Necessity is the Mother of (Re)Invention – Blog Changes Ahead

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Of all the various forms of social media out there, blogging is definitely my favourite.

The ability to blog is a wonderful privilege for someone like me, for I was always the kid everyone was trying to shut up.

At school, despite being a strong student, I was constantly criticized on report cards for talking too much – both in and out of turn – and in general disrupting the class with my compulsive need to share every last idea that came into my head.

Thankfully, my father, who was a huge proponent of self-expression, told my teachers he’d much rather I talk than not talk.

Yet for someone like me, blogging is the perfect pursuit, for I get to express my thoughts (and my thoughts are usually fairly detailed, which is why I do better on WordPress than Twitter), and those who care can read it while those that don’t can tune me out entirely.

And yet, I’m not really that good of a blogger.

Despite my love of blogging and connecting with readers and other bloggers from all over, I’m actually a reluctant convert to the digital age.

It’s no mistake that I’ve mostly confined myself to blogging about writing.  Coming from a writer, writing craft is a topic that doesn’t call too much attention to itself; an almost invisible topic.

It’s a topic I can write about indefinitely without revealing a lot of myself as a person.  To reveal little is very much the type of person I am.

In my offline life, I’m the same way: if we met, I’d give you lots of attention and ask you tons of questions about yourself – anything to deflect attention away from me. I’d answer truthfully anything you asked me, but my answers, at first, would be short, and then I’ll turn the focus right back to you.

I’m a virtuoso at this: so subtle and skillful, you probably wouldn’t even notice, especially if you’re the type who likes talking about him-/herself.

Perhaps my old teachers and their report cards were more effective than any of us realized.

Becoming a digital person

Another reason I’m not a good blogger is because when I first started, my goals were more related to presence rather than process: develop an online presence for when I someday have books to market (i.e. the requisite “writer’s platform”); write a quality post every week.

But no goals or plans around attracting readers or otherwise writing for an audience.

It wasn’t a mistake, my blogging mainly about writing, and yet neither is it really the right thing to do.  For, in the digital age, if we want to promote ourselves, we have to become digital people.

We have to be open to living a little bit more of our lives online.

Over the Christmas holiday, I read an awesome book that has really changed the way I think about social media. According to social media expert, Kristen Lamb, in her book Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World:

Why are we being so self-centered that we demand that readers find us via what we love?  Books.  Writing.  Publishing.  As I see it, the fundamental problem is that we have failed to appreciate that authors now have the ability to become personalities.  We are the new reality stars.  Twitter, Facebook, and blogs are our “reality shows” that allow people to connect with us on common ground. (p.103)

While I never considered myself on par with Snooki from Jersey Shore or Uncle Si from Duck Dynasty, I can see Lamb’s point. Even though many people read books, the act of writing a book isn’t necessarily interesting to everyone.

It’s not a topic that’s going to help me gain the diversified audience that I want.

Though, what might, is what Lamb goes on to promote as “high concept blogging”.

High concept is one of those industry terms that a lot of people define differently, but in this case, refers to,

  1. Having broad appeal,
  2. Evoking the emotion of the reader, and
  3. Giving the reader something to contribute or something to take away.

In trying to help people know more about my writing, I ironically have to write about writing less – to blog more about other things that interest me that might also interest those who don’t write.

So, I’m going to be changing things up a bit around here.  I’m not giving up on posts about writing craft entirely because it is a topic I love to discuss.  But I’ll also branching out a bit – broadening my digital identity to make this less a writing blog and more my online home where, hopefully, anyone can feel comfortable visiting me.

——————–

A/N: Now seems an auspicious time to make this change: a new year has just started, it’s my first post of 2014, and also my 100th post on this blog – a milestone!

A/N#2: I’m also going to change the blog’s name.  More on that next week.

(Image: J.G. Noelle)

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20 thoughts on “Necessity is the Mother of (Re)Invention – Blog Changes Ahead

  1. Good to have you back, Janna! Now I was just thinking how cool it would be to discuss at a future meeting what our ‘DIGITAL IDENTITY’ should look like. Perhaps get some feedback from the group as to what their perceptions of us are and how they would like to see us develop in that sense. 🙂 Happy New Year!

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    • Good to be back, Nancy, and Happy New Year to you too! That’s a great idea for a meeting topic! Different people have different levels of comfort when it comes to creating their digital identities, which would lead to some interesting discussion.

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  2. Cool. I look forward to seeing what you come up with! Do you think you might post more than once a week?

