So, uh, I meant for Monday’s post on the difference between Daylight Savings Time and Standard Time to be more interesting, but I got distracted while writing it … so I wrote this epically long post to make up for my last post’s lameness.
Here we are. 6 days into November and I’m thisclose to calling it quits on my NaNoWriMo novel. Just like every year.
I’m thinking that maybe it’s time I come to terms with the fact that I may never write a novel. Maybe blogging is good enough for me.
I considered doing NaPoBloMo (National Post Blogging Month) this year – another writing challenge, this one writing a blog post every day for the month of November. Obviously, I decided against it.
Why? Well, my blog is presently my most well known and widely read work. Not to say it’s that well known or widely read, or even that it’s my best writing – most of my best writings are sitting in a drawer in my desk and have only been read by me, and one or two of my college professors many years ago. Not very logical, I know.
But I’m pretty happy with the writing I’ve published here recently. I’ve devoted good chunks of time to my best posts. The problem with trying to post daily is I feel pressure to write something … anything! and then I get antsy about it and worry that my life isn’t interesting enough for blogging so then I try to string together some words about what I did during the day, like “I watched some TV tonight, and it was funny. I like TV.”
From a recent episode of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.
I do like TV, it’s true. But those are not particularly good sentences (and we already know that good writing comes from good sentences.)
Last month, Geraldine of the Everywhereist posted her 1000th blog post, which was a litany of things she’s learned along the way.
I’ve been thinking about #70 pretty much since I read the post: “Laugh at the fact that you’ve said, time and again, that you could never write a book. But here you’ve written a novel’s worth of posts, day by day.”
In order to “win” (complete, really) NaNoWriMo, writers must write 50,000 words. 50,000 is the magic number (although several “experts” on Amazon’s Askville say the average novel is twice that.)
I counted up the words I’ve written in my posts (okay, not really – I added up the word counts that WordPress is kind enough to calculate for me) and my word count is just shy of 59,000 in the posts on this blog. That doesn’t take into account the words I’ve written on pages (like my “about” page) or the 100 or so posts that I did not move over from the gf-gf. So I’m well over 50,000 words into blogging.
Woo-hoo, go me, I could’ve totally written a novel by now!! Right?
Okay, so this is going to seem like a huge tangent, but it’s actually what inspired this post: I have a new favorite podcast. It’s called Live Wire! Radio. It’s recorded live in Portland and hosted by Luke Burbank, who also hosts my other favorite podcast. On episode 229 (which is a few weeks old at this point) Luke interviews Courtenay Hameister, the former host who left the show to finish her book.
You should definitely listen to the full episode, especially if you want to hear a musical interpretation of a Chinese giant salamander, but the interview with Courtenay Hameister is my favorite part. Even though this part of her spiel broke my heart:
The publishing world has pared down and they no longer have the budget to send every writer on an expensive book tour to garner new audiences. In fact, in an attempt to guarantee that a publisher isn’t going to be stuck with any unsold inventory, writers are now expected to come to them with a built-in audience. It’s what they call a ‘platform.’
Are you a blogger with hundreds of subscribers?
Do you have tens of thousands of Twitter followers?
Do you have a Klout score of over 70?
Do you even know what a Klout score is?
This is what they would have asked Dorothy Parker. And Dorothy would have been amazing on Twitter. 70 years before Twitter existed, she spouted 140-characters-or-less jewels, like ‘it serves me right for putting all my eggs in one bastard’ and when she was asked to use the word ‘horticulture’ in a sentence, she said ‘you can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think!’
Best. Tweet. Ever.
Can you imagine reading Jack Kerouac’s drunken Facebook posts from The Road?
Or Jane Austen’s blog, ‘Austen-tatious’?
Sure, it would have been interesting, but none of these people would have wanted to have a platform, because what they wanted to do was write. And not write tweets or tumblr posts with blurry Instagrams of their mutton and mead, but books and poems. Not to write about their writing, but just to write.
It pains me to think that writers are pulling from their creative wells to fill their twitter streams instead of pages. If you think about it that way, these platforms are robbing us all of words that otherwise would have been great works of art, but then, I suppose, it depends on whether or not you think a well constructed tweet is a great work of art.
No, Courtenay Hameister, please don’t ruin Twitter for me! I only just got it! I’m so funny on Twitter!
