Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Blogging: a waste of time?

This question has been making its way around the writing blogosphere -- since Google announced it was shutting down Reader, it seems. I've also read about how RSS feeds are, apparently, a service that only we Gen-Xers who got online before the mid 90s care about. (shrugs) I still like my RSS feeds, thank you very much. I moved all of mine over to Feedly with a minimum of fuss and muss.

But the question of whether blogging is useful to writers is a valid one. I've been doing this since... huh, it's been two years now. Shows you how good I am at tracking anniversaries. Jody Hedlund wrote about her thoughts most recently, and she refers to both Jane Friedman's advice to new writers and L.L. Barkat's advice to experienced writers.

By "experienced" I assume they mean "published through traditional channels" (or trade published, or industrial, or whatever we're calling the big conglomerates now.) I am neither a new writer nor traditionally published, so here's a third POV.

In the two years I've been blogging, I've written over 280 posts. I've read hundreds more and commented when I had something to say. Memes, the A-to-Z Challenge, and Rach Writes' Platform-Building Crusade have all appeared here. Here's why I don't think it was wasted time.

Improved my discipline
One argument is that new writers should focus on their craft instead of on blogging. New writers should always focus on their craft -- I think that goes without saying -- but part of that craft is discipline. My butt-in-chair habit is one of the most powerful tools I have. Let me bold that and point neon arrows at it. Blogging contributed to my discipline. It never interfered with my creative writing, but I have more free time than most people do.

Established an identity
I started this blog with zero identity. Do you know what it's like to self-publish with zero identity? I've done it, back when I was involved in tabletop RPGs -- it's a soul-crushing disaster. I'm no big voice in the blogosphere, I know that, but my name is out there and there's a body of work attached to it. Over the two years I've blogged, I built that body up and made sure it was a reasonably accurate portrait of me. (Yes, I really am this boring. :D)

Met friends and crit partners
I started this blog with no writing friends, real or online, and no critique partners. If the value of those needs to be explained... I trust it doesn't.

But: the more I know, the less I have to say
I've heard the blogosphere called the "world's biggest writing convention" -- well, a disorganized, repetitive one, maybe. For new writers, there is value in reading the blogosphere's posts and in wrestling with their own writing challenges through blogging about them. After a while, the new writer is going to notice that a lot of it is the same advice, in slightly different form, over and over. There's nothing wrong with that, but new writers don't stay new.

I came into blogging late in my writing apprenticeship. Maybe I was already over my first million words mark, maybe I wasn't -- I don't know the word counts on the stuff I wrote in high school -- but I'm well into my second million now. One's perspective changes, with time and experience. And I've been finding that the more I know about writing, the less I have to say.

I just want to sit and stare at the unicorn, not try to publicly dissect it. On a related note, I may be moving to blogging once a week...

To wrap up: I think blogging has a value for the new and/or self-publishing author. There's a community here, and networking opportunities. Those can be difficult to find, especially for shy writers and those living in small towns. As one progresses in one's writing career, the usefulness of blogging may fade. Maybe it will shift into promotions for one's publications. Maybe one will move into a cave to devote oneself to The Art. But writing is never a waste of time, if you're striving to improve.

What has your experience been?


Bluestocking said...

I like your point about discipline. Blogging has definitely helped with that for me--even if its the first thing I set aside when all my obligations start to catch up with me.

I second the writer connections aspect as well. Met some great people who have both helped my craft and given me support when I've needed it. ;)

Liz said...

I like blogging. I get to say what I want and put it out there. And it is good practice.

I wonder, though. Blogging will probably morph into something else. What that will be...?

Daniel said...

My blog has been great for me. It's my "hub" on the Internet where I can connect with other authors and with readers. I believe blogs will continue to be a good way to network virtually on a personal level.

After all, what would we do instead? Rely strictly on forums? Yikes. Participation on most of the forums I've seen is like going back to High School. The cool people get all the karma and the bullies still try to make people feel bad. I'll stick to my own platform where I have the say on what is acceptable behavior.

So, I'm with you. I'll keep blogging as long as blogging is satisfying and useful to me.

BTW, I don't worry too much about Google Reader going away. RSS tools existed before Reader, and they'll continue to exist afterward. Even people who have no idea what RSS is take advantage of it every day. Many kinds of data feeds and email subscribe systems are based on RSS under the hood. RSS is a great enabling technology, and a terrible end-user technology. I see it as a data transmission protocol; the tools that wrap it are what make it useful.

L. Blankenship said...

@Liz: I think you're right. Blogging will keep changing, and who knows what will happen...

@Daniel: you're right about the dynamics of forums, though I think people have gotten better about behaving themselves. In well-moderated forums, at least.

And right about RSS delivery systems, too. We just need a plug-in/app/service that will present the data nicely. I doubt it was too much work for Google to keep Reader up and running. It smacks of laziness.

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