This story begins with a tweet, a fairly innocuous little fellow as tweets go, based upon a fairly commonly upheld principle that if a writer wishes to write in a particular form or genre, that writer ought to read in that form or genre.
Here is the tweet:
Writers who would blog about something other than writing should read blogs that are about something other than writing.
A fellow writer disagreed vehemently, as writing blogs or non-blog related reading can inspire a blog on a non-writing related topic. This is a point, a valid point, and I am the first to admit that all writers have a different process, a different way of dealing with their muses, different keys to their own personal productivity, etc.
But there is also something to be said for why I wrote that tweet, something that many writers freely admit to struggling with. They get on the internet and start a general interest blog, yet still find themselves drifting into writing. Why? Their online friends are writers. They confab about writing and are inspired to write posts on the topic. Its their primary occupation. It is easy.
I wrote this tweet from the background of a great deal of fiction-writing, short and long, successful and unsuccessful; a great deal of nonfiction writing, short and long, successful and unsucessful; and multiple blogs, some successful and some unsuccessful. By now, I have come to understand what does and does not work for me as a writer, and the most stunning revelations came from digging in deeply to nonfiction forms, including blogs. (You have heard these before.)
- If you want to write anything successfully, read it.
- If you want to write anything productively, love it.
- Writing begets more writing.
A Digression: On Short Stories
I came up a voracious little reader; I grew up sharing the house with a private library. I read novels, poetry, children's stories, and traditional stories at a hectic pace, and for years, I have been able to write novel-length fiction, flash fiction, and poetry with moderate effectiveness. Short stories eluded me. Over and over and over again. The library contained novels and nonfiction books, with only a small handful of short story collections to leaven out the lengthier works. The tipping point happened when the library was unable to acquire enough fiction to feed my appetite. I turned to the internet, which was rife with short fiction.
After months of reading and inhaling the form, I was finally able to write short stories. I did not even notice at first when it happened. I wrote almost a dozen successfully over the course of several months and then sat back and realized what had changed and what it was rooted in. I now primarily read short stories and serialized fiction, instead of the novels that had previously dominated my reading habits. I had internalized the form at last.
A Return: On Blogs
I have stumbled in all the traditional holes: I wrote blogs no more interesting than a journal of my daily habits, blogs that held interest for only writers, blogs that merely regurgitated my word counts and inventory, and finally, my evolving personal journal, currently on Livejournal, that covers my own life, fandom, and about a hundred other things. Then there is this blog. It is successfully becoming what I want it to be, which is a blog aimed at creators, as that is exactly what I am.
First off, let me be clear. A blog post is not a form. It is merely a medium. You can post a chapter, an article, an essay, a short story, a poem, a picture, anything at all really and call it a blog post. I refuse to get into splitting hairs on what might inspire a post, as the definition is fluid and elusive.
A blog is a form.
Think of your favorite blogs. A blog has a personality, its own flavor and themes. When you think of a blog, it is just like thinking of a book. A blog without any personality or cohesiveness generally has very few followers and has not yet found its own identity. It is still just a collection of posts waiting to become.
What a Blog Is
I was not able to turn my website into something I liked and reinvent my blog into its current and almost final form until I knew what a blog was.
I never wanted to write a blog about writing. I love to self-analyze, but I actually do not enjoy writing about writing very much. Worldbuilding, certainly. Story forms, definitely. Fiction and poetry meta posts, enthusiastically. But otherwise, I am not a traditional writer: I generally dislike discussing writing process and generally dislike writing reviews. I hit another tipping point: I stopped reading writing blogs.
For years, I subscribed to Writer's Digest and The Writer until there came a day when they failed to say anything new. My policy was simple: if I went two issues without learning anything new, I quit the subscription. Writing blogs are much similar. You do learn new things, and there are articles worth reading, but there comes a point when you need to stop studying your craft and start practicing it.
My internet reading became creativity blogs, business and legal articles that addressed my industries, entrepreneural blogs, fiction blogs, poetry blogs, my friends' journals, and selected articles about writing. In expanding my reading horizons, I expanded my writing horizons. I finally grasped what a blog was: an ongoing departmentalized or serialized periodical of a flavor, idea, topic, or theme. My favorite blogs are flavor blogs. Writing blogs are topic. I wanted a flavor blog, but by force of my own inspiration am creating a theme blog.
Many have advised over the years: read widely in your chosen genre, style, or form. If you want to write short stories, read short stories. If you want to write poetry, read poetry. If you want to write articles, read articles. If you want to write essays, read essays. And please consider the possibility that if you want to write a blog, read a blog, especially one similar to what you want to create.