When I finished my novel, I just figured I would crawl out from under my metaphorical rock. Then, like an unwashed and unshaven cave troll, I would point at unsuspecting agents with a long, gnarled finger and growl, “YOU READ BOOK NOW.”
I’ve always had a complicated relationship with blogging. In 2002, I started a website called joshuasphilosophy.com where I posted my random, often silly musings about life. I was in college at the time and although it was a creative outlet, its ultimate purpose was to impress a girl. This was before the term “blogging” became mainstream. It was also before the word “friendzoning” was invented. Curiously, Joshuasphilosophy was an experience in both terms.
I like to think of myself as a trendsetter.
In 2010, I started a blog called fourfingerculture.com where I wrote about religion, morality, and culture. On this site, I wrote on a fairly consistent basis for two years before I began to neglect it. This was during a time when theology and religion blogs were popping up faster than acne on an oily teenager. I eventually felt like I was simply adding to the noise, so to speak, and got tired of poking proverbial bears that did not wished to be poked.
After fourfingerculture, life began to get a bit rough and my writing slowed to a freezing crawl. I feel that I’m atypical in the sense that I write best when I’m at my happiest. Unlike many writers who, at the lowest times of their life, can use their pain to dance brilliantly with words, I go into a survival mode that renders my brain incapable of any creativity beyond crafting mediocre jokes. As a result, I lived a couple of years where the only creative outlet for which I was engaged was some really terrible amateur stand-up comedy.
But then – and this isn’t a cliché, but a fundamental truth about how God typically operates – the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless, (dare I say scandalous) love, grace, and healing of God rescued me at the point at which I was most broken. It took some time for my mind to heal, but the creative muse eventually came back to me like a long-lost daughter. In 2016, I started my master’s degree in theology. In 2017, I started my new blog: thoughtsofaplatypus.com.
In my humble opinion, the blog started off well. One of my first articles found its way to Twitter and was read over 600 times in the span of a few days. Granted, 600 may not be a number worth bragging about to one’s momma, but when momma is one of the only people who reads your stuff, 600 is a pretty big deal. But three months later I started writing my first novel, and my new blog became yet another orphan.
I submit that my reasons for doing so, while not inerrant, are at least understandable. First, I was attempting to write a novel while finishing a master’s in theology. Some things had to be sacrificed – things like sleep and blogging. Second, my book is a work of contemporary fantasy. Authors of such a genre aren’t found engaging on social media and blogging about their everyday life; they’re found alone in dark cellars, sipping absinthe and creating worlds on ancient typewriters in the dim glow of unscented candles.
Even though I’m an extrovert, I noticed that I became a bit reclusive during the time it took to write my book. I didn’t want to blog and engage in social media. I had no desire to market myself and start building a platform. When I finished my novel, I just figured I would crawl out from under my metaphorical rock. Then, like an unwashed and unshaven cave troll, I would point at unsuspecting agents with a long, gnarled finger and growl, “YOU READ BOOK NOW.”
Because that’s how aspiring authors get published, right?
Of course, I’m exaggerating. Nevertheless, my expectations were somewhat dashed once I heard what professionals had to say. A couple weeks ago, I attended the Northwestern Christian Writers Conference. There, I heard the same advice from several different pros: writers must market themselves and build a platform. Then, I kept hearing that little four-letter word: blog.
The stubborn child in me wanted to scream, “No, you don’t understand, Mrs. Professional writer. I’ve done the blog thing. It’s fun and all, but it’s not going to help me write or publish stories about angels and dragons and things found in fairy tales. Maybe YOU need a blog, but I have better things to do with my words, thank you very much.”
It took me a few days to realize that I was looking at this advice through a myopic lens. There’s no objective law that states a writer must have a blog lest he or she remain unpublished. In a similar vein, the chances of being published are not necessarily contingent upon the size of one’s platform. But having a blog can help the writer network with others, gain exposure, and get the attention of those in the business. It seems like a much more effective tool than screaming at literary agents a la unshaven cave troll.
But more important, I suspect that the professionals who told me to blog were being wonderfully sneaky. They, too, are writers who understand the paradoxical relationship between the wordsmith and their craft. There is little that writers love more than to write, and yet, they often need a ton of motivation to do so. So now, when I think about their advice, I also imagine that they were tacitly saying, “You’ve finished your book; don’t stop there! You love writing, and you need to keep at it if only for the simple fact that it’s in your DNA.
Being encouraged to blog is similar to when my parents encouraged me to eat broccoli as a kid. They told me it would help me grow big and strong. Of course, they didn’t mean that not eating broccoli would have the opposite effect. My overall health was not contingent upon whether or not I ate broccoli, but then again, it was better for me than eating a fistful of Cheetos. Alleged health benefits aside, trying the broccoli was the right move, if only for the simple fact that I might have liked it. Turns out, I was one of those weird kids who did.
So here I am again, reconciling with my abandoned blogsite. I’m going to be more consistent this time. As an author who is aspiring to get published, it just makes good sense. But more important, I’m going to blog because I’m a writer, and I love to write.