Tuesday, August 17, 2010

How To Write a Blog - McLachlan

Publishing 101–every published writer must have an online presence. This is a rule any agent or publisher will tell an aspiring writer; one of the new rules they didn’t have when I started writing. An online presence. It sounds dark and brooding and sinister. It is.

Because I have a confession: I have never written a blog before.

I’ve written poetry and short stories and novels and magazine and newspaper articles and two College textbooks. But not a blog. I’ve written journals and all types of letters and reports and proposals and email and even floundered my way onto facebook. But I have never blogged.

Okay, I told myself when asked to do this, how hard can it be? Blogging can’t be harder than facebook, which is like going back to high school, right? I mean, in a facebook entry, you get one sentence, maybe two, and somehow you have to sound cool and casual and like you’ve got something to say. Meanwhile all those friends, and friends of friends are watching you embarrass yourself. Mark Twain wrote, “I’m writing you a long letter because I don’t have time to write a short one.” Unfortunately, I could die of old age before distilling my thoughts into one cool sentence.

If facebook is high school, blogging is like graduating to college. You have more time to explain your point in a blog, as in a seminar. Time to put your foot in your mouth and take it out again and make it look like it was done intentionally, for emphasis.

No wonder I’ve never blogged.

You can do this, I told myself. So, fortified by self-deceit, I plunged ahead. Every kind of writing has its own conventions, and step one is research. I read some blogs. It seems there are no set conventions for blogs: anything goes. Which is reassuring, but not a lot of help. After all, your first blog sets a tone. It should be confident, erudite, witty and unique—in short, brilliant. Oh-oh. I felt the need of further fortification. I looked myself in the mirror and said, out loud this time, “You can do this.” On to step two—get advice.

“It’s like writing a diary,” my daughter said. I thought of my writing journals. No way.

“Write it as an essay,” a colleague at the college where I teach suggested.

“Duh,” my other daughter said. “Bo-o-oring!”

“Try not to be too opinionated,” my husband, who knows me too well, said. “Remember, everyone and anyone could read this.”

Back to the mirror. “This is really hard,” I muttered. My mirror image looked at me reproachfully. “You can do this?” I asked her. She nodded.


Just like that, she vanished.

At first I was ticked. I mean, what good is a mirror if it doesn’t show your reflection?

Then I got it. This isn’t Publishing 101—it’s Writing 101. And the first rule of writing is to step outside yourself--into your character, your plot, your idea, the person you’re interviewing.

Before I start to write, I often imagine myself going down a deep hole. There, like Alice, I am just an observer, trying to understand and record the strange characters and amazing things I see. The secret for blogging is the same as any other writing: step through the looking glass and leave your own reflection behind.


Peter Black said...

Blogging novice, eh ... are you sure?
"... confident, erudite, witty and unique—in short, brilliant."
You've demonstrated all of the above! :)

Marian said...

You are a natural!

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