Life, with its rules, its obligations, and its freedoms, is like a sonnet: You’re given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself.
— Madeleine L’Engle
Back when I started blogging in September 2009, it was the thing to do. Anyone who wanted to be published needed to blog to be visible! and present! on the Internet. (I’ve thought so often how lucky I was to start writing in 1998, long before blogging had taken hold. Back then I didn’t know anyone who was trying to get published. In many ways, it was a lonely time, but the solitude gave me the room to explore and grow and learn to write at my own speed, without added pressure.)
That mandate to blog sounds quaint now. Blogging, we hear, is pretty much dead. It’s social media where authors are hanging out (or where we’re told we need to be visible! and present!). Some of us have moved from blogging to author newsletters. (I’ve got one of those, too. Check it out!) Few people I first met through blogging are still at it. And that’s totally fine — better than fine because I think the directive to regularly post was probably misplaced. The idea was that blogging would establish writers as authorities. It would draw an audience who would be certain to buy future books. It might even make publishers sit up and take notice.
I can think of a handful of non-fiction authors who got book deals based on their blogs’ strong presence or who were outright discovered by publishers via their sites. I’m not sure if it ever happened for novelists (please tell me if you know otherwise). Blogging hasn’t made a measurable difference in my work, if by measurement we mean publisher sales. The seven books I’ve sold to date came from a twelve-year self-led apprenticeship of submission, rejection, trial, and error, followed by submission and rejection alongside my agent. Nothing remarkable there.
But blogging has brought me plenty of things, like my dear critique partner Valerie Geary, (who gets the prize as most quoted person in this Internet space) and other friends, whose publishing journeys I’ve witnessed play out in real time, like Jessie Oliveros, whose The Remember Balloons I shared a few months back, and Paul Greci, whose The Wild Lands will be featured here later this week, and Karen Strong, whose debut novel, Just South of Home, I’ll share with readers this spring.
Blogging has given me the quick satisfaction of publishing on the spot with the immediate potential for feedback. Imagine that! It’s infinitely satisfying to connect with readers in real time.
Blogging has allowed me to work through my thoughts. It’s given me the discipline of a regular, self-imposed deadline. It’s reminded me to actively find new books and authors to read and to showcase for teachers, librarians, parents, and most importantly, young readers (who don’t visit this site but whose grownups do).
Ten years in, I’m still reaping these benefits.
Writing trends come and go, but blogging is one I’m happy to stick with. I hope you’ll stick around, too.
Every year since 2012, I’ve taken an Internet break for the month of July. I won’t be here or on social media. This practice leaves me refreshed, even when I don’t realize I need time away.
I’ve come to see July as a gift.
Usually I set up posts to rerun once a week, but I’m not doing that this year. If you’re interested in reading here next month, I invite you to explore the 1,200+ posts I’ve published since 2009. There’s a lot to keep you engaged and occupied.
But I also invite to to take your own break. There’s nothing you’ll miss on the blog. And honestly, there’s not much you’ll miss in a broader sense, if you decide to set more of the Internet aside.
Have a fabulous month. I’ll see you in August, friends!
We are so overwhelmed with things these days that our lives are all, more or less, cluttered. I believe it is this, rather than a shortness of time, that gives us that feeling of hurry and almost of helplessness. Everyone is hurrying and usually just a little late. Notice the faces of the people who rush past on the streets or on our country roads! They nearly all have a strained, harassed look, and anyone you met will tell you there is no time for anything anymore.
— Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1924
Last month, I attended a Leonardo Da Vinci exhibit that is currently here in town. It was an incredible look at Da Vinci’s work, from his art (did you know there are three other paintings underneath the Mona Lisa??) to his scientific / mechanical / anatomical / discoveries and inventions. What an amazing human being he was!
I left the exhibit inspired to live a big life. By that I don’t mean I want attention or fame. I want to be certain not to fritter my life away. I want to be sure to be faithful to the opportunities before me, big and small, in my career and personal life. I want to be present and soak it all in.
It was so interesting for me to contrast Da Vinci’s remarkable mind with some things I’ve been thinking about of late, namely the influence of the Internet in our everyday lives and the role social media plays in distracting, discouraging, and diminishing our focus, our sense of self, and our connection.
Here are a few articles I’ve been mulling over:
On Analog Social Media :: Cal Newport
“When it comes to tools like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram: don’t let the fear of missing out dictate how you live your life. The most productive and fulfilled people I know often got where they are by doubling down on the activities that return them huge benefits, while happily ignoring everything else.”
Social Internetting :: Tsh Oxenreider
“Eight years ago, I wanted something different in my work than I do now — I don’t have a burning desire to build an online empire or recognizable brand. All I mostly care about at this point is creating work that matters, that sticks with people for a long time, and that changes their lives for the better, even in small ways.”
“Ten years into the smartphone experiment, we may be reaching a tipping point. Buoyed by mounting evidence and a growing chorus of tech-world Jeremiahs, smartphone users are beginning to recognize the downside of the convenient little mini-computer we keep pressed against our thigh or cradled in our palm, not to mention buzzing on our bedside table while we sleep.”
How to Regain Your Concentration :: Nathan Bransford
“The last ten years have been an incredible digital ride and the Internet has given us a lot of wonderful things. Now it’s probably time for a break.”
How would Leonardo Da Vinci’s legacy have been different if the Internet had been around during the Renaissance? Who knows? I can’t claim to be a person as prolific, disciplined, and driven as Da Vinci (will there ever be anyone else like him?) but I know this: I don’t want my life to be ultimately shaped by distractions.
I’ll still be around social media, but on my own terms. I want to be present in this life I’ve been given.