To Blog or Not To Blog

April 2, 2021 § 17 Comments

By Jeanne Bonner

On a whim this year, when I wrote out my New Year’s resolutions, I decided to add the following intention to the list: Blog for the entire month of February.

I figured I would pick a month with the fewest days to make the task somewhat easier. Finding something meaningful to write every day for a month is in many ways no small undertaking.

But why bother? Who reads blogs?

I don’t know if I even answer those questions. Social media has changed the landscape for other online activity – by essentially elevating the primacy of multi-venue feeds, rather than discrete reading destinations such as blogs.

I only know the blog that I started in 2008 as a shrine to my love of the Italian language has long been the only place I can throw up a quick essay or my take on a new Italian film in such a way as these bits and pieces contribute to a larger whole. I can’t command anyone else to publish my work or accept my niche pitches. But my blog? It has no choice.

So I use it to catalog my interests – and literary projects are chief among those interests. The blog is where I might try out an idea; for example, I decided to write a “letter” to Marie Kondo, defending hoarding because, well, I need a lot of mementos from the places I’ve loved. It’s an appropriate forum for rants or observations plucked directly from my diary, and hence not finished writing that could conceivably be published.

And yet does blogging sap creativity and waste time, both of which I could use to further more significant writing projects?

Surely in February I could have devoted more time to nonfiction essays I’ve been struggling to complete rather than resurrecting a forgotten bit of travel writing, for example, about the 24 incandescent hours I spent in Rome a few years back?

I write primarily to publish creative nonfiction essays. Wouldn’t it have been wiser, if I wanted to exercise my writing muscles, to simply review the laundry list of essay ideas, some of which I’ve begun, or to write well thought-out pitches for articles?

Tough to say. Or maybe a better answer is: yes AND no. In the case of the travel essay about a day I spent in Rome, I’d pitched it to several outlets without success (perhaps because Rome is well-covered in the travel writing space), and then I moved on to other writing. So it was a piece of writing that I had spent a lot of time on, which nonetheless languished unseen and most likely would have continued to do so if I hadn’t shared it on my blog.

And reviewing old posts I’d never published and topics I’d been wanting to broach did inspire me to begin a new series that could be fruitful. I also think one published piece may emerge from the blogging since I felt inspired to tackle a topic I’d only mentioned in passing previously.

Plus, it gave me a project, as I came off a month of teaching an intensive course on memoir during which I’d put aside my own writing. So it felt like a way of jumpstarting my writing.

Moreover, blogging – if done well, and if shared via social media correctly (two ifs that aren’t guaranteed) – can help you gauge interest in a topic. I think, for example, I’d like to use my blog as an incubator for journal bits I could develop into proper essays. One bit: words are almost always at the heart of everything I save and everything I remember.

But deciding to blog is not easy. Indeed, the Hamletian note you hear in this entry’s title is purposeful. There is room to waffle on this topic.

Blogging does provide one bit of writing pleasure: putting a thought out into the world. A series of thoughts, rather. Not just a tweet or a Facebook post. It’s more considered than that.

Some writers have established successful blogs. For example, Jane Friedman has a wonderful blog – and one of the topics she’s discussed there is whether writers should blog. What’s her verdict? “The average author does not benefit much from blogging,” she writes.

And yet she continues to blog and also offers a course on blogging for writers. Key caveat: take the writing seriously on the blog. If it’s ‘lesser’ writing, she says don’t bother. She also says blogging can pay off more for nonfiction writers than novelists.

That said, George R.R. Martin, the man beyond Game of Thrones (the book that inspired the TV series), has a blog. It’s called “Not A Blog,” so there you go. He updates it regularly with small bits of writing that feel maybe not expansive or developed enough for an article.

So to blog or not to blog? Ah that is the question. And perhaps it begets other questions: Do you have another way to write regularly in a low-stakes environment? Do you post long strings of thought on Facebook or to Instagram? Or maybe you prefer sites like Medium.

As for me, I will continue to blog because I have a blog. Because I like to track a particular activity – my Italian language engagement – through blogging and I take advantage of the platform to also publish writing about other interests. Essentially, when you come to my blog, you’re around my table. And while other people would serve you a meal there, I’d like to serve you my writing.
___

Jeanne Bonner is a writer and literary translator whose essays have been published by The New York Times, Catapult, Longreads, Literary Hub and CNN Travel. She won the 2018 PEN Grant for the English Translation of Italian literature for her translation-in-progress of Mariateresa Di Lascia’s Passaggio in Ombra. You can find her blog at http://ciambellina.blogspot.com.

