A Writer's Struggles as a Blogger
blogging warrior spirit writing
I've been writing since I could write. I once spent an entire afternoon crafting a two-page essay on the life and habits of clown fish (only to have a computer crash destroy all my hard work. I cried. I was 7). I was very proud of that two-page essay. I would undertake to write long and involved stories, and in high school spent way too much time writing essays that were not assigned to explain my ideas to whomever might care to read them. When I started going through the struggles of teenage-dom, I kept a journal to chart my path to internal harmony, and found that writing, whether my own thoughts or fiction, was a sort of meditation for me, a necessary aspect of my mental well-being.
I started blogging because I wanted to have an outlet for my philosophical rants in college. I began by writing Facebook notes, but quickly decided I wanted to at least entertain the possibility that my ideas would be seen by people outside my circle of friends, so I created a blog called Blue and White, my two favorite colors.
Blue and White was my attempt to standardize my life philosophy, something I'd been trying to do since high school. The really cool thing was that a lot of people actually gave me feedback on what I was writing. I got a few comments from old friends (specifically David), and a lot of my college friends approached me on campus to discuss what I'd written. This aspect of interaction with my readers was what really got me hooked.
After a few months, maintaining Blue and White became a bit difficult. A few of my closest friends took offense that I would be so presumptuous to post my ideas in a public sphere, as if they were worthy of the consideration of others. This had been the whole reason I'd been reluctant to write publicly in the first place, so it reinforced an already persistent voice of doubt, and I stopped posting.
I wasn't until the summer of 2008 that I started blogging again. I spent two months in Jordan, and I decided it would be easier to keep interested parties updated on my doings with a blog rather than mass e-mails. The act of writing updates every few days felt really good to me as a writer. It was a habit I'd dropped since I stopped journaling in college. Even though only my family read my blog, it was still nice to know that there were people who thought my ideas were worth their valuable time. At this time, I was still using a pseudonym and felt obliged not to promote my writing, but people still seemed interested.
I Decide to Take Myself Seriously As a Writer
Warrior Spirit began the next year, during the second half of my senior year. Going along with my newfound dedication to actually pursue my passions that year, I decided to start "writing like I meant it", which for me meant, "writing for an audience." And so I started typing whatever I thought about, mostly my life in pursuit of personal excellence. The name Warrior Spirit came about pretty naturally when I thought about what I was trying to do with my life. Since the blog was to be about my journey out of college into 'adulthood', it seemed an appropriate name.
The hardest thing about blogging is that it is so public, and yet so difficult to be noticed. There you are, putting your ideas into the vast and ominous internet for all the world to see (literally), and still you only get one or two hits a month. You think it's almost free publicity, being out there on the web, so the tiny trickle of traffic is especially disheartening. I think it is harder than publishing a piece in a small paper and getting no responses, because you can always tell yourself that there aren't many people who read that paper anyway.
Blogging taught me about the responsibilities of being a writer. Sure, it is important to write for yourself, and because you love the craft and the story you're telling, but in order for people to care, your story must be coherent. As an online writer, the first thing I noticed was that more people read what I had to say if I published regularly. When the story I was telling became something ongoing and connected, it drew people in. If I let too much time lapse between posts, people drifted away, and they didn't just come right back when a new post went up. I'd abandoned them, so they abandoned me.
Beyond the lessons of writing regularly and pertinently, blogging has been a struggle in others ways. I have had to learn the ins and outs of blogging etiquette, how to promote myself without seeming desperate or pushy, how to improve my visibility, how to make what I write accessible and alluring (look at all the pretty pictures!). There is so much more to telling my story than just the telling of the story. I have had to learn how to reach out to people, both to offer my help when I can contribute, and how to ask for opportunities that would simply go un-offered otherwise. In order to do that, I have to trust that I know what I'm talking about. But the result has been that I've met a ton of really awesome people and become part of several amazing communities, both online and offline.
Most of all, blogging has taught me the importance of being honest in my writing. It is possible to hide behind a veil of formality when writing academically, and fiction writers intentionally create a narrator through which they tell their stories. But in both cases, you must still be able to write honestly. You have all made it very clear that the most interesting thing about my story is that it is my story, and that I need to own it.
The other thing I'm still getting a handle on is the idea that my success as a writer is very much tied to my readers. It is impossible for me to reach tons of people on my own. My readers need to find enough value in my writing that they want to share it with their friends. At the same time, I can't freak out about this and intentionally try to write 'viral' content (whatever that means) or you'd all see through it and tag me as inauthentic.
So, I am back where I started: writing because it is what I do naturally.