Blogging, even in this day and age, sometimes gets a bad rap. Blog posts aren’t taken quite as seriously as articles from large news organizations, and there are many who consider it only a step above writing in a diary. It’s for attention-seeking writers who are no longer simply okay with tucking away their work in folders and old notebooks, who demand an audience. And how presumptuous of them to think that anyone would care to listen, right? No.
But even if you don’t believe that, even if you believe in the power of blogging, it’s hard to start. It’s hard to feel like creating your own blog isn’t like shouting into the void.
There are over 316 million people living in the U.S. alone. There is no such thing as a “void.” Someone out there will read your work, someone out there will love your work. You just have to believe that.
If you take yourself seriously as a writer, other people will too. But the fact of the matter is, no matter how great your writing may be—even if you’re the next Hemingway or Shakespeare (one can hope)—it doesn’t matter if no one besides you and Aunt Sally read those beautiful, insightful words.
It used to be that the only way for writers to share their work was by submitting to journals and magazines. If you were lucky, an agent would notice your work. They’d give you a call and ask for more. Or maybe, after years of your manuscript sitting in the slush pile, a bored intern would pick it up, flip through the crumpled pages, and, after falling in love with it, beg their editor to read it. In a way, blogging evens the playing field.
The reality of today’s publishing world is that less and less publishers accept unsolicited manuscripts at all. If they arrive by snail mail, most editors send them right back. If they arrive in their inbox, it’s as simple as pressing delete. New, debut writers are a risk. There’s no way to know if they’ll sell because their work is untested. So, instead, editors rely on agents to vet submissions, to vouch for authors, and these manuscripts—the ones that have been vouched for—are more often than not the ones that editors end up purchasing the rights to.
Why does this matter to you, dear writer? Because blogging is becoming a way that agents find new authors. Tim Manley, the author of Fairy Tales for Twenty-Somethings, is just one example of a Tumblr user whose blog was 1. found by a literary agent and 2. eventually sold to Penguin. But there are other examples, like Julie Powell’s blog “The Julie/Julia Project,” which was later turned into the book Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously and then later turned into the film Julie & Julia starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. But even big names, like Neil Gaiman, have blogs. And, of course, John Green is all over Tumblr.
There are plenty of people who will disagree with me. It’s time, they say, for the end of blogging to promote your book, your writing, to build a platform. And, you know what? They’re not wrong either. Because the point isn’t to blog because you have to. If it feels like work, if it doesn’t come naturally, then don’t do it. Don’t blog, and tweet, and tumblr, and pin, and post—don’t try to do it all, because your writing will sound thin. It will lack a voice. Pick one avenue, whether that’s a 1000 word blog post or a 140 character tweet. The point is, whatever you do, do it well. Do it right.
If blogging does feel right for you, then here are some things to consider. Blogging is a natural extension of your writing. It can be a great way to test the waters. Not only can you share advice and expertise, presenting yourself as a knowledgeable, smart individual, but you can share creative pieces—excerpts from stories (perhaps even a book) that you’re working on—and see how your audience reacts. If you immediately regret this decision, it’s as simple as deleting the post. But if you can fight that temptation long enough, your readers might comment on your work, giving you their own thoughts and insights, which can help you shape the piece.
If you already have a website, whether that’s a place to send potential employers or, if you’re a freelancer, potential customers, blogging is a great way to drive traffic to that website. You can share your posts on your Facebook page; you can share it on Twitter, Tumblr, and even LinkedIn, and when someone clicks on the link, they’ll be taken to your website. And if you’re savvy, you’ll have a place on your website where they can follow your posts. You can build loyalty and influence. You can gain an audience. And later, when you send off your manuscript to agents and they take to Google in search of you, they’ll stumble across your website, they’ll see you’ve built an active community, that you have a steady, growing base of readers, and they’ll consider all of this as they make their decision to represent you—or not.
To blog, or not to blog, that really is the question. You can go at it alone, or, like the very blog you’re reading now, you can contribute to a site that already has a following. (In fact, we’re looking for some new voices.) You can even have both, because there is no limit to the amount of times and places you can share your work.
I once read a book that defined creativity as not the act of creating, but the act of putting what it is that you created out into the world. And once I thought about it, the idea stuck with me. For so long, I kept my poems, my stories, to myself. And it wasn’t until I broke out of my shell that I started to grow as a writer. Put yourself out there. Shout into the void. We’re listening.
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