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§ 17 Responses to To Blog or Not To Blog

  • After taking care of her for five years, my husband and I grieved after her death in 2007 and I stopped writing short stories. I found I was not writing at ally the following spring. A friend from my MFA program in fiction suggested I start a blog. I have been writing ever since. I write about art projects, walking the beach, events in the world and in my family. I try to make sense of the world. I figure out how I feel and what aI think by seeing what I write.

  • Jeanne says:

    Wonderful! I think it focuses us/obligates us to write, a blog. Thank you for reading, Jan!

  • lisa_kusel says:

    Excellent reflection. I, too, started a blog a looooong time ago, as a space to meander; take chances; update; share. I post essays I have no interest in publishing widely. Poems. Recipes. My mother’s obituary. In a way it’s like having a virtual home, a place where friends and family and readers can come together and find a few moments of connection through words. Where I can just be me. Contrary to what Jane says, my blog has most definitely helped me sell my books, albeit unintentionally. Thank you so much Jeanne for making me stop and think about why I still blog!

  • Thanks for this. I love my blog. I’m not ambitious enough to pursue publication seriously. But I love to write. And I even like editing. And I like to work on a piece until I can feel proud of it, ready to publish, even if it’s in my own small world. I just wrote a piece about writing and was satisfied by its popularity among writers. In a strange way, that’s good enough for me. I think.

  • dkzody says:

    I’ve been blogging since 2007 and plan to continue. I love to throw my thoughts onto the screen and send them off to that space set up just for me. I have made so many friends through my blog which has made my world much wider. It has especially been nice to stay connected through writing during the pandemic. As I often say, write when and what you like. Don’t see it as a chore.

  • roundthebend says:

    Loved your posting ! I have a blog and i post most days. It’s cathartic although not read by many it does keep my grey cells shuffling around !

  • volatilemuse says:

    I agree with all the comments. In a way I believe that all our writing projects feed off each other as long as its the best we can make it.

  • todd says:

    I’m wondering whether you have run into the problem of writing something on a blog, expanding it later, and then noting that some journals consider blog entries as published, making the blog content to be previously published writing?

  • rachaelhanel says:

    I figure a blog is just another way for readers to find you. So if you’re able to keep up regularly, it’s worth it. I like blogging for the reasons you mention!

  • “Low-stakes” writing–I love that description for blog-writing. (And yours looks great, btw!) I blog because, as a fiction writer, I wanted a place where I could try something new. And my CNF there has actually led to other higher-stakes writing–an editor gig and publication at a nice journal’s blog. I still think of myself more as a writer who blogs than a blogger; however, I will say that I’ve found bloggers to be tremendously generous with their time and so gracious.

    • Jeanne says:

      Oh wow Rebecca that’s a double success story, I’d say. I’ve been tempted to post fiction on my blog to see if readers would want to know what happened next. Thanks for the kind words — your blog looks amazing. Love the Rustbelt girl tag line!

  • I first registered with WordPress on April 9, 2007 (today is the anniversary which I only know about because WordPress notified me). I’ve paused my blogging a couple of times but have been fairly steady since 2013. Since then a writing community has grown up around me and they are the real reason I continue my blog. We sit around each other’s tables, some share poems, some fiction, and some nonfiction. My blog writing is conversational, mostly sharing photos of nature and musing (now) about life in the slow lane (I recently retired). I have shared fiction and poetry on my blog, but I’m trying to save those for submissions. My blog has been a good resource for generating ideas for creative nonfiction, but, really, what keeps me blogging is the community. They keep me going.

  • wanderingmattlarson says:

    Nothing feels as real to me as a blog, as far as being a way to connect readers and writers, outside of the author’s larger work. Facebook is a mess to look at and just doesn’t feel real enough. I know I should post on Facebook to get traffic, but it feels like attention seeking instead of focusing on what I care about. Twitter on the other hand, while only providing soundbites for connections, seems to offer a small portal to great things…like this post! 👍

  • Scott says:

    Keep blog don`t stop, keep sharing your beautiful thoughts, ideas, tips and make sure you keep writing, coz writing is the best remedy for a stressful life. Thanks.

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