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Ask a freelancer: To blog or not to blog?

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Melissa Chadburn is a lover and a fighter, a union rep, a social arsonist, a writer, a lesbian, of color, smart, edgy and fun. Her work has appeared in Guernica, Pank, Salon, and the Rumpus, among others.  In Ask a freelancer, Chadburn fields questions about writing, the blogosphere, platform building, and all things scary. She doesn't presume to know everything but she knows people that know more things than her and if there's one thing she’s learned it’s that there's nothing to be gained from withholding information.  Reach her at fictiongrrrl(at)gmail.com or follow her on Twitter. She loves your whole outfit right now.

Dear Freelancer,

         I’m a writer. I want to eventually make a living this way. I live forty miles from the closest city so I don’t connect with other writers very often. Whenever I ask anyone for advice about writing they tell me I should start a blog. But I write poetry and short fiction. Do you have any advice on whether or not I ought to blog?

 —Blogless in the Boonies

 ***

Dear Blogless,

I went to a workshop hosted by a publisher. She was blonde and edgy and competitive looking. I’m “friends” with her on Facebook so I know that she is into running these days. Also she is not soft. She is a hard and bottom-line kind of lady. She told everyone they must blog. She said they must blog and be consistent and slowly over time they will build a platform.

I started a blog. It was just some small thing on blogger. It was a place where I would try to be consistent and keep reviews of books I’d read.

A well-known author commented on my blog. He liked my review. Now I feel like I can never get rid of the blog. I also see why people dig this so much. You write stuff and people see it. Poof! In an instant. No more waiting around hoping to get discovered.

Then over time my little blog had ten followers. People I knew from school. I followed something like 200 people. This made me feel bad.

I went to a fundraiser for a well-known writer’s colony. The featured speakers were two authors. I might describe one—sinewy, soft, whispy, lanky, and graceful, and the other—curt, business, deliberate, and honest.

The discussion they engaged in was based around art and commerce or put more directly, art and money. Oftentimes there is this tension between what we write for money and what we consider to be creating art, as well as between what types of things we are asked to do that are entirely separate from our art in order to sell it. One of those things is blogging. To blog or not to blog that is the question. Deliberate said, “No.” She said that when people blog that robs them of the experience of interfacing with an editor. She feels engaging with an editor in this way is a really important part of developing as a writer.

Graceful said, "Yes. Whenever a young writer asks for advice I tell them to go out and start a blog. A blog would give them a platform and develop readers for them so when it came time to sell a book they could say they have x amount of readers or hits on their blog. I tell them to write and to write often.”

I think back to those two women at the fundraiser. I think that whenever you have two vastly different perspectives the answer is likely somewhere in the middle. Which unfortunately brings us to—maybe.

Maybe, if you enjoy blogging and if you are diligent. Maybe, if you find yourself to be the perfect blend between these two women, Deliberate and Graceful. A lot of young writers feel the pressure to build a platform from their publishers. This can perhaps include blogging. However, as bloggers you are in fact denied the opportunity to develop an editorial relationship and the question I think we are most often faced with as writers is not, do I care about this material enough to write it? but, do I care about this material enough to rewrite it?

Write what you love and sometimes write for money and if you’re lucky eventually the two shall meet. Whatever you do write write write write.

—Freelancer

Illustration by Fernando Alfonso III