Dear Future Publisher,
I’ve hit a bit of a creative doldrums with the blog. That’s not to say I’m tapped out and it isn’t to say that I’m going to stop blogging – not at all. I’m just finding it harder to access inspiration. Now, as a writer of course I know that you don’t have to (and in fact probably shouldn’t) wait for the inspiration fairy to zap you with her magic wand, because that way you would never get anything accomplished. The difference between a hobbyist writer and a serious writer is that the serious writer puts pen to paper or fingers to keyboard even when they aren’t “feeling it”. You plunge ahead and write even when you don’t feel inspired. You write words, whether they come in a torrent or a trickle, whether they are profound or sheer poop. It’s your job (or it would be if anyone would pay you – and they say that if you want someone to pay you, you need to treat it like a job).
But what you do need in order to write, if not inspiration, is some sense of direction. A topic, a theme, a plot, a character. A jumping-off point. Something to get you started. It doesn’t have to be especially remarkable. It can be something very workaday. But there needs to be some direction in what you’re writing. You can’t just write a string of random words. Well, you can, and a certain breed of critic and reader would think that was the epitome of art, but then there are people who like modern art, too, so there’s no accounting for taste.
I have been blogging for a little over two months. In that time I have posted almost 50 blog posts. Assuming an average word count of 500 words, which I think is a fairly accurate average for me, that adds up to about 25,000 words written for this blog.
Which brings me to the main problem. For most of those two months I was working primarily on editing my first manuscript and prepping it for another submission, drafting and editing the query, synopsis, and sample. During that time, blogging was a welcome addition to my routine, because it gave me an opportunity to write without drawing my attention too much away from where it needed most to be, on my query work. It kept my hand in and so it felt useful, and it also felt enjoyable.
Now, I am working on writing my second manuscript. And I am starting to feel like the blog is a distraction. I know it isn’t, and I try to remind myself that this, too, is important. But I want to work on the novel, and when I have spent all day writing I don’t feel like banging out a couple of blog posts. Indeed, taking time to write blog posts leaves me with a nagging feeling that I have wasted words. 500 words a day on the blog are 500 words a day that could have been written on the novel. The novel needs a lot of words, it is a hungry beast, and I am at no loss for inspiration there. The trouble is getting the ideas to slow to the rate of writing, so that they don’t slip away before I can pin them down with words.
Blogging was the fun task when the alternative was working on my query. It was writing, which will always be my favourite part. But generating new content a few times a week is tiring, and it’s hard not to feel like I’m repeating myself or posting drivel that interests no one. It’s hard not to feel like I’m shouting into the void, sending hours of free work into the vacuum of the internet where they may never benefit me or anyone else. Where they may never even be read. And when I could instead be working on a novel that I already love and am excited about – a novel I have been meaning to write for years and am finally getting to bring to life – it is hard to focus on the secondary tasks, and to remember how they, too, contribute to my future career and to my development as a writer.
Because the truth is, a blog is a bit like a rough draft. It is somewhere you can play with ideas and different forms of expression, where you can test out the response to certain kinds of humour or to sentimentality, where you can do a test drive of something that may one day find its way, in a fuller, more developed form, into a book or story. It doesn’t have to be sterling. It isn’t for perfection, or polish. It’s for play, for experimentation, for challenging yourself and pushing yourself and seeing what happens. It’s for all those things you can’t risk in a manuscript, all those things you can’t express in a conversation. It is its own valid and worthwhile enterprise, and what it is best for, for me, is practice. If it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, then I am putting hours in the bank.
And blogging offers, also, and perhaps most importantly, a community that provides an opportunity to connect with other aspiring writers as well as readers, to share in the struggles we all recognize and find support and understanding among our peers and among like-minded people who love stories.
So I will try to remember, when inspiration is elusive and I struggle to force myself to blog: this, too, matters. This, too, is a step towards you, Future Publisher. This, too, is progress.