Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Does Blogging Help You as a Writer?

"Enter the writing process with a childlike sense of wonder and discovery. Let it surprise you."

Charles Ghigna

You know, a lot of bloggers have asked themselves (or their readers) this question a lot. Why do I blog? I know why I started blogging. I know why I blog now, it’s the disconnect between the two brings me here today.

I believe this to be true: writers write. We’ve all heard it, some of us live it, but I’m sure we’d be surprised at the number of people who fancy themselves a writer yet rarely take the time to sit down and engage. Perhaps perfectionism kicks in and they think that if they can’t sit down and clack away until a few pages of the next Great [Your Country Here] novel is created, why bother?

I have stories inside me waiting for their release. I know they’re there. So when I figured out how to create a blogger account (one night back in December, in a fantastic example of Putting Off Important Things - in that case gift wrapping and a trip I was loathe to take) I thought, this will be the most important tool in my toolbox. I would blog. I would write. Maybe I would post chapters, snippets of my stories in the blog.

It wasn’t until several months later that I fully succumbed to the pull of blogging, when I began writing every day. At first I wrote for me. Then for the maybe three or four friends I knew were reading. Then I discovered several great blogs, and started leaving comments (something I had never in the past done before, even though I’ve been reading a blog or two for the past three years). Then, through the blog labyrinth built by commenters and blogrolls, I found myself bookmarking thirty or so blogs, reading them, joining in on memes and linking to posts that touched me.

Without quite realizing it, I had woven myself into the outskirts of a community. I liked it. A lot. Although I stay at home with my kids, I’m far from isolated. I volunteer, I have book clubs and girlfriends and dinner clubs. But each day, when I’m home with the kids, and the phone hasn’t rang and I’m quietly going about my day, I feel a pang reminding me that I’m a social creature who craves the company of others, most especially women. I treasure my friendships, even more so as the years slip away, because I realize how rare and special each true bond is. And somehow, I’ve started to form these alliances inside the blogging world. Based on the blogs I read, comment on, and those who visit my site, I have found an astounding network of women (and the occasional man). I still feel like the girl let in to the cool sorority by accident, who marvels at the company she gets to keep.

But the tool? What about the tool? As a writer, blogging has given me a gift: it has forced me into regular, consistent writing. But. But. I do not pain myself over my word choice when I blog. I do not write, delete, write, delete, reconstruct and agonize over structure, dialogue, or where things are going. I just write. It’s not very graceful. I do put thought into my writing, but it is more stream of consciousness than Chapter Ten.

Last week I started taking time to write outside of my blog. I figured enough was enough and I needed to work on that story that would get me on the Today Show maybe be published someday. Was it easier, because my writing muscles are flexed, stretched and exercised most days of the week? Um. No. In fact, it was painful. I was not writing to elicit a giggle from my readers, or to pose a question maybe a dozen kind soul would take the time to answer. I wasn’t writing a meme, or linking to anyone. I was writing for me. For my inner critic, and for the nameless array of faces all stamped “Editor’s Assistant Who Will Put This in The Slush Pile.” It was painful. But I kept on. I don’t think I can go back and read what I’ve written each night, but it's saved on my computer and there for future tweaking. I know it will never be posted.

I would no more post examples of my book on my blog than pictures of my children with their home address. I know that some bloggers do this. They talk about their book progress, they post snippets, they elicit feedback. I can’t imagine. Not only for the obvious reason of internet plagiarism and copy writing issues, but because I would feel naked. Naked while bending over and opening a tough jar of pickles.

I think that in order for me to find my rhythm with writing something outside of the blog, I will need to practice that dance, separate from my blogger moves. For me, blogging is a most spectacular warm-up with a group of friends. But in order to write, I need to go run down that trail alone. Thank God I need to warm up most days.

How about you? Does blogging help you as a writer? Does it define you as a writer? I’d really love to know.

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