Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Doing It in Public

No, not that. I'm talking about blogging.

I recently read an article forwarded to my chapter email loop about the pros and cons of blogging. It was a good article. It listed the obvious pros: blogs are cheap and easy, can be updated more frequently than web sites, provide a sense of conversational familiarity with the writer, are good for interactive things like Q&A forums and contests, and can be used to post [ahem] excerpts promoting a new release.

[NOTE: Conventional wisdom says to wait with that whole excerpt thing until publication of said new release is imminent. Or at least a probability. At any rate, something more definite than a mere wish and a prayer. My bad.]

And the cons: blogs eat up time you should spend on other writing, require daily posting to keep readers interested, are a source of stress, target only online readers, and of course there is the pitfall of blogging while upset or angry, something to avoid unless you really enjoy beating yourself up with regret.

As I said, it was a good article; my summary of it does not do it justice. But I think the author left out some very important points. Maybe she had a word limit. Or maybe she knew that thinking about some of these things will make you crazy. Why yes, I'd love to share them with you, thank you for asking.

1) Pro: There is no one to stop you. No agent or editor or critique partner tediously parsing your every golden word and demanding perfection before you bestow your profound thoughts on your eager and receptive audience.

2) Con: There is no one to stop you. No one to tell you how completely stupid and ill-considered your post is before you put it out there in public for all to see. There is only the after-post barrage of emails from friends, too late, demanding to know, "What the hell was that?"

3) Pro: People who read and comment on your blog always seem to want more. They can't get enough of your wit and wisdom, showering you with flattery and praise. You love making time to accommodate them by writing more, and more entertaining, posts.

4) Con: People who read and comment on your blog always seem to want more. You want to pull your hair out because you're working full time at the day job and spending every spare minute trying to finish the damn book. And yet you also have to come up with something to say -- at least weekly, forget that "daily" suggestion -- that won't offend anyone or cause your family to disinherit you.

5) Pro: Almost no one who reads your blog makes negative comments. There seems to be an unwritten etiquette forbidding this. You live in fear that might change, but intend to enjoy it while it lasts.

6) Con: Almost no one who reads your blog makes negative comments. But you know there are people out there having negative thoughts, because some of them send you nasty emails. You've seen the numbers and suspect that perhaps a couple hundred people have read your blog at least once, yet only a dozen or so have chosen to comment. You just know the rest of them are rolling their eyes and making fun of you.

7) Pro: You have no idea who is reading what you write. This is incredibly liberating, this sense that your audience is whoever you choose to believe they are. It is so easy to believe they are your perfect reader and that they love everything you have ever written or will write.

8) Con: You have no idea who is reading what you write. It could be your mom or your boss, other writers you know or those you will never meet, agents or editors or publishers (oh my), friends or neighbors, your dentist or the librarian's cat or someone on another continent for whom English is a second or third language. Not only do you not know, you will never know.

9) Pro: If you're lucky, your commenters are a group of fun and interesting people. You develop a wonderful sense of community and friendship.

10) Con: If you're lucky, your commenters are a group of fun and interesting people. Your family questions your sanity and considers it a sign of diminished mental capacity that you have imaginary friends.

11) Pro: No one tells you what to write. There is no set topic, no particular agenda other than what you choose on any given day. You can write anything.

12) Con: No one tells you what to write. You have no idea whether what you think is interesting or humorous on any given day will similarly appeal to anyone else. And you can't ask. It makes you not want to write anything.

13) Pro: There is the thrill of the unknown every time you hit the button to publish a new post. The anticipation of and wondering about what people will say this time, the excited impatience of waiting for the comments, hoping people will like what you wrote or at least give it some thought before they dash off to the next blog in their ever expanding quest for entertainment and enlightenment.

14) Con: There is the thrill of the unknown every time you hit the button to publish a new post. The sick awful dread you feel in your gut that no one is going to even read this one, let alone have reason to comment on it. The depressing certainty that you have condemned your inadequate words to a vast empty void of echoing silence.

I could go on (there's another pro/con right there), but I won't. You get the idea. Besides, that second person voice is so annoyingly pretentious.

On paper, the pros and cons seem to balance each other out, don't they? In practice, maybe not so much. But there is one other "pro" I have discovered about blogging that I think helps to even the scale: hidden way down in the many pages and layers of blog options, there is a little button that says "Delete This Blog" -- it actually looks fairly innocuous, considering the power inherent to its function.

Some days, knowing that button is there, knowing I could use it if I chose to do so -- not that I would, probably, but knowing that I could -- is the only thing that keeps me from losing the often tenuous grip I have on my so-called sanity.

I don't think any article about the pros and cons of blogging is complete without an acknowledgment of that.

6 comments:

McB said...

I think you forgot a pro ...

Its good practice for when you will be experience all of the above after becoming a published author.

orangehands said...

or you could do what i did, which is start a blog and after three posts never visit it again.

your pro and con list kind of reads like a half-empty/half-full debate.

orangehands said...

ha ha ha, she wont be back for awhile, let's have fun...

ya ya ya, party time...

Lou said...

OH - GET TO STUDYING, FORGET THE PARTYING!! Grades, remember your grades - they have to do with school. Shape up young lady!!

And oh... great post BCB. I think you really have a way with words. I love reading what you've written!

Mary said...

Another point about blogging.
I don't know how much credence to put in anything that you read in Wikipedia, but if true this is indeed a cautionary tale:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Zumbo

bon cheri bomb said...

Mary, that is just scary. Good thing no one is paying me to write this blog. Good thing there aren't more than five people reading it.

Although, with a name like Zumbo, seems to me like you're just asking for someone to turn it into a verb.



Do you know that with this new version of Blogger (hey, they MADE me upgrade) I don't have to do a word verification on my own comments?