This post is actually about why it’s important to have a blog when you’re a writer. I was just being cute with the title and riffing on the play “The Importance of Being Earnest”. I don’t know if you necessarily need to be an earnest blogger. My advice is just to blog.
I recently interviewed a prospective writer for this site (more on that in an upcoming post). As a burgeoning writer, she asked if it was important to maintain a blog. Absolutely – especially for new writers. Writing is like any other skill: It’s important to do it on a constant basis to stay sharp and improve. Blogs benefit new writers by giving them a non-threatening place to write. No word counts. No style guides. No deadlines. Just words.
I also suggest blogging for two major reasons. First, I understand that a lot of people want to be creative. They want to write or draw or sculpt or whatever. They want to express themselves. However, self-expression is like morality: it’s only important when other people are involved. A blog gets writers used to other people – strangers even! – reading their work and offering feedback. A lot of people cannot handle that. Now I understand that there are such things as first drafts that are not meant for other people’s eyes. Personal writing is also a great tool to help sort out thoughts that are too numerous to keep track of in one’s head. These inchoate scraps of literature are obviously not meant to be published. For now, let’s just limit self-expression to “outward” expression. If you want to write professionally, then you must grow accustomed to people reading your work.
The second reason I would recommend blogging is that it helps writers find their voices. A lot of the young writers I come across still have a rigid academic vibe to their articles – as if they’ve been tasked with writing a position paper. Finding one’s voice is a process. First, academia brands one kind of writing style on your tongue. Second, you become derivative as you break out and incorporate every clever turn of phrase you can remember reading in the works of experienced authors you respect. Third, you mellow out and hone what you like while discarding what you don’t. You develop a kind of cadence and visual style. You.start.breaking.rules. This is your voice. Fourth, you learn to write for an audience while maintaining your voice. A lot of writers develop strong voices, but don’t know how to fit it into particular assignments. For instance, many writers I interview think that reviewing something means to completely rip it to shreds or sing its praises. “Roger Ebert does it; why can’t I?” The answer: You’re not Roger Ebert. When you have his kind of experience you can turn in your used toilet paper as your reviews and it would be accepted by your editors. Fifth, you become a professional writer.
It all starts, however, with those first, half-baked pieces you thought the world was going to love, but in practice just couldn’t grasp your genius. So you might as well pop that cherry early and get to blogging.
In all honesty, I miss blogging. It was very honest writing and some of my best work came from doing it. Recently, I was reading one of my older pieces that I used for a college assignment called Misogynist and Loving It. There are a lot of typos that I never bothered to correct and some of the metaphors get mixed, but I can still feel the synesthesia in certain passages that I enjoyed penning. Not only do I feel the moment I wrote, but I feel the moment I wrote about. I don’t feel the same way when I write about the entertainment industry. I still enjoy it immensely, mind you, but there are just too many political and career considerations getting in the way of just writing.
The bottom line is if you want to become a professional writer or you just want to develop a serious writing hobby, then blogging is a great initial step in that direction. Once you start walking down that path, it’s unlikely you’ll ever fully leave it.