On the Hazards of Starting an “Author Blog” (Or, Do Authors Secretly Hate Blogging?)
Have you ever wondered whether authors like having a blog? (Or Facebook / Instagram / Pinterest / Whatever?)
Some authors seem to love it. You stop by their site, and they’ve already posted this morning. While you’re staring at their huge list of posts, and glazing over trying to decide whether to start with the blow-by-blow of their latest book tour in Andalusia or their twelve-part series on how they made the Paleo diet work with their meat allergy , another new post pings to life before your eyes…
But other authors seem to hate blogging. Because they never do it.
Their “blog” has precisely three posts:
- Post #1: “NEW SITE! Moving my blog from Blogspot!”
- Post #2 (same day): “COVER REVEAL! Here’s my new novel!”
- Post #3 (six months later): “Been so busy, but I’m going to start blogging three times per week!!”
Post #3 is dated before the Obama Administration.
Why would an author hate blogging?
Okay, I promise this post is not going to be one big complaint about “having” to blog.
Just a lot of little complaints.
No, really, my goal is to give you a behind-the-scenes look at:
1) Why SOME (not all) authors you love might actually loathe this whole “social media/blog/constantly bare my soul” thing. Spoiler alert: I have been one of them. Until maybe ten minutes ago.
2) How I finally figured out that this blog thing could be fun!
3) And this is relevant to you because:
3a) This blog will be slightly less incoherent, and
3b) Who knows, you might be facing some similar resistance to this whole bare-your-soul thing. It’s not entirely unknown for avid readers to have some slight introversion…
So let’s dive in.
First off, THEY told us we HAD to!
We authors hate being told what to do.
Note: to be clear, I am NOT speaking for “all authors” when I say “we”. By “we”, I mean, “me and all the authors who agree with me on this.”
And I have to say, both of us really take exception to this unceasing Niagara Falls of advice constantly spewing from the Internet on what we HAVE to do these days to reach readers like you.
I’m not going to inflict it all on you here, but trust me, it’s a _long _list.
No one likes homework. At least, we don’t.
So next time you eagerly sign up for that author list, and the first email is like, “Thank you so much for signing up for my email newsletter. I promise not to email you except when I am trying to sell you my next book…“
…imagine a poor squirmy kid having to give a book report in front of the class. It’s not you, it’s nothing personal. That poor author just feels like they _have _to write this stupid newsletter … and in that mindset, how are they supposed to enjoy it?
Plus, see, writing is kind of a thing for us…
But before I get to that…
INTERRUPTION: So Many Graphics!
PROBLEM: With blogs and emails, apparently the author has to put a graphic every couple of paragraphs or else the reader (you) will have a brain seizure and/or check Facebook. “Text! Text! So much teeeexxxxt!!!”
This assumption seems somewhat unflattering, both to the writer’s skill with prose (which is kind of their whole career) and your own attention span. Especially if you’re into, you know, novels.
Plus, sending the distractible, procrastinating writer into the Infinite Rainbow Ball Pit of Image Search, right when they’re finally facing the prospect of actually writing a draft, seems unwise. It’s hard enough to find the _words _for what I’m trying to say … now I also have to find pictures???
MY SOLUTION: No one says the graphics have to make sense.
You know how long it took to find a public domain photo of a hippo on Pixabay? Not very long.
And that is one cool hippo. So maybe they’re right?
Anyway, back to what I was talking about … we writers care a lot about writing …
A blog is not a (perfect) novel! ACK!
But writing a blog post or an email feels like it has nothing to do with telling amazing stories.
In fact, time being limited (especially if you’re one of the 99.9999% of writers who are also working a day job), it’s hard not to see every hour spent blogging as time spent not writing that next novel.
_But wait, _you say. It takes like five minutes to post something on Facebook. You really don’t have five minutes?
It may take YOU five minutes, O blessed among mortals. But some of us writers can be a bit … obsessive.
The same quality that inspires us to spend weeks and months and years polishing streams of tens of thousands of words into a novel …
… makes us resist dashing off undigested chunks of prose and inflicting them on our beloved readers like you.
It’s kind of like telling a master chef, “If you want to promote your gourmet, one-of-a-kind super-expensive restaurant, you’re going to need to start slapping together PBJ sandwiches and handing them out in the street. Every day. But don’t mess up your brand.”
Or, here’s another way to see this problem … remember Cecily in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest?
Cecily. I think your frankness does you great credit, Ernest. If you will allow me, I will copy your remarks into my diary. [Goes over to table and begins writing in diary.]
Algernon. Do you really keep a diary? I’d give anything to look at it. May I?
Cecily. Oh no. _[Puts her hand over it.]_ You see, it is simply a very young girl’s record of her own thoughts and impressions, and consequently meant for publication. When it appears in volume form I hope you will order a copy.
Classic. And that’s what trying to do blogs or emails or even Facebook can feel like for some of us writers — _so fake,_ pretending to keep a laid-back “diary” when, all the time, it feels very much “meant for publication”.
But the thing is … on this point, I’m just wrong.
Everyone knows the difference between writing a novel and writing an email. We know the difference between carefully sculpting a comedy and goofing off with friends.
So, to sum up…
PROBLEM: Writerly perfectionism.
MY SOLUTION: Stop thinking of blogs, emails, and social media as “writing”. Think of them as “hanging out”.
Note: I didn’t come up with this solution; it was one of the pretty seashells that washed up along with the torrents of advice.
Hanging out is fun. I can do hanging out. Enjoy it, even.
When I think of all this social stuff as just _hanging out _with you … I get excited.
True, some of us writer types get so locked up that we have trouble even with ordinary live goofing off.
(Side note: if you have any writer friends who can sound a bit … pretentious … a bit heavy on the vocabulary? … please be gentle. It’s not easy to work with a medium which also happens to be the language you have to use for everything else. If artists had to sketch their evening conversations, they might stress out too…)
Fortunately, for me, if I’m with the right crowd … goofing off is all too easy. I could tell you some stories. Late-night Disney karaoke, for instance … as Kermit the Frog …
Anyway, I think you’re the right crowd. And since it takes a REALLY LONG TIME to write a novel (even at the current crazy breakneck speeds), I’m excited to start letting you know what I’m into, enjoying, and up to in between books. And hearing what you’re into too.
This means giving myself permission for it all to be super rough. Let’s save the perfection (ha!) for the novels.
Whew. Okay. Thanks. Thanks for listening. I feel better.
You’re a nice person.
Crud, I’m overdue for a graphic…
New Rule: NO REVISING [Okay, Not Much]
… and you know what I did after adding that second peacock? Started revising this very post.
But we don’t revise casual conversations, do we?
True, it helps that casual conversations aren’t transcribed, date-stamped, and set up so they’ll show up in Google.
(Oh wait, that’s podcasts.)
But seriously, I’m going to stop and publish this now, instead of taking two hours to tweak, trim, and polish.
I’m not going to promise never to revise anything here (we’d both regret it), but I do want to set a tone that feels a lot more like talking.
Especially since I hope you talk back.
What about you?
Speaking of which — do you have any authors you love to hang out with online? Anyone who’s just really good at it, whether it’s a blog, Facebook, email list, Instagram, or whatever? Leave a comment, I’d love to check them out. Thanks!