Note from Jane: Today’s guest post is by publisher and author L.L. Barkat (@llbarkat). She’s always been a most welcome guest here, and I’m delighted to have her back after her break from blogging.
I promise it wasn’t a stunt. Since it’s been more than five years, I’m thinking you’ll give me that.
See, in late 2012, I said goodbye to blogging. I even wrote about it in a bold way here at Jane’s place. But, just this week, I started blogging again.
To the outside eye, this makes no sense.
After all, I’m still that “experienced writer” I advised should leave the blogging world. What’s changed?
For one, blogging itself.
During what I like to call The Golden Age of Blogging, reciprocity was currency. If you were going to blog (unless you’d built your audience during blogging’s Bronze Age and had the luxury of an already-built readership), you needed to engage in the marketplace of bloggers. The currency? Reciprocity.
Reciprocity operated on several levels. You had to read other bloggers. You had to get their buttons (and figure out how to get those buttons into your darn sidebar). You had to comment on their posts. At first, this wasn’t hard, because you were having fun (I know I was). But as the years went on, and your blog circle grew larger and larger and larger, suddenly you were no longer a writer but almost a kind of business owner (whether or not you knew it)—engaged in the constant exchange and glued to the screen as you tried to adapt to market conditions.
For experienced writers, I recommended walking away. For newbie writers, I suggested taking an approach that emphasized the chance to find expression, cultivate discipline, and gain experience—moving their social interactions to social media instead of their blogs, to relieve some of the burden of reciprocity.
As I come back to blogging, I come knowing The Golden Age has passed. Reciprocity is no longer key, or it doesn’t need to be. Social media, which once felt like the new play place, has now become mired in similar reciprocity issues, not to mention the feeling that you’re being accosted and bombarded.
Sometimes going back is going forward—especially if you refashion the old, sloughing off what became untenable. This is why I’m going back to blogging. While every writer won’t find my reasons of interest, plenty of writers might want to explore their possibility.
So here are five “why blog” reasons I’m excited about right now.
1. The Introvert’s Advantage
I am a very, very outgoing person. The kind you sometimes question the wisdom of (like when I recently met Neil Gaiman and arranged a shoe photo incident on the spot).
Because I am very outgoing, I always assumed (wrongly) I was an extrovert.
Without going into the details, let’s just say that years of blogging, followed by years of business promoting, left me incredibly burned out. For the first time in my life, I contemplated not getting out of bed in the morning. For months on end, I dreaded facing the day’s tasks. All I wanted was to be taken care of, except that that was not going to happen. Like most everyone else in life, I have a lot of responsibilities, and I do not have a butler like Bruce Wayne does, and I wasn’t about to let my writing die or my business die, just because I couldn’t face each new day. What to do?
It has taken about a year-and-a-half to figure out the answer to that question. And I still haven’t worked out all the details. But this has been key: I realized I must find a way to run my private life, my writing life, and my business life as an introvert.
The new blog world offers just that advantage. My blog does not have comments enabled. It does not have pictures on every page. It does not even have prominent promotion elements (not even a free newsletter signup). In short, it is a peaceful place for me and for my readers. And this is in line with the times. People are tired of online life, but they still want to read good writing and find ideas that help them live and love and laugh—in their private lives, their writing lives, and their businesses.
If I want to know “how the blog is doing” on various levels, I can measure that with Google Analytics, rather than attending to the number of comments or social media shares. This is introvert heaven. I can explore what I need to explore when I need to explore it, on my own terms. I can breathe again, letting background technology do the heavy lifting.
2. A Hybrid Opportunity
With the new blog, in one simple place I can feature the current nature of my professional life, offer readers a quick guide as to where to find my writing and my books, and I can just write. While it’s possible to functionally do this at an author website as well, I wanted that introvert’s peace I mentioned above. I also wanted a very specific voice. And this is built into the URL and name of the blog itself: llbwritesto.me.
This feels like the best of both worlds. Understated brochure and blog, both—a hybrid opportunity.
3. A Public Sandbox
I’m a writer and a business owner with a fairly large audience. People have a lot of questions about how I got where I am and where I’m going next (not because I’m that intriguing, but because they are eager to learn how to do the same, from someone who cares about their success).
It’s important to me to be able to share the complexity of my writing and business life, and to work that out in front of people, on an ongoing basis, without having to engage in a high level of personal correspondence or social media activity (refer, again, to the introvert issue, but this is also a concern for most people with a fairly large audience and active business).
Enter the blog.
Here, unlike other places I write for (Edutopia just isn’t the place for this!), I can discuss what I’m dreaming of, how it connects to the past, and the possible ways it might be worked out in the future. I can think out loud.
4. Shaping Society by Promoting Great Ideas
This winter, as part of my effort to figure out how to stop dreading the work of a writing and business life that I actually love, I majorly switched gears for a full month. I apologized deeply to two writers whose books were slated to be published, and I put their works aside until the New Year.
In gear-switched mode, I wrote my very first fairy tale and worked with an incredibly accomplished artist, to create The Golden Dress (forthcoming in May). The story surprised me. I’d written it for children, but it seemed to serve dual duty for adults who’ve not yet learned to turn a life of self-focus into a life of generosity.
The Golden Dress has given me a way forward, in so many ways, one of which is choosing to shape society by promoting the great ideas of others on the blog. My plan is to do this by listening (specifically to great podcasts), then by engaging with the ideas of the podcasters over time. The first project is an exploration of the concept of Energy from at least 30 angles—a project I’m undertaking because I’m so impressed with the vision of Joshua Spodek.
5. Blogging as a Playground
Somewhere around the middle of my burnout, I was taking a walk by myself, and I said aloud to the air, “I just want to put poets on sticks.” (If that sounds odd to you, I assure you, it’s just a cut-n-color endeavor that’s part of Take Your Poet to Work Day.)
In other words, I was exhausted from the serious demands of my business. And I wished for the key that’s been the hallmark of almost every great thing that’s ever happened through our organization: whimsy, laughter, joy, fun.
The new blog is my writing version of “putting poets on sticks.” The voice is casual. The topics are variable. The tone is quietly humorous. It’s a place to play. And, at least to this publisher, the writers who know how to play are the ones whose work tends to be most vital.
I can’t promise I won’t be here at Jane’s in another five years, quitting blogging again, for who knows what reasons.
I also can’t promise you’ll find blogging to be the exciting opportunity I find it to be.
But if you’re looking for a different way to approach your writing life or even a current blog, I suggest you give “the new blogging” a try—from sandbox, to golden dress, to playground.
L.L. Barkat has served as a books, parenting, and education contributor at The Huffington Post blog; is a freelance writer for Edutopia; and is the author of six books for grown-ups. She’s also the author of a magical fairy tale, The Golden Dress, and the beautiful A Is for Azure: The Alphabet in Colors. Her poetry has appeared at VQR, The Best American Poetry, and on NPR.