Last week I was asked to go along to the Edinburgh City of Literature monthly salon to say a few words about blogging. I was expecting people to be interested in the mechanics of how to blog, and had even started writing a post with some tips – but the question that came up most was whether people should be doing it at all.
Define your terms
‘Should’ is an interesting word to choose. To me, it implies a sense of duty. People say things like ‘Maybe I should do some exercise instead of making the fourth cheese toastie of the evening which will likely to cause me a cardiac episode’ or ‘Oh dear, I should probably read an edifying novel by Camus instead of returning to that dog-eared Jilly Cooper for the seventeenth time’. The subtext being that the speaker feels like they *ought* to do the first thing, but they *want* to do the second.
My gut reaction there is, if your brain is making you phrase the question as ‘should I be blogging?’, the answer is probably naw, you shouldnae.
Why I Blog
Speaking personally, I blog because I enjoy it. Writing a blog post helps me to crystallise my thoughts on things, it encourages me to conduct research (so I can cite actual sources rather than blindly following one viewpoint from my lefty liberal Twitter echo chamber), and it gives me a platform to talk about things I care about.
I originally began blogging at the age of about 17 because I wanted to practice for my amazing journalism career. All my clippings went on there, as did any reviews and opinion pieces I came up with that went unpublished by more traditional outlets.
In 2011, I set up this particular blog to record a ridiculous writing project. As well as hooking me up with an invaluable support network to get me through drafting my 12 books in 12 months, I ended up doing all sorts of fun things with it – from interviews with favourite authors and comickers to commissioning excellent guest posts from other writers. I’ve also got review work and speaking engagements out of it.
What I’m saying is, there’s no way I would persevere with blogging if I hated it, or had nothing to say, or felt it detracted from my fiction writing. After 15 years, with experience using around 10 different platforms, I think I’m qualified to say this is not something you should to embark on merely because you read a tweet by a random editor saying you ought to. I’ve seen some provocatively poor blogs in my time that were a result of someone ‘thinking they should’ and going for it without having any clear idea of why or who it was for.
Trust your instincts
If you’re a writer, chances are you want to focus your energy on your current project rather than a blog about it – and that is completely fine. Having said that, speaking as a sometime freelance journalist, I would suggest you consider an about.me or other static webpage that will come up when people Google you, with any biographical blurb you might care to put out there, links to your work, and some method of contact form – or social media links if you’re into that. Your online presence does not need to come in the shape of a blog, which is quite a different thing from a website – but it’s helpful for reviewers and prospective fans if you come up in the first page of search results for your own name.
Don’t be scared
On the other hand, if the only thing putting you off is a fear of the unknown, why not give it a try for six months and see how you get on? You could set the thing up in about ten minutes for free and stipulate in your very first post that this is a pilot, or mainly a place for your mum to check in on how you’re doing, or that you’re only planning to post once a month.
I have compiled a helpful list of blogging pros and cons to help you decide whether it might be for you.
- Helps develop a regular writing habit and routine
- It’s a transferable skill for many of the workplaces writers gravitate towards (unless you’re the sort of writer who doesn’t need a day job)
- It gives you an outlet when you’re having trouble with your current WIP – sometimes writing about writing helps you work through your plot problem, or doing a random update about something unrelated reminds you why you love writing at a time when you’re feeling stressed
- It can be a good way to promote your work, as it gives people a sense of what you’re like and whether they want to hear more from you. If they do, blog subscribers can be some of the best cheerleaders in the world
- Can be a great marketing tool, particularly if you’re self-published
- When you’re neck deep in a new MS, maintaining a blog can help remind people you’re there
- It can be very time consuming, taking away hours that might be better spent on your WIP and creating additional pressure you perhaps don’t need
- It takes quite a long time to build up an audience from scratch, and you may sometimes feel like you’re typing into an abyss – although I find that quite freeing!
- Sometimes people willfully misunderstand what you’re saying and leave mean comments that make you feel like you accidentally read below the line of a Guardian article on feminism (although you can always delete/block these)
Still not sure? Please drop me a comment and I’ll do my best to help!