Diana Renn

Mysteries that Matter


I’ve had my blog up for three months now, so it feels like a good time to sit down and have our first quarterly review.

Me: Hi, Blog. Good to see you. Please, have a seat.
Blog: Thank you.
Me: So, Blog, I see you’ve acquired a few followers — that’s fantastic!
Blog: Thanks. I’m really grateful to have some loyal readers. With so many blogs competing for attention, who on earth has time to read one more thing? Especially yet another blog about writing and publishing? I’m honored. Really.
Me: Do you think you might acquire more readers if you commented on other people’s blogs?
Blog: I do comment on other blogs, but as far as I can tell, that hasn’t led people to follow mine. Anyway, when I comment on other blogs, it’s not to gain readers or followers, but to share a thought I have about someone else’s thoughtfully-written piece. That community engagement in the blogosphere, which I thought would be draining, has actually been quite fun.
Me: Let’s talk schedule, Blog. It seems you’re posting roughly two entries a week, but not on consistent days. And there are a couple weeks where you skipped out and only posted one thing. Oh, and last week? You linked to a guest blog post somewhere else. Technically, that’s moonlighting. You shouldn’t shirk you duties here and go blog elsewhere.
Blog: I have to be honest. Blogging is tough. I never realized how much work blogging can be. My hat’s off to those bloggers who post more often. And write other things. And have day jobs. I’m sorry about the link to a guest post last week. You’re right. Any guest posting I do will be on top of my regular posts, not a substitute. Won’t happen again.
Me: Promise?
Blog: Yep.
Me: Okay. What makes blogging so much work, or so time-consuming? Is it thinking of topics? Procrastination? Be honest.
Blog: I have a handy list of possible topics. Several pages worth. I think I have trouble writing concisely. And I’m an essayist at heart. It’s sometimes a challenge to write fewer than 250 words. If I get an idea, I like to follow it for awhile. I forget that people don’t necessarily want to read lengthy pieces on a computer screen. Especially if they’re following 50 other blogs.
Me: Is that something you think you can work on? Writing more concisely?
Blog: Sure. Maybe some of my longer entries can be broken up into two parts. Maybe I can save some of my meatier ideas for full-length essays and find a different forum for those. That way readers won’t get overwhelmed, or look at my long, long posts and freak out.
Me: Good ideas. Tell me, which topics have been most enjoyable for you to write about?
Blog: I’ve done three book reviews, and I really liked doing them. They took some time, but the process forced me to think more carefully about what I’d read. And I like the idea of introducing some writers to people who might not have heard of them. I have a whole new appreciation for what serious book bloggers do.
Me: Will you be doing more book reviews then?
Blog: I think I’ll strive for one a month. Only adult or nonfiction titles, though. I feel it’s a conflict of interest for a YA author to review YA titles. I’ll leave that to the YA review pros. But if I read something I feel strongly about in another genre, for another market — and I feel it could use a wider audience — I’ll review it.
Me:  Will you be blogging more about the publishing process as the novel gets closer to publication?
Blog: You know, I thought I’d say more about that journey, but I’ve discovered I’m kind of private about a lot of the details. I also can’t fathom why people would be interested in reading about how many words I cut today, or what scenes I rearranged. And I think there’s some magic to the book-making process that should be preserved for readers. Just my personal opinion and preference. But I look forward to sharing some more aspects of the process when I get closer to the date. Like a cover design, or a specific publication date. I’m sure I’ll be a bit more forthcoming when the heavy editing process is over.
Me: If blogging is time-consuming, and you don’t, let’s be honest, have hundreds of readers, what keeps you going?
Blog: I have perfectionist tendencies. Knowing I have to post roughly twice a week gets me past that. Blogging gives me a sense of accomplishment. Posting something, even a couple of paragraphs, is an accomplishment, when I could be doing so many other things, like organizing my stacks of paper, or cleaning up after my cat. Blogging keeps my writing skills sharp, and helps me keep working on that concise writing goal of mine. And finally, blogging gives me a feeling of control and immediate gratification. Publishing is a slow process, whether it’s an article or a novel. There are rounds of editing. There is a lot of waiting. When I feel impatient, I just post a blog entry and I feel I’ve gotten some words written and out into the world. It’s nice.
Me: That’s great to hear. So keep it up, and we’ll have another review in three months.
Blog: Looking forward to it. One question.
Me:  Yes?
Blog: Can I get a raise?
Me: Seriously? You just started.
Blog: Blogging’s also made me more assertive. I had to ask. I mean, what have I got to lose?
Me: Let me think about it. We’ll talk in three months.

Beginning a blog, something I’ve intended to do for years, now feels like arriving late at a party. Everyone’s already engaged in fascinating conversations, working the room, and I’m hovering by the cheese dip, clutching my plastic wine glass with both hands, wondering whether to stay or to bolt. Everyone seems to have fancier party clothes — custom-designed templates, frilly CSS, lush backgrounds dripping with multimedia accessories, while I’m wearing stuff from TJ Maxx — the sale rack at TJ Maxx.

Entering the blogosphere in late 2010 can also feel daunting simply because all the best blog names are already taken. I had about ten excellent titles in mind, but when I saw the table with the good name tags here, they were gone.

But there, in the corner of the table — there’s an untaken title. Writing the Distance. As someone who loves to travel and to write about travel, it feels appropriate. I also try to “go the distance” in my writing, to cross the finish lines I envision for myself and accomplish my writing goals. My biggest finish line lately, a bright yellow line not too far off in the distance, is the publication of my novel, a life dream of mine. I hope you’ll come along for the ride on my journey to publication in 2012. But I have smaller finish lines I race toward as well, every day. Some days it’s completing a chapter on my new novel. Or a scene. A paragraph. A page. Or it’s submitting an essay to a magazine and getting shorter material in circulation again. The point is, I decided a while ago to be a writer who gets things done, rather than just talking about writing or lamenting my limited time. It’s a choice I have to make daily, as so many other things clamor for attention. I hope this blog will attract other writers — and artists in other media — so that we can share tips and motivate each other along the way.

On this blog, I’ll be writing about books that have inspired me or that have fueled my creative process. I’ll also be interviewing and profiling writers and artists in different media, as I believe writers can learn a great deal from people who aren’t primarily wordsmiths. There will be a bit of travel writing; stay tuned for dispatches from Norway in Summer 2011. And there will be some blogging about taiko drumming, a newfound passion of mine. (Don’t know what taiko is? Come back. I’ll explain it). Now and then I’ll throw out some writing prompts or some questions, and I hope readers will feel comfortable sharing their responses and coming into a conversation. (OK, I used to teach, and I guess the urge to motivate class participation never really goes away!)

I’ve added links here to pages and blogs that I find useful and/or inspiring. I’ll be adding more to these lists and updating them as I go, though will try to keep them to a manageable size. I don’t know about you, but I tend to feel overwhelmed by long lists of links — and by the amount of information on some web sites in general — and I hope to minimize the need to scroll endlessly up and down. (Besides, that endless scrolling, and diving into other websites, ultimately takes us away from our own work, right?)

So thanks for keeping me company over here at the cheese dip. I think we can move on to crackers and crudites and make our way into this party. And your name is . . . ?