Why blog?

It’s a long time since I started blogging. I’m in awe of those people who remember writing anniversaries and notice their hundredth or five hundredth post or whatever. I don’t. I think I would go insane if I knew how long it took me to write a novel or thought about how many blog posts I’ve written since 2005 – although given that I blog six days a week, writing about three blogs a day professionally, as well as my own blog and doing some ghost blogging for folk who aren’t good at ‘soshul meedja’ stuff, it must be in the thousands at least.

But I do remember why I started blogging. It was fear. Fear that this new thing was going to snatch the writing world away from me. Books were dead, the websites and literary mavens trumpeted, we’d all blog everything in the brave new world.

Ho ho ho.

Paid-for content is still a rarity and nobody seems to know why the business model hasn’t taken off. But still I blog.

Why?

It’s a question I’d forgotten to ask myself until a lovely client asked me this week for some blogging tips and I had to sit and face the fact that I don’t have any. Or not any useful ones, anyway,

I used to make a list of things that I was going to blog about every month – that lasted for … oh, about a month! Now I blog about whatever comes into my head when I sit down and decide it’s time to blog. I get sent books to review quite often, and I don’t review all of them, which may mean I’m making some enemies in the industry, but I don’t write negative reviews so silence is my only recourse if work doesn’t seem work praising. I also buy and review books by authors I love, because if you can’t share your pleasures you’re a sad soul indeed.

But I do have key themes for my own blog, which are probably keeping writing sustainable and keeping yourself sane.

Professionally speaking, I love those clients who give me a clear brief. I don’t care whether I have to write about white T-shirts or suitable plants for winter hanging baskets, knowing what they want makes my life wonderfully easy. Some other blogs I am paid to write are more ‘open’ and for them I tend to have developed areas that I hope are specific to me and valuable to a readership. In environmental politics blogging, for example, I focus on food security, environmental protest and the relationship between animals, environment and development. They are areas that I’ve studied in the past or areas that I think are neglected in modern discourse. Gosh, pretentious, moi?

Back to the point - why do I blog? Partly because all things become habitual if you discipline yourself. So writing a novel is easier when you’ve written six previously, writing every day, or every week, or reflecting on your own writing, or reading with discrimination and commenting on what you’ve read are all skills. All writing skills contribute to success, in my view, so blogging is one such skill that I like to keep developing. I blog because reflecting on my writing life helps keep me sane. I blog because I’ve met an awful lot of writers in the past six years and while I’m not hubristic enough to think they read my blog, I know that I read many of theirs, so it’s a way of being accessible to people with whom one might not have enough in common to engage in email or telephone relationships. Because it may help to build that nebulous thing called platform, although probably you have to be a more controversial and committed blogger than I am for that to happen. Because I don’t keep a diary. Because it’s addictive.

Do I have any advice? Enjoy yourself or there’s no point doing it. Make a list of all the things you want to write about – it’s useful in the first month. Be honest but never frank; protect the innocent and allow them their privacy, especially those closest to you. Enjoy yourself. Don’t think of it as writing, think of it as online thinking. Read other blogs. Enjoy yourself.

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