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To Blog or Not to Blog? - A Question for Writers
by Mary Struble Deery
At first I thought the World Wide Web was a thing of science fiction. I wondered what made email an improvement over just picking up the phone, and I even considered people with cell phones hanging from their belt as being show offs. Boy, was I ever wrong. So, when those of us on the Charlotte Writers’ Club board were asked to write about something that might be of interest to members, I decided to investigate “blogging.” I thought it prudent to keep an open mind about yet another geeky invention, in the event it will change the face of communication even more.
Preparing to write about this topic, I Googled the word “Blogging” and found approximately 59 million references. Narrowing the search to “Blogging for Writers,” the references fell to approximately 8.8 million. What’s a girl to do? Gather information the old-fashioned way — ask her writer friends. So, here is what I’ve learned:
We writers need to be aware of several things before posting work on a blog:
- The term “blog” is a contraction of “Web Log.” Blog postings can educate, entertain, provide a forum for expression, keep family and friends informed, promote an idea, sell a product, or any combination of the above.
- A blog often serves as an online diary — a writer’s very own public closet of personal thoughts. These online closets are like Macy’s window. People can choose to just walk by, glance in, or stop and window-shop as much as they like. But unlike the static scene of a Macy’s window, readers can leave comments — a dialogue is possible.
- “A blog is an information stream that must be relevant,” says a friend of mine who works at Microsoft. “If it gets stale, it’s dead.” Therefore, writers who are prolific and appealing have a greater chance of blogging successfully.
However, a blog can be gratifying, and there is a remote chance you could end up attaining fame. Just don’t be disappointed if no one but your mother checks in. Go for it if you want to, but be aware of the pitfalls.
- Your “put myself out there” blog may end up only being read by the family and friends you have cajoled into checking it out.
- Blog-posted works are technically considered “published.” Therefore, you may not be able to submit these pieces to established publications which are only interested in unpublished writing, or “first rights.” Your chance for fame may be hindered – brought down by your very own blog. Of course, like anything, there are exceptions to this. Look at Julie, of Julie and Julia, whose blog resulted in a book, movie and celebrity. And a CWC member I met is posting reflections on the Psalms – one each day – eventually planning to publish these in a book.
- Whatever you post on your blog is forever – even if changed the next day. You never know who downloaded, thus preserved, what you wrote the day before you deleted or changed it.
- Your blog could cause liability issues. Hear about the waitress who disparaged her customers? Even though she thought she was writing anonymously, she was eventually “outed” and lost her job. The same thing happened to a stewardess who wrote unkindly about the flying public. Also, writing is an “intellectual property” so bloggers need to be careful and cite any “borrowed” writings.
- A blog in not the place to exercise your writing. We are always told to “write daily,” to practice, practice, practice. But you must be careful. By definition, exercise is a means to an end. It’s Michelle Obama’s toned arms that appeal, not watching her do the push-ups. If your writing – and other’s impressions of it – is important to you, it’s best to post polished and edited work.
If you do decide to blog, you’ll need a hosting service. Wordpress.com is a site that makes it easy to post without charge, at least for now. A few other choices currently available are livejournal.com, blogger.com, and weebly.com, with many more to come.
Several CWC members have blogs. They have made the decision to open their closets. Ask around at meetings. You’ll find someone who is interested in sharing their experience with blogging and their blog address.
My wordpress.com blog, a challenging and educational experience, was inspired by my mother, who was always open to new technology. She not only learned how to use a computer, she emailed daily until her death at age 94. We were amused and proud when, just before she died, she asked, “Do you suppose there’s email in heaven?”
When it became clear my blog was a bust, receiving no hits from anyone other than the friends I’d coaxed into visiting, I knew there was one person who would truly care. So, I emailed the link to email@example.com. I’m thinking that my mom got it, smiled as she read it, and gave me a silent approving nod – the email never bounced back.