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Five Ways Blogging Has Made Me A Better Writer
Contributor
Written by
The Salonniere
August 2010
Contributor
Written by
The Salonniere
August 2010

PART TWO: In which Kamy Wicoff continues to ponder the differences between blogging and writing, and to celebrate the ways in which blogging has made her writing better. When I first began to dream of She Writes, I had never written a blogpost in my life. (I wasn't on Facebook, either, and had had a kind of panic attack when I first put a page up there.) My partner, Deborah Siegel, was an accomplished blogger with a loyal following for her group blog, Girl W/Pen -- and had even taught numerous workshops for blogging beginners. But for me, a book author and essayist, blogging was utterly foreign, and scary, territory. How could I write so frequently and still feel proud of what I'd done? What would happen when, inevitably, I found I didn't have something meaningful to say, but had to blog anyway? What were the implications of insta-publishing (just add Word Press), and its risks? As a writer who'd founded a social network for women writers, however, I had little choice in the matter. I was gonna blog, so I might as well get used to it. It's been a little over a year since those early, grim-faced, white-knuckle days, and boy have I learned a lot. The most welcome lesson? Blogging, while different from writing (for me), has strengthened my writing in ways I'd never have imagined. Here are five ways how. ONE. BLOGGING STRENGTHENS MY WRITING PRACTICE. I am lifting this line from a panel I sat in on at BlogHer, "Writing Inspiration: Stoke Your Creativity," in which Rita Arens made a point I hadn't considered before: blogging is an excellent way to strengthen and support your daily writing practice. I don't blog daily, but I should, because right now, for all my love of "writing", I ain't doing any. Starting a new business and parenting my two young sons takes up most of my time, and the kind of dedicated hours I need to work on a novel just aren't available to me right now. Blogging, during this last year, has become my most regular writing outlet, and I am grateful for this unique way of keeping those muscles fit and in shape. TWO: INSTA-PUBLISHING IS FUN. MOST OF THE TIME. One of the biggest hurdles I had to get over when I began to blog was my fear of insta-publishing. As a writer who worked for four years on her book, editing each sentence over and over again as she went along, I was worried by the idea that my words would so instantly become public. I got over that quick. The satisfaction of creating something that could so quickly be shared with an audience hooked me from the start. That being said, I have definitely encountered the risks as well: in two instances this year, I put up posts I immediately regretted, and had to do some work to explain my meaning and correct things I'd gotten wrong. Fact-checking and editing are still writerly duties of the highest order, no matter how quickly you can hit "publish." THREE: BLOGGING HELPED ME FIND A VOICE I DIDN'T KNOW I HAD. I remember the moment I discovered a new voice for myself on She Writes. Last fall, a colleague sent me an email letting me know that Publishers' Weekly had completely omitted women from its Best Books of 2009 list. When I read it, my jaw dropped. My blood boiled. And oh yes, I was MAD. But for the first time in my life there was something I could do about it, right away, using my words: post a blog. And I couldn't get to my blog fast enough. The words flew fast and furious. And ideas about what to do with my anger -- ways to use it as the inspiration for meaningful action, not just a cause for outrage -- came quick and clear. That voice, passionate, fearless, direct, angry, provocative and activist, is one I know I will use to great effect in my fiction writing. And until I became a blogger, it was a voice I didn't know I had. FOUR: BLOGGING HAS GIVEN ME MY OWN PERSONAL EDITING TEAM. Writing is a lonely business -- this we all know. But blogging is just the opposite. It is social: a conversation between a writer and her readers, in which readers play a unique role, almost as a members of a writing group where comments, responses and critiques are shared by thoughtful audiences (mostly thoughtful, let's be honest) with speed and fluidity. When I write, rather than blog, I can't tolerate that kind of continuous and instant feedback, as it would threaten fragile new work that needs protecting. But when I blog I welcome it, and I have learned a lot about my writing from the editors/commenters who interact with me. I learn from both the critics and the fans: clues to what works, and what doesn't. (Criticism is often the surest sign that something worked, by the way.) FIVE: BLOGPOSTS CAN SERVE AS WRITERLY TEST BALLOONS. In my last post on the subject of writing and blogging, I mentioned something I'd heard the Nation columnist Katha Pollitt say: that in a 750 word column, there was only room for one and a half ideas. This is also true of a 750 world blogpost (a word count I routinely exceed), and as such it is an excellent place to test specific ideas or arguments and see how they hold up. My fear of having to blog when I didn't have something meaningful to say was misplaced: blogging when you don't think you have something to say can lead to experimentation and discovery that otherwise would never have happened. It's in the spaces between words -- and between blogs -- that we so often uncover the surprising and serendipitous. For me, blogging is fertile ground for both, and that makes it fertile ground to grow a writing project in, too. And now... I will take advantage of the lovely opportunity presented by blogging to start a conversation! How has blogging helped your writing? Please share with me. I need a hit of some of that addictive insta-feedback, now!

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Comments
  • Dear Sarah,
    it takes only one to start. I was THE most reluctant person to start a blog, as I'm old and old-fashioned and come from a culture where once upon a time, at least, people used to meet in person and not on the internet. However I went to a conference recently and a book editor told me flat out that if I want to ever get published I need a blog. So here it is. I also only have 3 entries so far but I will try and persevere. In a way, the process of self-motivation for the blog is not different from the one we must take on board for writing whatever project we have.

