Psst! Can you keep a secret? I’m going to share one of mine with you. A lot of the time, I really hate blogging. That might seem strange to you, after all you are reading this on my blog. I managed to stick at it long enough to type the sentence you just read, and this one you’re reading now, and the one you’ll read next. I know what you’re thinking; “Owen, the words just flow off the page, only a labour of love could produce work this good,” but the truth is I usually find blogging really hard.
This is partly because I find it a struggle to choose what to write. When I have a new story out or a new piece of cover art, it’s easy enough. NaNoWriMo usually keeps me overflowing with updates, but the rest of the time? People don’t want to visit the blog just so I can sell to them or swear about my word count, they want something from me. Entertainment perhaps? Or education? Or just a connection with a real person out there who is working through the same little problems, and sometimes I just don’t know how to offer that. My sparks of inspiration are usually little snippets of fiction, I’m a storyteller not a teacher.
So why do I do it? There are a few reasons. Firstly, if you work in a creative medium, if you’re self employed in this work, and you do business digitally, you need a website. More than that, you need a website that provides a continuing connection with your audience. A blog is the easiest way to do this, if you do it well. I’m not sure I do it well, but I’m hoping to get there. Secondly, all writing is practice, and all writing speaks for its author. Putting myself out there in a mostly written medium helps me present myself as a writer first and foremost. Again, this doesn’t always work out as I’d intended, but the theory is sound.
My problem is that I find it hard to walk that line between business and hobby. I want to write for pleasure, and for money, and sometimes that feels impossible. I wouldn’t claim my work was art, but I write the kind of stories I’d like to read. I’ve got writing for joy sorted, writing for money is proving to be a little more difficult. Not that I expected it to be easy, but I’m still not comfortable with selling myself, even on my own blog. When it comes to updating the page, I never know what tone to strike. What do I aim for? Most of the writer’s blogs I see are full of quasi educational posts about building your brand, selling your products, Get Rich Quick Writing A Thousand Words A Day! I’ve tried to follow to route, to share my experiences in writing so far, but I’m not that guy. Nor am I the deeply personal blogger, or the passionate political writer, the abrasive critic, or even the shameless shill.
When you ask someone what a blog should be, what it should look like and what it should achieve, you hear the same answers over and over. It should offer something to the reader, it should provide useful information, it should have a focus and target and audience. Build back links, long-tail keywords, do follow tags and Google Analytics. I find it hard not to be cynical, I am reminded instantly of pyramid schemes and Multi-Level Marketing. I know this is how the internet works, but the art of putting yourself out there is lot like the get rich quick scheme. Fake it ’till you make it, and exploit every resource whether you deserve it or not. And I’m not that guy either.
And I wonder if I haven’t made my blog into a distraction, an excuse to blame when things seem to be going a little slowly, and a side project I can waste time with when I don’t have the patience to write. Writing is hard work. Harder than it was when I was young, harder than I thought it would be when I came back to it three years ago, and the results come slower than I had ever feared. I want to channel these frustrations somewhere, to put them out there and engage with others, as I’d hoped others would engage with me. To find the world where frustrated writers and their aimless, cynical blogs live and comfort one another with over inflated promises of ships coming in.
I don’t know what a blog should be. The answers I hear from others seem mercenary, and overly simplistic. Perhaps I’m wrong, and they have really found good fortune with their journalling. Or are they, as I, faking it until they make it.