I recently started a project to put together a book on writing based on many of the blog posts I’ve written here. Reading through the old posts felt a lot like looking at pictures of myself as a teenager: heinously awkward, insecure, and hiding under baggy clothes.
Writing this blog has been hell, and I love it.
Writing this blog is one of the best decisions I’ve made as a writer and forced me to grow in ways I never expected.
For the first two months I struggled to write anything, because I was plagued by thoughts of how my ideas “weren’t good enough” and how they always fell short of that perfect image inside my head. Judgment crippled me, and I filtered my ideas before they’d been given life.
For the first two years I struggled to write with any regularity. I published a few good posts followed by nothing at all for a couple months. I was very consistent about being inconsistent.
There were also times when I asked myself whether I wanted to quit, whether this was worth my time, or whether I got anything from it.
The answer was always yes, yes, and yes.
If you’re wondering what a blog could possibly do for you, or you’re about ready to go George Henderson on a blog you already have, here’s something to think about.
Blogging makes you a better writer.
1.) Practice. Blogging makes you to write. Most of your writing is like a house plant. If you don’t water it, then it withers and dies, and nobody cares. Your blog is like a cat. If you don’t feed her, then she cries and cries until you think, If I wait one minute more SHE WILL EAT ME. Just as soon as I post one of these things, I think, Holy Crap, I have to write ANOTHER ONE.
A blog is a beast that constantly needs to be fed. If you want to write prolifically and put out thousands and thousands of words, a blog is a great way to do that. Working under pressure of a deadline gives you motivation to just fucking write. Anything, which is better that nothing.
2.) Imperfection. This blog has taught me to deal with my hang ups of imperfection. When you write something like a book or even a short story, you spend a lot of time revising and re-writing. You work at making it perfect (or close to it), get feedback, and find an editor. But when you blog, you’re sticking to a posting schedule and may not always be able to show it to someone.
There will be times when you have to think, Good enough, and post the damn thing. There will be times when you press “Publish” and you’re not entirely satisfied with it. So why write when it’s imperfect? Because you’re making something. Making something for it’s own sake is a glorious undertaking.
3.) Find your voice. Reading my old posts reads a little like somebody lecturing on the history of wood. Some of those posts are pretty boring and not nearly as compelling as I thought when I wrote them. I learned that I have to work a little at my voice. That means opening up, being myself. That means being pretty awkward but also really, really sarcastic.
Having a voice means writing in a way that feels natural but it’s also writing that people identify as yours. It’s also not something that comes easily. It takes, and I’m not kidding you, years of jaw grinding practice. Before I wrote this blog, I scribbled in notebooks. I had a lot of practice before I started doing this, and I’m still crafting my voice. Blogging will make you craft your voice on a weekly basis.
4.) Share what you created. You can get away with having an unread blog. As long as you don’t share it with anyone, use tags, share on social media, or tell people about it, then even your mom won’t read it. But a time will come when you share it.
My partner reads my blog, and he tipped me off to my wooden voice. I needed to hear that feedback, so I could work at my voice. Having other people read your work will give you perspective. Having a place to share your work pulls you out of your tiny, suffocating world.
(Note: If someone you know makes a blunt, critical comment that is unhelpful and leaves you feeling like shit, you may have a toxic person in your life. People like that are unhappy, and don’t like other people to be happy. Feel free to disregard them.)
5.) It is challenging. Even bloggers who love what they do will admit it’s no cakewalk. Take it as a good thing. If you weren’t challenged, how would you get better? If you’re serious about writing, then you should constantly pushing your limits. If you’re not already doing that, then maybe a blog can help you.
The practice alone gives you a mental endurance and discipline like no other, exactly what you need to write something such as a book.
It’s also not for everybody.
It’s a lot of fucking work. Like I said, it’s no cakewalk.
In the next post, I’ll talk about the kind of guts it takes to not get smothered by your blog.
P.S. I’m attending World Dommination Summit in Portland, Oregon this weekend. If you’re also attending and would like to meet, hit me up at @wordsavant, or attend my meetup at Voodoo Donuts (SW 2nd Ave) on Monday, July 13th at 8:30 a.m.