Wednesday, April 06, 2005

On Writing: The Dangers of Blogging

I started writing this post as a reply to Eric, who posted a great comment to yesterday's blog (thanks Eric!). He linked to this discussion, saying I might re-think my plan to start blogging lest it interfere with my writing. His post made me laugh, especially since only moments earlier, I got this very astute note from one of my editors who read yesterday's blog: "I couldn't help but note that you left off your list of the ways a writer on deadline can distract herself one important item: start a blog."

It's true. I'm a procrastinator. This is actually what's behind the nickname Goose, which I'll get to later. Blogging can suck you in, and it can be a major procrastination tool, no doubt. But I'm also one of those writers who actually works her ideas out on paper, so for me, this blogging thing feels like it might actually be productive for my writing. Especially since I'm in the midst of a book right now, which means I can't take on any new stories, even though I have new ideas every day. I feel like blogging is a way of putting thoughts and experiences on paper for future use. I definitely hear what the person in Eric's post is saying: That once you write an idea it's gone, out there. I know a lot of writers who work that way. But I don't. My ideas are more likely to be gone if I don't write them down. My head is too full of my book right now; I have to let the other stuff out or I'll explode.

I've been working on this book for years, and I love doing it, but it's made me stifle so many things I'd otherwise write. I imagine it's a lot like trying to write with a full time job: My dad did this when I was growing up. He worked full time, raised kids, and wrote novels on the side. And he wrote any little thing he could, any chance he got -- on scraps of paper in the doctor's office waiting room, or while sitting it the car waiting to pick me up from school, or at red lights (no joke). That's how this feels to me. Right now, my book is my full time job, and I'm very very fortunate to have a full time job I love to a nearly psychotic level. But I still have all those other thoughts in my head; blogging is me getting those out at the red lights. But it's also a way of practicing my chops, getting my fingers in motion -- I find it very hard to sit down at the start of a day and just write and write and write (and write) on my book. Blogging helps get my fingers in motion, wakes up my writing voice (I used to do that with email, but because so much of my work world happens over email, I've long stopped using it as a warm up because I have so many work emails to deal with).

The key, I think, is just using the blog to vent the system -- to get a few little things out when necessary -- without letting it take over. To that end, I'm only allowing myself 15 minutes of blogging time a day. And I'm using it as a way to communicate with friends and colleagues about what's going on in my life, to cut down on my email time ... that's where the real danger lies: Email is the nemesis of my muse. I can blog for 15 minutes, but once I'm online, I can email for 6 hours and still not catch up with everything in my inbox ...

So, on that note, back to the book.

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Blogger Eric said...

To that end, I'm only allowing myself 15 minutes of blogging time a day.

Well, that's the way we all started, isn't it? But we found that if 15 minutes was good, 20 minutes was just a bit better. Then we fudged to 30 minutes, an hour...

And one day we woke up to realize that we weren't just bloggers using the medium as an outlet for ideas that didn't fit elsewhere, but we were BLOGGERS, consumed by the medium in no less pitiful fashion than those limp souls in a Shanghai opium den.

Go ahead; scoff. Just wait 'til you get your first Instalanche, and then tell us you can quit anytime!

[But, seriously, I like your idea of blog-as-scratch-pad, and while I've not considered it in those exact terms, I think that's what I do with mine a lot of the time. But I still think that 15 minutes a day will prove unworkable! ;-)]

6:03 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

I first saw the article on blogging's negative impact on writing this morning. I saw your discussion with Eric just now as I linked to this blog via fireant's site.

I agree with you on this issue. I don't feel at all as if a thought is gone once it is written down--exactly the oppostie in fact. For me, the thought or idea is somehow initiated through expression. Molding can and in most cases should take place after that, but at least it's out there even if it is somewhat unformed.

I launched my own blog a few days ago with a "woe is me" type post about procrstination, writing, and blogging, but I'm blogging as a way of forcing myself to write something on a daily basis. As you can see if you care to link to my blog, it is working so far. We'll see...

Thanks for your insights. All the best with the book.

11:11 AM  

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