Thursday, November 4, 2010

Why should a writer write a blog?

Should a writer abroad write a blog? Wow. Say that 10 times fast.

I was recently at a writing conference when someone asked if they should start a blog. The instructor said her agent required her to blog, but she didn’t really see a benefit.

Fair enough.

But I disagree.

Especially for writers abroad—those of us who have yet to sell a bestseller, at least—a blog is a way of reaching out to the rest of the world, of doing something productive with an internet addiction that, if it’s anything like mine, goes something like this: Gmail. Hotmail. Friend Blog. Facebook. NYtimes. Guilt. Random site. Repeat.

I admit it. I am a broken record, the 21st century version. I know I have an addiction worthy of a Swiss rehab clinic, but I’m not going to do anything about it except, well, google “Internet addiction.”

Unlike most things in Switzerland, the virtual world is always open, and it’s much more comfortable than the real one—it doesn’t try to talk to me in a language I can’t understand, disguise mayonnaise in packages other than jars, or stop me from recycling bottles over the lunch hour.

So I blog.

At first, I just wrote One Big Yodel for my mom. But about a year into writing it, I realized I loved blogging. I was meeting people through my blog. I was feeling less isolated because of my blog. And later, I started getting writing jobs because of it.

Why write a blog if you’re a writer? The list goes on and on. My blog has led to radio interviews, emails from agents, a fantastic support network of other writers—one who has actively tried to help my career—and more.

The point is this: you never know where a blog will take you.

Hopefully, it’s out of your apartment.

Catherine Sanderson’s blog, for example, resulted in a six-figure book deal.

If you’re still not convinced, try writing a book proposal sometime. You’ll see why you need a blog when you get to the marketing section.

But. None of these reasons can be why you blog. You must love to blog. A blog is a lot of work. It’s time consuming. If you don’t like blogging, it’s not going to be rewarding.

What do you think? Should a writer keep a blog? If you have a blog, has it helped your writing career?

22 comments:

  1. Well, I haven't yet been approached with a book deal (I live in hope!), but in the 4 measly months since I've been blogging, it's helped me score a couple of writing gigs. I don't know why a writer *wouldn't* keep a blog. It's not a magic bullet, of course, but as part of a multi-pronged branding and marketing strategy, I think a blog is pretty much essential these days. Plus, it's a helluva lot of fun!

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  2. That's great that you've gotten some writing gigs from your blog.

    I think some writers think that keeping a blog is a time sucker, but for me it's also as you say: an important part of my writing routine as well as part of my overall branding/marketing strategy.

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  3. Great post. I don't think many writers don't blog these days (excuse the grammar). I had a book out well before I started blogging but there's no doubt it has helped my profile, and it's great to do when you're going through a writing dry spell.

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  4. Hi Expat mum. It's good to hear that the blog helps your book, even if you start it after the fact. I just wonder if there are any writers out there that eventually suffer blog burnout? Perhaps that's a topic for another day.

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  5. I agree with Expat mum that blogging is great for when you're in between projects. The other nice thing I've found is that it's an opportunity to hone your writing voice. Often when you're writing for editors, you have to follow a certain format or cover topics that you aren't as passionate about because that's the theme of this month's issue. But having a blog gives you free rein to cover the topics that matter to you and develop a distinctive voice that's all your own.

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  6. Susan, that's a great point, blogging definitely helps you establish a voice. I also find that some days I use blogging as a writing warm-up. Other days, it's more a procrastination tool. But at least it's a writing one!

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  7. "Gmail. Hotmail. Friend Blog. Facebook. NYtimes. Guilt. Random site. Repeat." You're not alone in this one, I can assure you.

    I agree with Susan - blogging is a great way to find your voice. I think it helps because there's less pressure; it's a more casual environment and an easy way to get feedback.

    And I also like it for the random, short posts I can do when I have an idea that's not long enough for a full story but just too fascinating to let lie.

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  8. I started blogging as a form of therapy to help with my homesickness after moving to the Czech Republic. Blogging about this country and being an expat helped me to focus on my new life overseas, and to learn to cherish this time--this opportunity will never come again in my life!

    Blogging has also been a great way to come in contact with other expats around the world, and even to land some writing projects.

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  9. Heidi, I agree. Random and short are two of my favorite things.

    Sher, that's great that blogging has also gotten you some writing projects. And it's definitely a great way to keep on online scrapbook, that's for sure.

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  10. Chantal,

    I can't say that my blog got me my book deal, but it sure did help me write my book, Big In China.

    I don't think I ever would have written the WSJ Expat Life column if I had not first been blogging, which really awakened something in me and reignited my passion for writing. I actually discuss this at length in the book.

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  11. Hey Alan,

    That's good to know. Somehow blogging gets me excited about writing too. I think it's partly the immediate feedback. For other kinds of writing, it's so long between the time you've written something and the time it gets published that you lose something in the process.

    By the way, I'm looking forward to hearing more about your book. And reading it, of course.

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  12. I've had people question the point of a blog. But it has definitely gotten me writing opportunities in addition to connections with other like-minded writers, bloggers and travelers. If anything, though, it's a nice creative outlet separate from your paid work.

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  13. Hi Lauren,

    Glad to hear your blog has also garnered writing opportunities. And I agree--part of the reason I love blogging is that it allows me to meet people from all over the world that share a common interest.

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  14. My blog is going on four years old. It has helped my career in ways unimaginable. First, the exposure - you know, that "free exposure" others are trying to sell you in order to get you to work for nothing. I create it by myself, for myself. Second, the chance to create a specialized area of writing. In this case, I was able to frame myself as a marketing guide, someone who teaches others how to market their writing business. Third, I built confidence in ways that you can't get from just clients. Fourth, the community I have is priceless. It makes this job so much less solitary.

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  15. Lori, I've followed your blog for a long time, it's great. It's good to know that it has also been beneficial for your writing career.

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