Of books, and blogs, and media; of compasses, and things

Thanks to everyone who took the time to answer yesterday’s Idle Question.

From the Idle Question came two Rebound Questions, one having to do with the importance of blogging to a writer’s career (this was more of an assumption than a question, but I’m making it a question because I want to Say Something About That), and one asking what the blogger gets from blogging.

So, the assumption that one must blog or do some other sort of social media in order to be a writer is…a perception born of the frenetic age we live in, and the lack of willingness to accept that, in O So Very Many Ways, success as a writer is a crap shoot.

The Number One Thing that you need to do if you want to be in future, or are now, a writer is — WRITE.  Write, send out what you write, pay attention to your craft, write, study the markets sufficiently to insure that you don’t get cheated, write, and, ohbytheway, WRITE.

Everything else — everything else — is an extra.  You do not have to have — what was the magic number? — 1500? Facebook friends before you start in writing your novel.  You don’t need to set up Whatever or Boing-Boing and tend it for a decade before you write your novel.  All you  have to do is open up your word processor, turn to a clean sheet in your notebook, go outside with a nice thick chunk of tailor’s chalk in hand,  find a clean place on the sidewalk, or whatever else rings your bell — and start writing.

That’s it.  Personally, I think that starting a writing career by writing seriously (by which I mean with serious purpose and a goal) every day is hard enough without putting the burden of an active blog on the list, too.

Now, if you’re a sociable sort of person and you like to blog — then by all means go for it.  In fact, if you’re the sort of person who likes to blog, you’re probably doing it already.

Pro Tip:  People can tell if you like doing something.  If you like to blog — if it’s fun for you, regardless of any other input — then folks will read your blog and they’ll comment and feel comfy with you, and cheer you on in your endeavors.

Conversely, if you hate blogging and only force yourself to do in order to Build Your Brand?  People will pick up on that, too.

The same principle applies to doing book signings and going to conventions; tweeting and facebooking.  Do what you like, and what makes you happy; don’t do what you don’t like.  And for ghod’s sake, don’t just do things in order to Sell Books; that’s lame.  And pretty often it doesn’t work.

Second question!  Why do I blog; aka What’s In It For Me?

That’s easy; I’m a writer, and I like to tell stories.  I’m an introvert, but I like to interact with people.  Blogging lets me do both things — tell stories, and benefit from human interactions — without exhausting myself by having to physically be in a roomful of people, read all that body language, and protect myself.  Blogging lets me limit interaction, when I need to focus elsewhere; I can read and answer comments in my own good time.  For me, blogging is dern near the perfect medium of communication.

* * *

In other news — this is a long blog because you’re going to have to do without for a couple days; we have a buncha stuff on this week’s schedule — a while ago, I got interested in Doc Holliday, and ordered in a well-regarded biography (Doc Holliday, by Gary L. Roberts).  Now, I like biographies — they’re my Reading Matter of Choice when I’m actively writing fiction — and I’ve read a bunch of them, but I’ve gotta tell you — I’m going to give up on Doc’s book, here.

See, the primary reason I read biographies is to learn about people; their motivations; their movements; how they conformed to, or failed to conform to, the mores of their time — and I’m getting none of that with this book.  What I’m getting is the author’s speculation, a bunch of facts supported by newspaper reports and filed legal papers, and a review of the Civil War, as seen from Georgia and the Deep South.

Now, the author does say in his introduction that Doc left virtually no papers.  He had a lifelong correspondence with his first cousin, who had entered a convent, apparently because her religion had led her to refuse Doc’s hand in marriage (they were first cousins).  The cousin had saved the letters, but upon her death, a family member took it upon himself (I assume the masculine pronoun here) to burn them (pause for a group banging of heads on desks).  I can understand that it would therefore be difficult to piece together much about Doc’s private life.

While I applaud the author for getting a 400-plus-page book out of such flimsy stuff, that isn’t what I read biography for; if I want speculation, I read fiction.  So, Doc’s book goes back on the shelf.  Maybe I’ll find more patience with it, later.

* * *

Frequent readers of this blog will recall that I have some. . .Interesting Cognitive Quirks apparently brought into my life when the Good Sisters switched my primary hand from Left to Right.  In order, so my grandmother told me, to make my life easier.

