Monday, March 26, 2007

Writers and Blogs: my speech to Spark

Marcel Proust, role model for my lost novel, "The Dandy of the Drainspouts".

[photo: CK a book club and neo-marketing blogger:]

I walked away from Gorman's Pub with mixed feelings, though generally elated.

I had just spoken to a writers club, known as Spark, led by Julie Gray of Publicity Pro, in the banquet room in the back, about blogs and blogging.

I made some new friends who are of my race and creed: writers. They were attentive. They asked clever questions about monetizing a blog, print vs. online text, and why blogs are revolutionary.

I guess the only downside was this: I was alarmed at what a difficult sell it turned out to be, my attempt to lead them to the path that points to the blogosphere. I am not the path. The path is their own writing passion and devotion. This writing muse or urge is now finding its home within the blog realm, among other online venues.

But the blog!

It really is the king-queen of the new domain, is it not?

I mean, if you're a writer, then you love or feel compelled to write. Right? So why would any writer be sluggish about a free, easy, fast, unfiltered, global communication tool, one that has the distiction of being text-oriented and writer-friendly?

Ah, but just a slight sparkle of insight, an upstream streak of vision ought to mend it and make it okay.

They laughed when I said "blogocombat" and confessed they didn't know what I would mean if I said, "Ping me." They made me explain RSS, which I compared to telephone, email, and web browsers, and told them that in RSS the content comes to you.

I mentioned multi-media in blogs, the embedding of audio podcasts, music mp3s, and video webcasting. I raved about how a blog can contain photos, digital art, and functional widgets like custom search engines, link buttons, online polls, and feedrolls.

"I want to get paid for my writing!" one of the lady writers proclaimed pragmatically.

"Then you must give it away for free to as many people as possible," I replied as I passed out information kits in gleaming Mallarmean white catalog envelopes, representing the blank uninscribed slate that all text derives from and returns to.

They looked, some of them, puzzled but amused.

"I say you must participate in the share economy. You abundantly share your poetry, your satire, your fantasy, your historical insights with others in your field. Help others gain better understanding or more entertaining fictions. This is how you will become known in the digital realm, which is increasingly becoming the only realm that matters and has influence."

I felt I was going a bit far in my techno-evangelism, yet I wanted to turn them into pioneers, if they were willing to explore what is quickly becoming the actual present, evolving from a formerly theoretical future. Compelled by the driving force of this immediate future become flesh and electrons, I continued.

"By giving it away, you will get feedback. Isn't that what we writers crave and need? We hand out some poems, then eagerly pry into their reactions, if any, if they even bothered to read the whole thing.

Problem solved -- by the blog. You can post your writing to your blog, and the whole world can read it. Then you visit the blogs of your colleagues and sites devoted to your field or genre. You politely read what these peers are saying, and you contribute content to the discussion by posting comments. With your blog URL embedded in the comment's byline, they and their readers can click on your name and visit your blog. Then you might receive some comments on what you display in your blog.

Eventually, you get mentioned in their blogs, they link to you, some author quotes you in their book, and publishers seeking writers may start contacting you. You must begin by getting your literature online, in a blog, and enabling readers to email you and post comments. Harsh, negative, but sincere comments can help us improve and reach a wider audience. Nice, supportive comments can be encouraging and can steer us in more popular directions.

I mean, you never know what people will really like. The article or story you spent tons of time on, and polished and perfected it, with lots of links and references to reputable sources, can bomb. Not a single ripple. But then the material you just dashed off half-heartedly, the throw-away post that you published just because you had not put anything new on your blog in a few days, that could be the thing that drives people wild. You wake up the next day, and see 30 comments posted to it, with people debating or praising or complaining about what you wrote in an exhausted and uninspired lethargy.

You just never know what will be popular or successful. But a blog gives you the venue in which to experiment and expose your writing to an information or entertainment-seeking audience.

