Tuesday, April 1, 2008

On Blogging v. "Real" Writing

Several years ago I read something in a book or article about writing to the effect that "would-be writers write when they are inspired, real writers write every day." I started blogging that very week. I did not set a word-count goal as some writing experts suggest, but I did try to post something semi-coherent a few times a week. Soon the practice of regular writing empowered and inspired me to the point that I started writing novels. I spent a couple of years working on several novels during every spare moment. I have never worked so hard or slept so little. The result of that effort has been four "completed" draft novels and several good starts on a few others. In the last three or four years, I all but gave up blogging, along with cooking, keeping house, and almost everything else in my life except going to work and exercising regularly.

Recently I found myself mildly depressed (I'm probably a hell of a lot more depressed than that, but that's as much as I'm admitting to because I don't have time or energy for a breakdown), confused, unfocused and rather aimless. Part of it is very likely the accumulated effects of a lot of things going on in my life, some of which I can/have/will blog about and some of which I prefer to keep private. In this frame of mind, I sort of ran out of steam before getting very far with my current novel. Rather than the joy and delight I took in writing the others, I found working on the story had become a chore. I decided I needed a break. Maybe it's a bad story and I need to give up on it. Maybe I just need to take a breather from the daily grind of fiction writing.

I remain committed to writing every day. Blogging was something I enjoyed when I did it before. It helped me muster the courage and inspiration to try my hand at fiction. Instead of wrestling the Muse and forcing myself to continue working on something that felt out of whack, I decided to take up blogging again. It is therapeutic. I am not sure why blogging online is better than journaling privately, but I think part of it has to do with the fact that I am more careful about my writing when I am making it public. Constant focus on writing as well as I can is important to me. The stuff I write in my private journal is usually raw, inarticulate (sometimes borderline incoherent) howling. Forcing myself to write carefully helps me keep my writing edge. (I confess that, in the interest of keeping up with regular posting on current topics, I am nowhere near as careful with word selection and grammar in these essays as I am when I am writing fiction.)

Writing daily helps me grow as a writer. Writing on a variety of topics helps me look at the world through a wide lens. I think trying to focus carefully makes the journaling process even more effective in processing emotional crap. The chance to share and to receive affirmation and support from others is an added, and wonderful, bonus.

My inner-novelist is a bit of a literary snob who thinks that spending so much time reading other peoples' blogs, websites, zines, etc. and then blathering on about it in my own blog is a waste of time that potentially could dilute whatever writing skills I may have. "She" may be right.

Then again, I realized over the weekend that I am out of story ideas. I had to stop with my story because I didn't like the direction I had originally planned to take it but I couldn't think of a better one. I was out of creative gas. This may be rationalization, but I think I'm back to blogging as a means of trolling for story ideas. Looking at the stories I have written in light of my previous blogging, it appears to me that the things that capture my attention enough to blog about sort of sink down into my unconscious and come out later as story ideas. So perhaps I am not wasting my time after all.

Or at least it is not a total waste.

I hope.

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