Sonya Chung wrote a wonderful essay at The Millions: Confessions of an Analogian Writing for the Webs. This article resonates with me because I have been very active with social media over the past several years mainly thanks to my professional involvement, including maintaining a professional blog, Tombrarian, on and off (currently off) since 2005. As a librarian whose past jobs were more technology focused, I attended professional conferences that promoted using various social media and made friends with a lot of fellow librarians who are very tech-focused. It has been an encouraging and supportive community, but, initially, I needed to jump into the unknown, to learn new technology, to navigate an unfamiliar social landscape.
I can say without hesitation that jumping in has been worth it. My involvement with social media in the library world has led to some great opportunities to present and get published, and I am hoping for similar success blogging about my creative work with the added benefit that sharing my experiences may help others. Even though I have some experiences that I have learned from and want to share, I feel that I still have a great deal to learn and hope to share that process here.
In The Millions post, Chung writes:
Give the tools a try, just be yourself; write what you care about. Weird things will start to happen, some of them might be good.
Coming across this essay was rather fortuitous as one of the things I am hoping to accomplish here is to inspire and encourage writers who are perhaps reluctant to forge ahead with these tools. It’s delightful to read about someone who initially had reservations successfully immerse herself in the world of writing and interacting via the web.
Her advice to “just be yourself” is important. In my short time trying to connect with other writers through this blog, Facebook and Twitter (thank you to all my new followers!), I’ve experienced a lot of people who come across as used car salesmen. It’s easy to tell those who are only shilling their books from those who are passionate about writing and trying to be interesting and engaging with the added benefit of perhaps making a sale. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any issue with people promoting their books, but if your entire web presence consists of nothing but trying to sell your book, I would have a hard time believing you can build any kind of sustained readership.
I am not totally innocent here. I am doing things to increase my readership. I have put ads on this blog in an effort to make some beer money. But I hope it’s clear that what I write about are things I care about and am doing justice to. I don’t want to compromise my thoughts and opinions in order to boost page views. I do other things to increase my readership, but I’m not going to be disingenuous about the content of my posts. I don’t want this blog to come across as some SEO experiment, to reek of cheap desperation.
Chung brings up another point that I would imagine speaks to a lot of writers: the concern that blogging takes away from more substantive “long-form” creative works. But one of the things she learns is that short-form writing and the support that comes along with engaging in a bigger writing community can be nourishing:
There is, it would seem — needs to be for most of us in this publishing environment — more to the writing life than manuscript word counts and book deals. One must be mindful of the stamina, and the supportive community, required for the long haul of long-form literary writing; which is, even in the case of relative “success,” increasingly divorced from a viable livelihood and voluminous readership. Being able to write and publish short-form work, on a somewhat regular basis, has energized me to keep showing up at my fiction desk (mornings, no internet), which is, more accurately — and perhaps appropriately in light of this notion of complementary activities — not really a desk at all, but a spiral-bound notebook in which I write long-hand.
One of the things I’ve come to realize is that the more I write, the more I write. Blogging, reviewing films, writing library-related articles, and writing fiction and poetry are, for me, interdependent and don’t exist in narrow categories. Various types of writing are not mutually exclusive and I have found it rather satisfying that I’m not relying on any one form but rather that I’m finding minor success in various areas rather than putting all of my effort into one thing and hoping for major success.
As I mentioned before, deciding to blog and to engage in social media can be difficult choices when you have other time commitments. But my experience has been very positive and has led to some wonderful opportunities. So, I would encourage you to jump in if you think you can manage your time. But if you do, I also encourage you to be authentic.