Or perhaps, if possible, as a smaller proportion of my total writer-ly output.
This blog is comfortable, it’s my minuscule little corner couch in the Internet neighborhood coffeehouse, filled with the photos and stories of our lives and with kind words from wonderful people whom I’m so happy to have met through blogging. It’s a space I treasure more than most of the physical things I own and, were the Internet to burn down, I’d probably run back into the house to save it.
Writing is a compulsion for me, and blogging just happens to be the easiest, most instant-gratification way to do it.
Which is why, this year, I’d like to try to do it less.
From my non-writer, pop-culture consumer perspective, it seems to me that before the Internet, if you wanted to be a writer you had to either find an entry-level job writing and work your way up or you toiled anonymously for two or three or twelve years, however long it took to write your (potentially horrible) masterpiece. Then you sent out paper copies of your paper baby to editors hoping someone would read and like it enough to validate all of your anonymous, painstaking hours of work. If you were lucky, you might even receive an occasional note in return explaining why your work was or was not so horrible–the informational equivalent of what even a mostly-unknown blogger might expect to receive today from one minimally thoughtful commentator.
And then the Internet happened. The old ways of “making it” as a writer transformed. The number of people writing from the top of their bed (or wherever the internet connection is soundest, the coffe is cheapest and the distractions most minimal) instead of a newsroom tripled– at least.
And then blogs happened and we learned to chase a new American dream for the digital era: going viral. Suddenly ordinary people, blogging on free blogger templates could write about banana bread, bathroom makeovers, 20-something angst, or sh*t their dad said for instant feedback from an online audience of devoted followers and thoughtful peers. Soon the luckiest of bloggers began signing book deals and HBO pilot contracts, quitting their day jobs to live off of their web advertising revenue and giving interviews on Good Morning America.
Of course, it is now harder than ever to distinguish oneself in the very crowded, incredibly creative and talented blogosphere. Whereas solid writing used to make or break a blogger, these days its writing plus brilliant photography, plus a gorgeously minimalist, easy-to-navigate website, plus dozens of hours spent commenting on the blogs of other influential bloggers, plus careful consideration of tags and titles chosen for maximum search engine optimization. Really, for anyone hoping to blog as a “get famous quick” strategy, the odds of making it big just keep getting worse.
And yet, for some reason, that dream of writing the blog that goes viral just won’t die. And even for those of us without such big dreams, it’s hard to be a hungry gold-star seeker and not notice the up-to-the-minute stats on the dashboard, the unique pageviews and the queue of comments waiting to be answered.
It is far more rewarding to craft a 1500 word blog post for instant feedback from my peers than it is to obsess over the same number of words for an article that will likely never see the light of day no matter how many editors I send it to. It is far less lonely to write simple little captions to photos online than it is to alternatively spend that time struggling to write a first chapter to a novel that might end up being a horrible mess in the end anyway.
And yet, no matter how awesome it would be to write that blog that gets “discovered,” the truth is that, no matter who you are, it is impossible to write the next great American novel without, at some point, having to sit down for many lonely hours to bang the damn thing out. While blogging is a fantastic outlet and great for bursting through tough bits of writer’s block, every minute spent blogging is a minute spent not writing something else.
This year, I’d like to spend a little bit more time on that something else, just to see if I can. As the wife of a diplomat, I self-censor the most interesting and personal bits out of every blog post, but it would be fun to try writing something fictional in which I don’t have to be quite so diplomatic about every experience, emotion or character I dream up.
So that’s a goal for this year. To do a little less Hot Pot and a little more other stuff. Not that I won’t be writing here–likely nearly as often as I have been–but I just hope to shift my priorities a little and keep this blog as the treasured scrapbook of our lives that it has always been and less as a platform for me to share carefully edited bits of prose. Those bits, I’m hoping I can learn to write elsewhere, motivated a not by the instant gratification of likes, page-views and lovely comments, but instead simply by all of the fascinating stories and characters flitting around constantly in my head and in need of a few more pages of paper on which to come to life.