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Am I a Pair of Running Shoes?

September 26, 2010

Why Blog? Why push myself out among the millions already clamouring to be heard?

In a recent post, Justine Musk explains why you should blog to build your writing career even if you don’t think you need to. As creative entrepreneurs, writers should see the effort of a blog as start-up capital, an investment in the future in which you create your brand and build a following. “No matter the size of your advance, or the identity of your publisher, you’re going to have to market your work and yourself.”

Yes, we know. Digital has mugged the publishing world. Everything is changing. But is that why I’m blogging – to brand myself? In competition with all the other self-promoters? That gives me pause – I’m reluctant to use a tool I’ve always been skeptical about. The huge gap between the price of a pair of running shoes and the cost of making them is due to marketing, that is, the expense of convincing the customer to choose one brand over an almost identical alternative. What would our world be like if this creative energy was used for more productive purposes?

Yes, I know. Given how the world works, the alternative is to live in a cave and not sell any books. And, sure, books are different to shoes or margarine, but it’s still branding and I’m worried about what self-promotion does to us. Blog trawling, for instance. Poet Mark William Jackson, a blogging addict who went cold turkey but came back for one last post, the perils of blogging, says: “Blog trawlers maintain blogs of their own and comment [on others] in the hope of a return comment on their blog. This community is fine if it is what you are looking for – an extended social network – but if you are serious about writing, this community can drag you down into a quagmire of shallow praise and false hope.”

That’s my fear – that getting into marketing and tribe-building will turn me into an egotist who trawls blogs with an ulterior motive, or tries to recruit friends, like Amway reps do. Surely I have more noble reasons for blogging, and for commenting on others’ posts? In the Australian Author of August, James Bradley describes blogging as a new type of conversation (online here). It is the engagement and participation of other people in debates that has been the greatest joy for him, but he also loves the freedom to write what he wants, and the freedom of the form itself. His article describes the way blogging has changed him as a writer, of how he has learned to take risks, cede control of his writing and just be himself.

As well as marketing, Justine Musk provides other reasons for blogging, in particular developing and refining one’s voice. I’m hoping that’s happening for me.

‘Jeff’, one of those commenting on Jackson’s post says: “The thing about regularly tending a blog is that it does accustom you to writing for an audience — even if it’s an implied one … If … you want to convey an idea or an emotion to someone else, then you need to think about audiences — the process is, in other words, about something more than you. Blogging encourages that sense, since even if no-one much reads your blog, it’s always possible that someone will, and so you find yourself writing with readers in mind.”

That’s what I’m doing! Learning how to write for an audience. Thanks Jeff. Thanks Justine, I’m refining my voice. And thanks James, now I know I’m engaging in a new type of conversation. Not branding myself, not turning into a pair of running shoes.


One Comment leave one →
  1. October 4, 2010 11:38 am

    Love your image of ‘..not turning turning into a pair of running shoes’ lol brilliant! I can see from your blog that you;ve definitely found your own unique voice.

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