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Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Prescription for Self-Doubt: Blogging

Over 100 million blogs are posted on the Internet. With all those ideas and opinions out there, why would a writer want to throw her hat into the electronic ring? What could any of us say that isn’t already being said—in millions of other ways? You might not get rich and famous writing a blog, but blogging offers writers several benefits. It allows writers to create an online portfolio, establish an Internet presence, make new contacts, keep in touch with friends, and promote their work. It’s also a way to help overcome self-doubt.

If you think self-doubt is a topic strictly for self-help books, then go talk to a writer. We question ourselves about what we write, how we write, who we write for, and why we write. We worry about commas, spelling, dangling participles, and other technical-sounding English errors, even before we know their horrible names. And that’s before any work leaves our desk. Writers who seek publication play a bonus round of the self-doubt game when the rejection slips arrive, when the old adage “You can’t get accepted if you don’t get rejected” makes you want to scream. How can a writer confidently move forward without succumbing to self-doubt? Why does it matter, anyway?

Self-doubt sinks writers for two reasons: it clouds a writer’s voice and can prevent a writer from speaking at all. Who wants to read vague, watery, bland writing? What do you think when you read writing peppered with these kinds of words: seemingly, perhaps, might, apparently, reportedly, some say, they say. Reportedly, some say the smog layer might possibly be caused by fluctuating conditions. Yawn. Who needs Ambien? Spit it out, whatever you want to say.

Are you worried people will disagree with you? I assure you that some will. I have two words for you: so what. So what if you’re interested in something obscure, unusual, or unpopular. Write about it anyway. Be informed, do some homework, be fair as appropriate, and if you’re passionate about a topic or opinion, let your enthusiasm show. So what if you hate Oprah, think George Clooney is ugly, or feel the economy is just fine. If no one else agreed with you, would that change your opinion? Remember, it’s just like the teacher told us in school when she urged us to raise our hands: if you’re thinking about it, someone else is, too. (And remember that on the Internet, you never know who is reading—Ms. Powerful or Mr. Sexiest Man could read your rant about them; you never know.)

A successful writer has to be willing to put her opinions and ideas out there, and the blogosphere is a good place to step into the shallow end of the pool. Attaching our name to an idea can be as terrifying as walking out on stage. Yes, other people—people not related to you, not anyone you’ve met in your writing group—can read your blog if it’s posted on the Internet. But your audience will probably stay small and reasonable, at least in the beginning. Theoretically, fielding comments and e-mails from this smaller group will prepare you for the deluge of calls, letters, and e-mail you’ll receive once your work is on the best-seller list, or, more likely, for the day your mother-in-law finally reads your blog post about the time you fed your serving of her prize-winning stuffing to the dog.

Blogging isn’t the only way to banish self-doubt. Anything that encourages a writer to embrace his voice and opinion will work. I’ve found the blogging community to be supportive and encouraging, and the comments I receive from readers reassure me that my work is being read. Along with my writers’ group, writing blogs has helped me to keep writing, even on those days when I thought the only thing I should be allowed to write was a grocery list.

And I can’t say that I’ve given up on the thought that my blog will find a bigger audience. I know I said that you can’t expect to get rich and famous by blogging, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. You never know who’s reading, and that’s what makes it fun.
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Photo courtesy of Elisabeth Fuchs at http://www.sxc.hu/photo/654139; also visit her work at http://elisafox.deviantart.com/

2 comments:

Ritergal said...

Blogging also teaches discipline. It's sometimes tough to stick to our self-imposed schedule, whether that's every day or twice a month. But it's worth it. Sort of like taking a writing class where you write like crazy the night before class to avoid the humiliation of showing up empty-handed.

After nearly three hundred posts myself, I add my vote: Blog away!

TH Meeks said...

Excellent point! I have to say that sticking to my own writing schedule (including blogs)was initially more difficult than caving in to other demands on my time, and I know I'm not alone. It took me a while to take my self-imposed deadlines as seriously as I'd always taken the deadlines given to me by employers.

Thanks for reading!
T.