absolute and irrevocable moral superiority on the other.
Is this thing worth the time and effort?
If it weren’t, I wouldn’t be here.
Comments enabled by intent. I will absolutly read what you have written. As always, I cannot promise to respond.