I say hearing her talk broke my heart, because it hadn’t ever occurred to me that maybe blogging is misappropriating my creative faculties, or in some way preventing me writing my Great American Novel.
Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t.
Because on the one hand, here I am, writing away on my blog and ignoring the novel idea that I was so excited about just last week. On the other, I can guarantee you that in the two years between when I finished my creative writing degree and when I started blogging on the gf-gf, I wrote almost nothing.
Blogging is helping to make me a better writer because every week, I sit down at my computer to write and edit and revise and read aloud to make sure my sentences make sense. (I know I still post some things that are nonsense. Occasionally that’s intentional.) I try to stick to a semi-regular posting schedule, which means I have to write at least semi-regularly. I have word documents bursting with lists of ideas and half written drafts.
Doing a once-yearly writing challenge doesn’t get my creative juices flowing as consistently as blogging does. But we cannot forget that writing is not just about creativity. It takes discipline to actually sit down and turn ideas into good sentences. That’s something the good writers have, or have cultivated, and that’s what blogging has done to make me a better writer.
BTW, I know I’m not a great blogger, and I’m not too worried about it. Great bloggers have hundreds of subscribers and tens of thousands of Twitter followers and Klout scores above 70. But me, I’m too shy to even share links to my posts on Facebook.
It drives me crazy that some of the good bloggers are actually pretty terrible writers. They are obviously not people who take the time to sit down and write and edit and revise and read aloud to make sure sentences make sense. I find this very disheartening, but it’s just proof that blogging and writing are actually quite different skills. Maybe the publishing world is unaware of that, or maybe they really are so desperate to sell books that they don’t care whether or not writers are crafting good sentences.
(My view of this is a little pretentious, I know.)
I’m going to continue blogging here for a while, whether I’m good at it or not. Because it’s fun and it keeps me writing. I like that my blog is constantly changing and evolving in two directions – in that I’m semi-regularly adding new posts, but also going backwards to edit old posts and tinker with my writing. Think of me as the blogger equivalent of George Lucas tinkering with the Star Wars movies. Except that no one really notices when I change things. And, you know, Disney isn’t going to buy my company … but whatever.
There’s an argument for leaving old posts untouched, so the original content stays intact – I’ve seen readers on certain forums get upset when bloggers go back and revise their old posts. Much of the time, those bloggers are revising stuff that makes them look like assholes – but hey, I’ve done that too. Usually, I revise to fix typos and improve my sentences – which I don’t think is a waste of my time, considering that this is my most well known and widely read work. My audience is still tiny enough that no one notices or cares about my constant revising.
Also, as Paul Valery said and a million students of creative writing have quoted: “a poem is never completed, only abandoned.” Same goes for blog posts.
So now comes the time when I abandon this post. Maybe I’ll go work on my novel. I can start by rewriting a few of my sentences.
I love this post!! It might inspire me to write something related on my own blog. I do sort of get where Courtenay was coming from. I write/edit for a living (about municipal risk control, nothing overly creative), and I have sometimes used that as an excuse for why I’ve not been more productive in pursuing my fiction writing dreams. But I’ve come to realize that it was exactly that: an excuse. Like anything else, perspective affects the outcome, and I was choosing the wrong perspective. My other writing/projects don’t drain the well, they prime the pump. I just have to look at them that way.
I think you’re spot-on when you say that writing in your blog every week is helping you become a better writer!
This is my tenth year doing NaNo and is on track to be my sixth “win.” Even the years I didn’t reach 50K, though, were valuable exercises that produced some gems amongst the drivel. One of these years (THIS year, I’m really determined to make progress here), I’m going to carry on my daily fiction writing habit beyond the confines of November and actually finish one of the novels I’ve started (probably 2011’s, although there are a few contenders). I’m glad to know that you’re out there working all of this stuff out, as well! xo
Well said, Tamara! I especially love “My other writing/projects don’t drain the well, they prime the pump.” It’s kind of that zero-sum mentality to say we have a finite amount of creative output, isn’t it?
Anyway, good going on NaNo – keep it up!
Yes, agreed that it’s a zero sum mentality to look at it the other way. Not my favorite way to go about life! Thanks for the note! I’ll let you know (and link to your post) if I blog about these thoughts. xo