I started blogging in the fall of 2004. I was 25 and living in New York City, and when I realized just how easy it was to set up my own website and start publishing online, I set up a Blogger account and set to work. I imagined eventually someone would notice it and give me a writing job or a book deal or something, because of course that is the kind of thing that happens to people in the real world. (To be fair to my past self, that kind of thing was happening back then, and it still happens today. Ask Julie Powell or Dooce.)
As it turns out, it wasn't a totally ridiculous thought. Eventually my blog did find an audience, and that got me some attention that eventually won me a full-time editorial job at which I got paid to write about things like wedding planning and "Sarah Palin's Alaska."
We're writers, and we naturally want to share our writing with an audience. And there's something incredibly gratifying about being able to write, publish and get feedback immediately. Compared to the solitary, frequently frustrating task of writing a longer project like a novel or memoir, blogging is instant gratification. It offers us opportunities to engage with our readers and feel a sense of accomplishment. And it helps us reach new readers who (if all goes according to plan) will be first in line to buy that book when it's finally published.
At the same time, blogging can provide a handy excuse for not focusing on those long-term projects. Remember my confession last week that I reorganized my closet instead of writing my 49 Writers post? Yeah, queen of procrastination right here. Also, moderately successful blogger. And yes, I think those things are deeply interconnected. If you're taking blogging seriously, it consumes a lot of energy -- you're not just writing posts, you're moderating comments, updating your layout, checking your analytics, researching, taking photos, Tweeting, Facebooking, agonizing... an hour here and an hour there starts to add up. It's fun and it's gratifying (and hey, you're writing, right?), but it can become all-consuming.
For me, at a certain point, I had to make a decision: Was I going to be a writer, or was I going to be a blogger? Blogging has been a part of my life for more than seven years -- longer than my husband, my nephew, my dog and many of my friends. But every minute I spend blogging is a minute I'm not working on those long-term, big-investment writing projects. I still blog (in fact, I have two blogs now -- one about eye shadow and one that's mostly about Martha Stewart these days), but I've had to resign myself to the reality that if I want to have enough time and energy to invest in the writing projects I really care about, sometimes I have to neglect those blogs for a few days or even a few weeks. That makes it hard to develop an audience, since the number one rule of blogging is to post consistently. (Sorry, audience.) I’m learning to be OK with this. It means I won't be the next Pioneer Woman or Fug Girls, but I'd rather invest that time in trying to become the next Jeffrey Eugenides. (Ha! I bet you thought I was going to name a woman writer. I'm here to keep you on your toes, folks.) In a perfect world, I'd have time to do both, and in fact, I've talked to some writers whose literary agents and publishers are leaning on them to do more blogging and other online engagement of readers. Until I'm getting paid to be a full-time writer, though, blogging is going to have to take a backseat to those more frustrating, more solitary, more involved and potentially more rewarding projects.
For those of you who blog while you're working on book-length projects, how do you balance the two? And if you're like me and you've prioritized one over the other, which did you pick?
Maia Nolan-Partnow is an Anchorage journalist and blogger and a former editor of AlaskaDispatch.com who now works in advertising. She has a Master of Fine Arts degree in fiction from the University of Alaska Anchorage. You can find her online at MaiaNolan.com and follow her on Twitter at @myster.