Blogging in Spite of Myself

I began this post a year ago, shortly after I made Commonplace Book Blog live and published my first post. Or, it may be more accurate to say that I gave this post its current title, and it’s been sitting in my “drafts” folder, devoid of any other words, ever since. I didn’t know what the actual content in it would be.

I’m glad now that I didn’t try to articulate then what I did not yet know.

Blogging was a completely new world to me as writer, and even as a reader of blogs my experience was pretty limited. The title came from my own preconceived notions of blogging.

Over the years, when acquaintances have discovered that I’ve an aspiration to become a writer, a common response has been “You should start a blog!” I’ve listened and smiled politely to these suggestions, but have always felt them to be misguided. I’m not that kind of writer, I would tell myself. I saw the prestige in the printed page with a publisher validating my writing, rather than the online screen with me just posting whatever I felt like. There was a clear line in my mind of where I wanted my writing to be, and blogging was on the opposite end of it.

Things have changed a lot in the publishing world since then: there’s been a growing acceptance of online peer-reviewed literary publishing, so that it’s often regarded just as noteworthy as print publications.

But more importantly, things have changed in my own mind.

After my MFA in creative writing, I spent some time revising the personal essays I’d written during my degree, and sending them out to various venues for publication: online journals, print journals, and contests. I would tailor each essay to the submission guidelines, finding ones that fit certain publisher preferences, and shaving down word counts. I would spend weeks, sometimes months, curtailing a single piece.

Sometimes I would workshop a new piece long distance with my writing group, a bunch of fellow MFAers that I had gone through my program with. Except for these occasional internet workshops, I felt very isolated from the literary and creative community that I had grown in, and was working largely on my own.

I sent my pieces out (something that I was also encouraged to do during my MFA, but which I struggled to find the time to do so) but received a lot of rejections. I did publish, but not very much. And I began to wonder: what was the point of writing if no one else was going to read it?

Some writers will write and not see the success of their pieces: they don’t even try to get published in their lifetimes (I’m thinking of Emily Dickinson here). And while there is much writing that I do without the intention to or feeling the need for it to be published (I’m thinking of journal writing and my writer’s notebook), part of my motivation to write is to be read by others. Yet I was spending tens of hours working on pieces that were only being read by a select few: the members of my writing group, my husband, and the editors and judges at various journals and contests.

I came to wonder: what was the point in this?

The thoughts of prestige, of being published in select literary journals, of winning awards that would bolster my CV to help me get into a PhD program in creative writing,  started melting away as I reconsidered why it was I wrote. Was it really just so that I could write for this small, select audience, and be appreciated by them in the form of acceptance? I realized I wanted my words to be heard, so that they weren’t just getting stuck in a pile somewhere.

And so, I considered how I might connect with others with my writing, for that’s what I really wanted. Blogging is what eventually came to mind. Oh, I know: I came rather late to the game. It wasn’t about getting likes and followers; it was more about providing an outlet for my words and ideas which I could share with others. I think I wanted to offer a source of connection to readers, one which I had often experienced when reading a good literary novel.

It has been a year, then, since I got up the nerve to make my blog live and put it out to the world. I had a lot to learn, and started out pretty ambitiously with three blog posts a week, then eventually down to two, and finally to one. I had the amazing experience of being “Discovered” through WordPress, which brought a lot of traffic and attention and, surprisingly, it was also a time in which I had to rethink why I blogged, as my readership changed from that one event.

I’ve now had three periods of prolonged silence in my blogging, one before I gave a literary paper at a conference, another before submitting a rather substantial piece of writing, and then now, most recently, before a major life event takes place. I had meant to stay consistent with blogging, at the very least, weekly, but have found that I’ve let it slip as these other things have taken precedence. I would have loved to have blogged as consistently and frequently as I originally intended to. There’s always that associated guilt of not publishing, akin to what I feel when I don’t write in my journal for awhile, with the difference that blogging has a live audience.

I’ve learned that fellow bloggers and readers of blogs are, for the most part, extremely kind. That they invest in the writing, and connect with it, whether that’s personally getting something out of it, or leaving an appreciative or insightful comment. Blogging is interesting because you can see some of the results of what you write immediate after you’ve put it out there: traffic, comments, likes that you can view. I don’t know that submitters to literary journals or writers of published books get that same kind of immediate and accurate feedback from their readers (though of course they would get other kinds, like book reviews, and sales, and fan mail).

I’m glad that, somewhere along the way, my views of blogging changed, and that I became open to the idea of beginning my own blog. A large part of why it’s been such a great experience is the feedback I’ve received from readers.

With imminent changes in my life, I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to commit to being on here. And while I don’t necessarily have a solid plan for my blog right now, I do plan to keep going. Thank you for reading!

Question: How do you continue blogging when life gets really busy?