Why Writers Should Blog…
July 13, 2007
I just keep finding great stuff on Doc Searls’ blog – this time it was a post by Angelo Ingrid entitled Writers and Blogs: My Speech to Spark (his blog seems to have been suspended by WordPress at the time I wrote this, but plenty of the original speech can be found on Doc’s blog).
Anyways, I clearly think that writers should blog. In fact, blogging has led to every single writing gig I’ve ever had, albeit sometimes indirectly. I’ve used to show editors what I’m capable of (it’s also a good way to provide access to tons of your clips in one place if you’re so inclined), to interact directly with my audience, and gain a toehold in the competitive world of freelance writing.
At the risk of sounding arrogant, I would say that a writer really has to have some kind of web presence these days, especially if they are not already established. I’ve had conversations with some traditional media types who seem to think that if they ignore the web, it eventually all go away. Best of luck to them.
Or they just think that the web is a collection of dilettantes, plagiarists, perverts, and teenagers sharing their angst on MySpace – it’s just not something to be taken as seriously as other forms of media. I wonder if this is because majority of the net is open to everyone who can get their hands on a computer and a connection. It’s open source journalism and literature, and anyone can play. Granted, there’s plenty of crappy content on the web, but sifting through the chaff is really a minor consequence of making it free.
“I say you must participate in the share economy. You abundantly share your poetry, your satire, your fantasy, your historical insights with others in your field. Help others gain better understanding or more entertaining fictions. This is how you will become known in the digital realm, which is increasingly becoming the only realm that matters and has influence.”
Where else can you engage in conversation with people around the world, from all different backgrounds and walks of life? To quote David Weinberger (author of Everything is Miscellaneous – awesome book, by the way), “Do you know how different it is to write a book where your readers can talk back? It’s thrilling.”
Now of course a blog isn’t a book – if I had to describe it as anything, I’d peg blogging as sort of interactive, bylined newspaper column. But really though, blogs are as different as fingerprints so it’s tough to define it as anything other than a series of articles written in reverse chronological order.
More quotes from Angelo:
“…I cannot understand why any writer would avoid the blogosphere. It is a writer’s paradise and prison, for once you start, you must train yourself to keep it up, to not abandon it for any reason, to perpetuate the blog for its own sake and for the love of your readers.
…The discipline of blogging, and the concomitant comments you receive from readers, will improve your thinking, researching, writing, editing, graphic design, and editing skills. You are in total control. You are writer, editor, publisher, and marketing expert. You have the freedom and responsibility for the entire production and distribution of your material.”
What writer wouldn’t appreciate the freedom and ability to present their material to the world in any way that they saw fit? Yes, the lack of an editor occasionally leads to mistakes, but those are easily fixable and it’s not like print publications don’t run errors sometimes too. No one is perfect. Communication and conversation are the point.
“The blog represents the first time in human history that any individual can have a voice on a level playing field with government, religion, and corporations. One blogger can start an investigation, provide an answer, or provoke an uprising that domination systems cannot control.”
This is just wonderfully inspiring, because when else in the history of this planet has it been possible for one person with a computer to reach millions, if not billions of people? Of course, there are plenty of blogs and niche sites that will never get tons of traffic (for a variety of reasons – they deal with niche topics, general lack of promotion, and yes, some are just dull/bad), but the possibility is there.
Perhaps writers could view the blogosphere as a something like a massive writer’s group of people interacting, criticizing, sharing, commenting and generally taking advantage of the many opportunities that the net offers. Nick Hornby said “I think that a lot of unpublished writers feel the same way. They’re not getting anywhere, and nobody’s listening to them. You do get frustrated.” Guess what? On the web, somebody’s listening. And they can respond.
I know that many writers are concerned about protecting their content and the possibility of plagiarism, and honestly, my first response is “aren’t you putting the cart before the horse?” Concentrate on creating something worthy of stealing before you get too worked up about it. (for actual tips on protecting your work and what do if you catch a plagiarizer, check out this awesome series on the topic by Lorelle on WordPress). Personally, I think that the benefits of blogging far outweigh the potential risk, but then again, I’ve always been a big advocate of open source and the Creative Commons, so take that as you will.
*Some of my opinions on this subject were also informed by this post on using websites to promote your writing and the subsequent comments on Deborah Ng’s Freelance Writing Job Blog.