• Thu, Jun 30 2011

Chasing Thirty: Starting A Blog

Andrea is on a quest to check off a bucket list of items in her 29th year. You can read more about her adventures at her blog, Thirty-Things.

Starting a blog was actually the first item of business on my list of things to do before I turned thirty; I write about it now because my reflections about the enterprise are likely a little more profound after six odd months of blogging than they would have been in the beginning when they would have consisted of ‘hey! Look at me, I’m blogging!’

If you are a writer of any stripe people are always telling you to start a blog (or telling you their idea for a book. Why do people who haven’t even so much as read a book in the last year do this to writers? WHY?); which is all well and good but if you don’t want your blog to consist of pictures of your cat and what you had for lunch than you’d better have something to write about. I had my list and so I had my blog, very meta but voila.

I am very much a natural fiction writer. This is not to say that I don’t write about my own life: one’s life is the source material for novels and poems as much as it is memoirs. I’m not a fan of the adage: write what you know, because I this leaves out the considerable space for learning more about what interests you and discounts the vast amount of research that many novelists do. But even if much of my fiction is channeled from real life, it’s obscured. The characters are amalgamations: part mix of real people, part invention with the telling details carefully hidden or lovingly obvious. I can carry situations that might have been to their logical or illogical extremes without ever saying what really happened.

Writing non-fiction is different. If I make anything up beyond the occasional reconstruction of a conversation or dramatic flourish, it’s not storytelling, it’s just lying.

This was but one of the reasons blogging freaked me out initially. I was also worried I would become one of those bloggers I cringe at (but read voraciously) who overshare about their bad drunken nights, fights with friends, bad dates, bad sex what have you.

I’m also used to working and re-working a piece of writing for many months before even my most trusted reader sees it: the idea of cranking something out daily in such a public forum felt raw and scary. In the beginning I did it anonymously and only sent the link to one or two friends. I worried that like some kind of overly ambitious diet that sounds like a better idea at the end of weekend binge than it does by Tuesday afternoon, I wouldn’t stick to it. Writing every day wasn’t the problem since I already have that habit from my fiction writing but writing about my own life every day? I don’t know what sort of jet-setting, glamorous lives all of you Gloss readers live, but there are days in my life when nothing especially note-worthy or interesting happens. What would I write about then?

Once I settled in, I started sharing links to my posts on Facebook and being more open with the whole thing. Since chasing a book deal for my fiction has turned out to be akin to waiting for the messiah, it’s been nice to have a place where friends and loved ones can read my work but it’s led to some weird moments.

My father called me into his office last week, ostensibly to discuss the publicity campaign I’m working on for his company. But instead of talking about the press release he started in on one of his favorite pet theories about my career as a writer, namely that I should self-publish my books. He’d read yet another article about a one-in-a-billion author who’d sold a boat load of e-books doing this. We’ve had this conversation a dozen times and he knows it makes me irrationally angry. When I felt us slipping into that same old argument (me: because it’s ineffective! Dad: how do you know if you don’t try?), I attempted to put a stop to it.

‘Dad, what is with pep talk about life this morning? I thought we were going to talk about work.’

‘I just hate to see someone with your talent getting so frustrated.’

‘Who says I’m frustrated?’ I asked, bewildered. I share many of life’s troubles with my father but not usually the writerly ones.

‘Well, you seem frustrated on your blog,’ he said.

And so it goes.

A blog is a mostly one-sided conversation with your readers but every so often—for better or worse—one of them talks back.

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