Why I took a break from blogging

Last fall, if I had any doubts about taking a break from blogging and building my platform to focus on the craft of writing, reading Anne Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird, was the clincher.

“But I try to make sure they understand that writing, and even getting good at it, and having books and stories and articles published, will not open the doors that most of them hope for. It will not make them well. It will not give them the feeling that the world has finally arrived… But I also tell them that sometimes when my writer friends are working, they feel better and more alive than they do at any other time. And sometimes when they are writing well, they feel that they are living up to something.”

“The problem that comes up over and over again is that these people want to be published. They kind of want to write, but they really want to be published. You’ll never get to where you want to be that way, I tell them. There is a door we all want to walk through, and writing can help you find it and open it. Writing can give you what having a baby can give you: it can get you to start paying attention, can help you soften, can wake you up. But publishing won’t do any of those things; you’ll never get it that way.

—Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

Reading literary agent Rachelle Gardner’s post on October 15, 2011, Novelists: Stop Trying to Brand Yourself, confirmed my decision. Here’s a portion of the post [bold emphasis mine]:

Your book is much more important than your platform.*

(*Exception for people named Snookie.)

The requirements for platform are much, much more crucial for non-fiction authors. With fiction (I can’t say this enough times!) we want a great book. Just like readers want a great book! It’s much more important for you to work on writing craft than spend time trying to attract Facebook fans or blog readers.

Yes, we talk about platform a lot. But remember, most of us deal with both fiction and non-fiction. Additionally, we’re talking about platform for our fiction authors who have book contracts with publishers.

Once you have a publisher, the need to build some kind of following (platform) increases. Publishers want to see that you’re shouldering some of the marketing responsibility, and this means reaching out in ways that complement the marketing and PR the publisher is doing.

Unpublished novelists, remember these two main points:

1. Your brand is your genre, so don’t spend any time trying to brand yourself.

2. Your book is more important than your platform, so spend most of your time getting better and better as a writer.

It was like a breath of fresh air. Freedom from pressure that I hadn’t realized was building. Every other article I had read told me that if I ever wanted to get picked up by an agent, it’s never too soon to start building a platform. It takes a long time to build a following. Do it now. There was this sense of urgency that I needed to gain as much ground as possible. It was like a hungry beast that could never be satisfied.

I slowly realized that if I haven’t even completed my product—my novel—why was I spinning my wheels trying to blog two to three times a week? How was I going to sustain that while also learning—from scratch—how to write a book?

The learning was suffering. The writing was coming to a standstill. It was time to take a break.

Around the same time, I took on another major endeavor: I decided to lose a bunch of weight. In prioritizing my life, putting my health first was a no brainer. Experience has taught me that I can only take on one really big quest at a time if I want to do it successfully. So I decided to focus on the weight. I needed to get into the habit of preparing of our meals and snacks and going to the gym several times a week. I also did a lot of personal writing to process some of my food issues. Now, five months later, those new habits are pretty well established and I’m feeling like I can start focusing on more than one big thing at a time.

For my fellow writers out there: I’ve been swooping in on your posts and have only occasionally made comments.  I continue to learn so much from you. I’m excited about your accomplishments and am in awe of your tenacity. Isn’t it just fun to talk and read about writing? That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Sure, it’s important to have goals. We all want to get published. But I’m rediscovering that it’s the very act of writing that brings the most satisfaction and joy.

So, hello again. I will try to post at least once a week, but only if it doesn’t get in the way of the WIP.  🙂

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2 Comments

  1. It’s good to see you again!! 🙂

    My blog has an “official” start of April 2011, but I actually started it in November 2010. I ended up shutting it down because I ran into the same problem as you – it was getting in the way of finishing my manuscript. Once the novel was done I was ready to blog and I’ve loved it ever since. Blogging does build a platform, a network, and a community but none of that matters unless you’ve got your story (or keep your focus on the real goal of writing). 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi c.b.! You don’t even know how encouraged I am by your comment. Thank you! Without the pressure, I really enjoy blogging. I love the camaraderie and how much we can all learn from each other – which is why I didn’t want to leave the blog on the shelf forever. It’s part of the joy and the fun. Glad to be back. 🙂

      Reply

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