Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Slogging: A Post for Writerly Types
I consider myself an actual writer, for whatever that is worth. It’s not my career, and I am not published at this point, but nonetheless I identify with those who have put pen to paper, or fingers to keys, throughout the ages. Writing is something that I have loved to do ever since I was very young, and also something upon which I have gotten a great deal of feedback, mostly positive, since those early days. Various and disparate sources have told me that I have a knack for writing, which has been both a blessing and a curse. It’s been a blessing in that such input has spurred me on to keep up with my writing over the years and to cultivate it. At the same time, as the great philosopher Spiderman once said, “with great power comes great responsibility”. My writing ability is hardly what I would consider a “great power”, but it is something I possess which not everyone does and, I feel, should be used for some greater good. So when I don’t write much, or at all, it seems like squandering, and I’ve been doing a lot of squandering lately.
Although I’ve been aware of it for a while (witness my post: Writing About Having Nothing To Write About, from last April), my lack of writing production really jumped out at me recently when I was examining the layout of this blog, “Wicked Awesomology”. I noticed that I had tallied 47 blog posts in the year 2012, and yet only 27 for 2013. Now I think we all realize that more is not necessarily better and I would be better off posting nothing than tossing something on here that is not very good. Still, being down 20 posts on the year is more of a drop-off than I would like to see, especially considering that my readership numbers, in terms of visitors to the blog, have steadily risen. In addition to the blog, I have two writing works in progress, one of which is a collaborative effort that is moving at a slow crawl at best, and the other is a novel that is still in the outlining phase, where it has been for a couple of months now. A third work in progress, a Maine-based murder-mystery, is no longer in progress by any definition of the word, since I have completely lost my way on it. It isn’t abandoned per say, but it is resting.
The writing slowdown has also become evident in the nature of my Twitter account, which I originally started several years ago to connect with other writers and foster my own writing. When I first began on Twitter (@countofbluecars, by the way), the vast majority of followers and people I followed were writers, and the dominant theme of my tweets was writing. My account has evolved over time to be broader based, and I have attracted, and been attracted to, Twitter accounts from other aspects of life, like politics, sports, humor, animal issues, the media, fellow Mainers, and so on. I’d say only about a third of my followers are writing-related people, and the percentage of those I follow who are writers or connected to the field is less than that. My actual tweets on writing have become rare. I enjoy my Twitter account as it is now, so it is not a bad thing, however the demographics of it seem to indicate that the place writing occupies in my life has shrunk.
So why am I not writing more? Hard to say, really. Yes, I have been busy with other things in my life, but no more so than in the past when my writing production was much higher. It’s possible that I’ve been more choosey about my topics. A lot of the things that pop into my head as possible topics for blog posts, short stories or novels seem like they have already been done by me, overdone by someone else, or just not feasible. For instance, I am writing this on New Year’s Day. Why not write about my New Year’s resolutions, you might ask? Already did that a couple of years ago and it did not go well at all. (Let’s just say putting them out for public display made not keeping them even harder.) A predictions post? It seems like every other blog out there has one of those up on it. Why not post some personal “Best of 2013” offerings? Also heavily represented in the blogosphere, and plus, who cares?
It’s that “who cares” attitude that could be at least partly holding me back. There is a popular stereotype that bloggers are self-indulgent people who post merely as a means of inflating their sense of personal worth. It’s about the writer, not the audience, and that’s not how I roll. I’ve tried very hard to keep my readers at the forefront. Before I start any post, I always ask myself: Is the topic something that those reading will actually be interested in? If the answer is no, then I either try to change it so that it is, or else I dump it. And then, if I do choose to stick with it, I ask myself, does it fit “the brand” I have built? Is it the kind of post that people have to come expect from reading Wicked Awesomology in the past? Anecdotal light humor is the general theme. Will writing something outside that realm be well-received on this particular blog? Would it be better suited for another venue?
A case in point: Recently, a young relative of mine was murdered in a domestic violence situation. It struck me very deeply, and made me want to put something out there in writing to somehow deal with it and to raise awareness. But what, and where, and how? That’s a pretty heavy topic for Wicked Awesomology, and would probably be longer than a standard blog post. Would my typical readers accept such a thing, or should I look elsewhere to get it out there? And then, could I write it in such a way that is inspiring, not maudlin and pitying?
And so on and so forth. I could make a longer list of writing excuses, but fail to see the benefit of that.
I tend to be a solution-oriented kind of guy, so all this leads me to wonder what I’m going to actually do about this lack of writing production, aside from whine about it. A few things come to mind, actually. One is to broaden the scope of the Wicked Awesomology blog in 2014, so that I will have the freedom to write about a wider range of topics and ideas. The core of the blog will remain the same, but the tone will likely vary more as I take more risks with what I write. It would probably be wise to cut myself some slack on the volume of writing I produce also. As I mentioned earlier, more is not better, especially if the content produced is substandard. Not all actual writing involves putting words down. Research and planning are no small parts of the actual process, so setting a goal related to actual volume produced daily or weekly does not seem like a good idea. I am however setting a production goal for at least one of my works-in-progress. Since the collaborative project is, well, collaborative, I’ll get with my writing partner soon enough to set a goal on that, but as far as my adventure novel goes, I’d like to have the rough draft written and be in the midst of the revision stages by the first day of 2015.
Another thing that I want to do more of as a writer in 2014 is connect in a concrete way with my readers and with fellow writers, in hopes that the increased feedback will drive me further. I have a couple of ideas on how I might go about doing this both in person and online, one of these ideas involves you. I want to open up my e-mail to you for topic suggestions, critiques on posts, and general conversation about writing and/or the topics in my posts. One thing I have heard from other bloggers is that only a fraction of your readers will respond in the “comments” section below a posting, due to its very public nature. Someone said it’s akin to those who make comments or ask questions at a public meeting. Only those comfortable in front of a group tend to speak up. I want to encourage you to share your thoughts on writing, mine or yours, with me via e-mail. My address for the purposes of writing is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope to hear from many of you soon. Now let’s get writing! Or at least thinking about it.