I’ve been living with the effects of this for quite a number of years, naturally, and I thought I knew all the Funny Places, but yesterday I discovered another one.

Compass.

Have you ever seen one of these things?  A dial marked N-E-S-W with degrees between, and a needle in the middle, the red end magnetized so it will always point more-or-less North, no matter how you turn the dial?  Yes?  Holy bananas, what a brain-bender!

No, seriously.  You hold the thing in your hand so that the red pointer points North, and then, if you want to go, say, East, you squint along the dial and pick out a tree or a mailbox or something along that line and you walk to it?  This is how its supposed to work?  Phew.  Steve spent an hour, maybe more, but it’s not looking like a skill I’ll be — forget mastering — understanding any time soon.  I hope to Ghu I’m never lost on a mountain in Maine.

Or anywhere else where there aren’t street signs.

* * *

Y’all have a good Beginning Of A New Week.

* * *

Progress on One of Five
8,062/100,000 OR .81% complete

“Have I finally reached the captain of the pirate vessel Dutiful Passage?” The voice was high-pitched and clealy angry. Priscilla felt a jolt of her own anger.

“This is Captain Mendoza of the trade ship Dutiful Passage out of Surebleak,” she said coolly. “To whom am I speaking?”

“Retribution Officer Blix,” the angry voice snapped; “Law and Decency. In accordance with Chesselport Regulations 928A through 977M, pertaining to known pirates on-port, your vessel and its cargo are forfeit to this office; your officers and crew will be interrogated by this office, and those who are found guilty of piracy and related crimes will be placed in appropriate labor programs.”

 #SFWAPro

7 thoughts on “Of books, and blogs, and media; of compasses, and things”

  1. Re Retribution Officer Blix’s statement: That’s not a very intelligent way to speak to a lady who could Kill You With Her Brain when River Tam was just a gleam in a scriptwriter’s eye…

  2. Sharon, thanks for this! I read biographies for the same reason, that I like learning what people did and why.

    Peter, the officer in question may not know anything about Ms. Mendoza other than her name? I mean, I agree with you, but it’s not a given that everyone, even in law enforcement, knows all the details of your prior life — everywhere in the star system. That uncertainty would be at least part of the reason I’d read the next paragraph.

  3. My mother was a left handed person forced to be a right handed person. All her life she was plagued by heading the wrong direction when she went anywhere. I never thought of her challenge with turning left or right when coming out of a store, etc. as part of being forced to switch handedness. The one time it was a benefit was when she had a stroke. Because her brain had had to be more flexible she did not have nearly the difficulty with speech and balance that she would otherwise have had. Within just a few weeks she was back to normal!

  4. Oh, Officer Blix, I could almost feel sorry for you.

    On the idea of “creating a brand” first v. writing books first: agree that what you need to do is write. Write the story, write the book, write more stories, write more books. You cannot publicize a blank page. (Well, OK, some ad agency could, maybe, but not to help you get your book written. Or published. Or into the hands of readers.)

    If you like writing pretty well, and like the idea of writing a blog, then writing a blog gives you practice in writing…but not in long-form fiction writing. You can put 1000 words a day in your blog and think you’re getting somewhere, but at the end of the year you have 365,000 words in 365(probably unrelated) blog posts, not the first draft and multiple revisions of a novel that’s now ready to send a publisher.

    Agree with Sharon 100% that if you don’t want to write a blog–don’t. If you hate Twitter, don’t get on it. If you hate Facebook, don’t get on it. What writers “owe” readers is the work itself…not all the embellishments someone can think up.

  5. I have some problems with left and right as well because a left handed person taught me left from right. “The hand you use the most is your right hand, stupid” then she would use her left hand to do something. Always have been confused with that one and have to ‘think’ before I can say left or right. On the other hand I do know north, south, east, and west if I am familiar with the area and prefer giving directions with landmarks that way.

    On reading and writing blogs, the only reasons I read blogs are to learn about something or something is interesting to me. Snippets, facts, lifestyles, recipes, politics and more facts.

  6. I absorbed Heinlein’s rules for writing long before now, so writing and finishing are most important parts. Admittedly I suspect rules three and later have shifted a trifle, but they aren’t relevant if you don’t write and finish.

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