On her blog this week, Cat Treadwell described blogging as a sacrifice, giving time and work freely for the sake of making information available. It had never occurred to me to think of what I do here as ‘sacrifice’. I do it because I want to, and it conveys a number of benefits. I feel almost morally obliged to point this out now. I also think it might be useful to explain what I get out of this and why.
I’m a professional writer and editor. Now, the editing side comes in steadily, but writing requires not only inspiration, but research, discipline, development of ideas and themes. That doesn’t happen by magic. So, when I’m exploring a topic, I use the blog to hammer out ideas as I go – a useful thinking space for me. It is important that I write every day – part of the discipline, and part of my sense of self. If I am not writing every day, I find it harder to relate to myself as a writer. In periods of creative block, the blogging has been a sanity saver. Finding a topic, and getting something intelligible out in a blog sized piece, is a technical process, and a good writing work-out. That helps hone my skills.
Putting thoughts into a public space like this enables me to test them and get feedback. This protects me from the risk of slowly vanishing up my own posterior, or getting delusions of grandeur. If I’ve not thought a thing through properly, if I’ve missed something, or the logic is poor, this is when I find out, which helps me a lot. If I’ve not explained well, someone tends to say. And further questions take me deeper into ideas – again, all win for me here. I am absolutely blessed in you folk who stop by to comment regularly. The richness of ideas that others post in response to my words is a daily source of delight, encouragement and insight. I float an idea out, and all kinds of new, inspiring and sometimes surprising things float back to me, and this is wonderful, and thank you. So I am nourished by that process.
Every now and then I write something that resonates with someone else, or that proves helpful, and I get feedback to that effect too. This is of course a source of joy and ego boost, but it also tells me I’m doing something useful. This matters a lot to me. I did not set out as a writer with the main aim being wealth and fame. I’d be writing much more conventionally were that the case. I want to put something good in the world. I want to inspire others. So the writing has to do something, it has to be more than amusing me. If I know I’m doing that, it keeps me on task. Also, I watch to see what feedback I get on my work, what people like, or respond to, what directions are the most response-inducing, and I learn from that, so it all feeds the process.
I enjoy the exchange, responding to other people’s blogs, to things in the news, hearing ideas from whole new perspectives. Writing can be a lonely business, but blogging is all about interaction, and that is good for the soul. I don’t feel like I’m one special person alone poised to change the world, I’m one person who is part of a vast discussion, one thread in a great tapestry of tradition. I know myself to be part of something, but I have a sense of perspective that I think does me a lot of good. Lonely authors in high towers can, by the looks of some of the biographies I’ve read, get a very inflated sense of their own usefulness in the world.
Last but by no means least, I write books. The blog may be free, the books aren’t. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that writing a book does not lead to instant success. Selling a book is a job in itself. There are only so many times you can intrude into a space and say ‘hey, everyone, buy my book, it’s great and you’ll love it’ before someone takes you outside and slaps you about the face with unwashed socks. And rightly so. That kind of thing is dull. Blogging makes me a better writer, and I do it in part to lure people towards the stuff that means I get to eat. I’m not going to pretend otherwise, and occasionally I do post ‘here is a thing you can buy’ blogs.
So as sacrifices go, this isn’t one. I assume if you’re here it’s because you get something out of what I post, and that’s as it should be. I don’t want anyone coming round to witness the martyrdom and mop up the blood. If I get a day when I can’t be hassed to post, or I’ve had a better offer, I go do that instead. In the meantime, have I mentioned that there are books you can buy? (so much for a stealth marketing strategy!)
I also realise that how other people understand sacrifice is very different from my perception. I have work to do, on that subject.