  • Sarah Alibabaie

    I've tried so many times to start blogs and they always peter out. It's point number two and five that stick me, since I always want to elaborate and polish--and as a consequence, no post is ever finished enough. I write in my journal often multiple times in a day, and I always tell myself I will tumble the entries (I picture one of those rock tumblers that turns rough stones into agates) into something more finished, but instead I write new content in my journal. This process causes me to confuse audience...
    Props for putting your blog up for everyone to comment on, Amalia! I'm tempted to follow your example, if I can rack up some more posts (there's just 2).

  • What you say about the daily practice is very true—I was recently whining to my therapist about not having accomplished anything for days and she said "But you did—you just started a blog"
    As a yet-unpublished writer currently with no job of any kind, I have the luxury of time on my hands but all too often this is frittered away in a myriad activities that have nothing to do with writing. I too was very reluctant to start a blog, but I was gently nudged into it by an editor and so here I am. I is helping me focus my daily (or almost...) practice.
    But it can also be the disparaging equivalent of not getting published, with the feeling "why am I doing this if nobody is reading?"
    As writers, we need audiences. So at the risk of being accused of shameless plug, I would like to invite you all fellow writers to leave comments on my fledgeling blog
    Memory and Mirrors — Musings on Memory, Memoir, Culture

    I hope to "see" you there, sisters!

  • Kayann Short, Ph.D.

    Because blogs are so short, blogging helps my writing do something I always remind my students to do: make every word count. Blogging has also confirmed that if I wait for a clear-the-decks, perfect time to write, I'll rarely get to it. With my blog, I write in between doing the other things I have to do--and thinking about the blog counts as writing too!

  • Diana L Guerrero

    Interesting, I never thought of my blogging as a daily practice but since I manage so many--it is. I am always finding really interesting, authentic voices and my biggest kick was watching my favorite blogger land her first gig with a very large publisher. We remain buddies to this day.

    As for me, my growing edge is to move from the "professional" voice to one that is more inviting and that conveys my true personality.

  • Spencer Hope Davis

    I was actually thinking of this very thing today. Since I've really hunkered down into my blog posting I've found it quite joyful to experiment with different writing styles and voices. I try to write small posts once or twice a week, and an essay once every week to ten days. I've had some success with my blog in Kindle store so I like to give my readers there some substantive works to sit back and read. I sometimes wonder if blogging really takes up writing time from larger projects. I think it might. But, when there are times that projects are blocked or just not there, I think blogging is a great way to keep creative!

  • Amy Wise

    I started out blogging in 2007 as more of an online photo album/diary for friends and family that were on the other side of the country. In 2009 I started my current blog that is about interracial marriage and family. This blog has not only brought amazing people into my life, but it has taken my love of writing to fabulous new places and brought wonderful writing opportunities my way. No matter where I am writing or who I am writing for....my blog is my "writing heart" because that is what sparked my initial passion for writing that has now become my life!

  • Kevin Camp

    I'm glad you learned from this.

    I think blogging is the wave of the future because we're constantly inundated with more and more instantaneous information. I was blessed with the ability to write short essay, and that I predict is going to be more and more the trend of the future. People won't have time otherwise, though I understand as well why some may pine away for older styles and older days.

  • Donna Lawrence Writing

    I've wondered how regular bloggers get any other writing done. Thanks for the inside look, Kamy. It is certainly true that getting the fingers on the keyboard does get things flowing. And sending messages out to a supportive writing community is something so unusual for writers who work alone in a room. I can see that instant feedback would be fun!

  • Hallie Sawyer

    I just started blogging about 6 months ago to build my writer platform as well as get practice. I have been working on a novel for 3 years off and on as I stay home to raise my children. It has been a great learning experience and it has helped me develop my thoughts and express myself. My writing has improved in flow and pace as well as content. I am still only doing one post a week right now but hope to increase that to generate more traffic. Twitter has been a great way to find wonderful blogs and I have learned so much. This site has also been a great way for me to see other blogs and learn what works. Thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to develop as writer as well as a peer. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the writing community.

  • Andrea King Collier

    I like the instant publishing too. But as a full time freelancer, I feel a little guilty throwing stuff out in the ocean for free. I bring my A game whenever I write, so is the 500 word blog post a potential $500 check? I struggle with this. However I am going to do more. Just for the fun of it.

  • Judith C Evans

    I have been a blogger off and on for 4 years. When I was in high school and college, I wrote poetry like crazy, but stopped due to caregiving responsibilities at home. My blogs have produced an unexpected creative burst, and I have enthusiastically returned to creative writing.

  • Tanya DeBuff

    I recently started blogging weekly at a literary blog, thebarking.com, and I had some of the same concerns. What if I can't think of anytning literary to blog about week after week? I'm also a graduate student in creative writing, so I have begun to use the blog to write craft essays. It's something I need to learn about, so I'm discovering ways to incorporate that. I'm working on a braided essay, so this week's post is going to be about writing the braided essay. Not only does blogging help me reinforce what I'm learning in graduate school, but it keeps me writing and thinking about writing.