    Not that it’s a secret, but I resent the whole “writer’s platform” requirement. I’ve probably written three novels worth of blog content, yet I’m not sure I have much of a platform. It seems like blogging is mroe valuable for those who specialize in recipes or pets or something. It’s hard for me to sell a “speculative fiction” image. More blood and fangs in the sidebars???

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    • I look forward to seeing what I come up with too! No, really. 😉

      Kristen Lamb’s rationale for a platform is less as a direct selling tool and more a means for a potential reader to get to know you as a person – to feel like the two of you are friends – so that s/he feels vested in your success, similar to how, if a good offline friend of yours wrote a book or put out an album or whatever, you would want to see him/her do well.

      This line of thinking was one I’d never heard before, and seems much more appealing than thinking of potential readers as marks I have to reel in. I like to write and like all the other things I like besides writing as well, so combining the two should be easier and more fun in the long run.

      I think you actually do a good job on your blog of presenting yourself as more than just a writer. As for adding more of an SF theme into your posts, perhaps you should do a brainstorm/word cloud of what SF means to you (the things you associate with it) and incorporate those ideas into your future posts, regardless of the posts’ actual topic (e.g. how SF might influence a trip to the grocery store).

      As for whether I might post more than once a week, the idea does hold some appeal (and is also recommended by Lamb, at least in the short term). But I don’t like to agree to things when I know I’m not immediately prepared to put my full weight behind them, so, for now, I’ll just say, maybe.

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  3. A perfect example of this is Chuck Wendig’s blog. He’s prolific, yes, but it’s not just that. It’s the content. He has a hardcore online personality. He blogs about everything. People love it. And it offers so much opportunity for fans to relate.

    Now that I have a book out, the pressure to be a digital person is even stronger.

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    • Yes, I follow Chuck Wendig’s blog as well. He definitely has a well-defined online persona.

      I don’t think being a digital person has to mean being as extreme a personality as that, but rather just coming across as well-rounded. I suspect developing an effective online persona that one is comfortable with takes as long if not longer than writing the novel it’s meant to bring attention to.

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  4. This is a very thought provoking post for me. I primarily started my blog to start having some sort of platform for the day when I am trying to get published, and like you, I’m writing mostly about craft.

    I might have to follow suit and consider branching my blog out as well, and perhaps check out the book you referenced.

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    • I’m glad you liked the post, D.L. Looks like our respective blogs had similar origins and have followed similar paths to date. I definitely recommend Kristen Lamb’s book (and blog). It’s easy to read, not too long, and filled with lots of fascinating information about the science and biology of marketing, as well as her blogging and social media tips.

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  5. This is great, Janna. Lamb’s thoughts are spot on. I like to read blogs that relate to the person and not a product. I love your blog, so anything you come up with I’m sure will be excellent 😉

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  6. Pingback: Content | ericjohnbaker

  7. We are thinking along the same lines, right now, Janna. Except that you read and research what you’re doing, and I’m too lazy. I s’pose it’s horses for courses … whatever I mean by that!

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    • Thanks for the comment M.R. Fortunately for me (or is it unfortunately?), researching is very much in keeping with my personality type. I study up on everything that I can. Unfortunately (or is it fortunately?), there are far too many topics out there for me to learn about them all.

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  8. Hi Janna, just found your blog by following some links. Some great stuff here about writing I’m looking forward to reading. This post caught my eye though as it clicked with some of my own recent thinkings. I’d shied away from blogging about too much non-related writing stuff as I didn’t think that’s what people wanted to read. But I’ve quickly realised that the people I engage with most online are those I have many things in common with, not just writing. I can make comments about the craft, but they quickly get swallowed up. When I do comment I want to engage. I want to share opinions and ideas and get challenged and get encouraged in equal measure. And if I’m looking for that then surely that’s what I want with the people who hang around my own blog! So I’ve started injecting a bit more of me into my posts. I’m not going to suddenly start blogging about the traffic on the way to work and the leak I have in the shed (as exciting as they are), but writing is so much a part of who I am that it seems strange to leave the me bit out.

    When I get back from fixing the roof of my shed (had I mentioned it was leaking?) I’ll catch up on your blog posts. Keep the thinking going as much as the writing.

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    • Hi Mobewan, thanks for the comment. Yes, I think injecting more of oneself into one’s blogging is the way to go, for it shows us to be well-rounded and allows non-writers a way to relate to us. According to Kristen Lamb, this is how readers of our blog come to think of us as a friend, and develop a vested in our writing success, even if they’re typically not fans of our genre of choice, or fans of books at all.

      Branching out with ones blog topics can also be used to show non-writers how we writers think, through taking something mundane like repairing the leak in the shed and demonstrating all the writing-related lessons that can be taken from it.

      Good luck with those roof repairs, by the way. 🙂

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