While some bloggers can make money with ads on their blog, you have to have a blog that gets a lot of traffic, thousands of readers every day, and hope they click on the ads. Your blog has to deal with tech gadgets, politics, celebrities, or some other already popular topic.

Or you could let your readers create all the content, like Post Secret. 100% user-generated content. He just asked people to mail him anonymous postcards that revealed a personal secret that they've never revealed to anyone before.

To ask how to make money with a blog is like asking you to make money as a ham radio operator. Most of them do it for fun, for fellowship with like minded hobbyists, to communicate, and to help others during emergencies and disasters. That's what most blogs are. Acts of love and altruism, fired by a passion for something.

Blogging is a discipline of daily or at least weekly writing. You must force yourself to have something to say almost every day. If you're really passionate about a topic, that won't be a problem. You love talking and writing about the topic, and could go on and on about it.

You have a distinct advantage over most bloggers. You already are writers. Most bloggers are not good writers, but they want to express themselves, meet others online with shared interests, and take advantage of a global platform for their opinions and ideas.

One of you likes Chaucer. So start a blog about Chaucer. Share your insights and opinions about Chaucer. Link to reputable, authoritative Chaucer scholars, foundations, literary societies, publishers, and libraries that are connected to Chaucer. Post comments on the blogs of other Chaucer fans and researchers. Engage in conversations with them. Contribute your findings and viewpoints.

I cannot understand why any writer would avoid the blogosphere. It's a writer's paradise and prison, for once you start, you must train yourself to keep it up, to not abandon it for any reason, to perpetuate the blog for its own sake and for the love of your readers.

The discipline of blogging, and the concomitant comments you receive from readers, will improve your thinking, researching, writing, editing, graphic design, and editing skills. You are in total control. You are writer, editor, publisher, and marketing expert. You have the freedom and responsibility for the entire production and distribution of your material.

I urge you all to seriously consider starting a blog tonight. It's free and all it takes is about 5 minutes at most to start one.

The blog represents the first time in human history that any individual can have a voice on a level playing field with government, religion, and corporations. One blogger can start an investigation, provide an answer, or provoke an uprising that domination systems cannot control.

Blogs are ideal for any writer, and the blogosphere is where every writer must be."

A blog is "an email to the world" -- Doc Searls, co-author of seminal web revolution book, The Cluetrain Manifesto.


CK said...

2 things:

#1: "I say you must participate in the share economy. You abundantly share your poetry, your satire, your fantasy, your historical insights with others in your field. Help others gain better understanding or more entertaining fictions. This is how you will become known in the digital realm, which is increasingly becoming the only realm that matters and has influence."

I still credit you for enlightening me to The Share Economy...which I defend to my death (and then when I'm circling pluto).

2: If they don't listen to you...send 'em my way and I'll explain what an inspiration this blog has been since July (I started end of May). It has affected me deeply. Your passion and generosity.

Sending you another book soon. It's really good; can't put it down.

steven edward streight said...

You CK have helped me focus and amplify what paltry and remote gems might be trying to gleam or gloam in my own scribblings, as an editor, as a sister blogger, as a friend and ally.

A powerful ally, I must add, for you possess the secret key to blog popularity and traffic, a key that is not purely textual, but community based.

Thanks for the books. I have some surprises up my flimsy sleeve for you too. You'll see soon. In the mail on Friday. Oy vay!

PeoriaIllinoisan said...

You might find this interesting- Pete Townshend (of The Who fame), always the techno geek, is working on his autobiography, and is publishing them on his own blog.

He had this to say about previous writings he published on his blog:
"In September of 2005, as part of a process of liberating myself from the weight of delivering The Boy Who Heard Music as a play, a film or even a ballet, I published it as a serial using a Blog. The serialization ran weekly until February 25 2006, and I found the whole process invigorating and inspiring. The input of readers along the way was vital, and I made important changes as I went along."

CK said...

Make it happen; share more with the world...they don't yet all know of your gifts.

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