I’ve received several advice-seeking emails since this blog began from writers who feel the need to apologize to me–because they are not “writers,” exactly, but “just” bloggers.
First of all, this column is for writers of blogs (popularly known as “bloggers”) as much as it is for writers of novels, or stories, or obscene limericks. I happen to think that bloggers are writers.
In addition to believing that bloggers are writers, I also feel that bloggers could do with a touch less self-deprecation.
In many ways, there’s no purer form of writing than blogging. Yes, blogs don’t have editors, but that’s exactly why they’re appealing. Bloggers directly relate to their readers. If a blogger writes something offensive or stupid, she can’t point a finger at the editorial department. When you write for a magazine, your story is, more often than not, thoroughly reworked. The headlines are all written by the magazine. The images are chosen by the art department. The piece is scrutinized by a team of editors. The entire idea for the article might have been conceived by the magazine and given to one of their regular writers. This process is necessary for magazine writing, and any writer would welcome editorial input on her story, but it also distances the writer from her audience. The final product is not entirely hers.
There’s an authenticity that eludes magazine writing, and it’s why people are so entranced with blogs.
I also think, however, that calling yourself “just” a blogger can be an excuse to not try all that hard. And as much as I applaud being emotional and vulnerable and honest, I suspect that some bloggers upload whatever they banged out in the past hour and wonder why their audience doesn’t respond.
Blogging does not give you an excuse to be sloppy and/or lazy. If you’re a blogger, you (probably) don’t have an editor. It does not mean you don’t have to edit.
So please, bloggers, hold your heads up high, value what you do, and get to work. Write a rough draft, take a break, and then rewrite. Ask your friends what you could improve. Get to know grammar rules, if you don’t already. Study your posts, and be on the alert for the cute little phrases you use too much. We all fall prey to them. (I know I have.) It’s easy to resort to the same jokes, the same rhythms in each post. Like the. Single. Word. Sentence. To. Convey. Shock. Or! Using! Exclamation! Points! Yes, you can be a little looser with the rules because you are indeed blogging and it is a more forgiving medium, but that shouldn’t lead to you throwing away the rule book entirely. You could also get away with writing Hitlerotica (a genre I hope to heaven I just made up, and I’m not going to Google that to double-check) but that doesn’t mean you’re going to. (Unless it pays really well.)
Whether you’re blogging or writing lucrative Hitlerotica, people are attracted to good writing. If you want to attract an audience, be a good writer. There’s no other way to do this.
The good news is that blogging is an endurance sport. You can learn with each post. Whatever you do, if you love it, don’t stop. There are established authors who are now scrambling to get blogs together because that’s what the publishers want to see. Which is not to say that you should blog just for some future success, but that blogging is valuable and the rest of the world is recognizing that value more and more.
And please don’t fret over your number of readers. Unless you’re trying to live off your blog, which is not something I’d recommend unless you’re a superstar (and in that case I doubt you’d be reading my advice). I will tell you that my Finslippy audience has dwindled somewhat since my son aged past adorable-toddler status, and I’m much happier with my blog now. I have fewer drive-by readers coming around and giving me a hard time for funsies. My current readership is dedicated (also, incidentally, hilarious and wise) and their comments benefit my blog immensely. I’d take them over a larger readership that didn’t get me or what I was trying to say.
In conclusion, blogger: I hereby give you permission to call yourself a writer.
Now act like one.