Why do I want to blog a novel and/or a collection of poems? Because I can. Because it provides a necessary creative outlet for me. Because the blog provides a space for meaningful experimentation in both process and craft. Because the world is full of fiction and poetry blogs, and mine might as well be among them.
My relationship with blogs has evolved a great deal in the past few years. I’ve broken up with more blogs than most people ever ask out on the first date. At first, I did with blogs what I have also first done with Twitter. I posted random thoughts. I don’t believe anyone does that and stays with blogging for long. You have to blog with a purpose for it to stick.
I found my found my first real purpose for blogging in discussing teaching ideas with other literature and composition instructors. That was great fun while it lasted. But a large part of the fun was in the social aspect of it, and even academic social lives have moved to Facebook now. Idea sharing has moved to Twitter. It turns out you can say a lot in 140 characters. It also turns out most of us never really had that much to say. Twitter is the perfect place post a link and a snide remark and move on with your life.
And still I yearn for the blog. What can I say? I like to be verbose.
Thus I have floundered for a new purpose. I have searched for projects for my blogs. I have applied for grants that have enslaved colleagues to blog projects. But I am greedy. I want more, more, always more.
Then somewhere in all of that it finally occurred to me that the Ph.D. that got me the job that I’ve spent all of this time yammering about online is actually in Creative Writing, not in Composition. Poetics, to be more precise, whatever the heck that is.
And what have I done with this degree? Nothing. I’ve spent my life teaching composition. I read poetry in secret the way some people smoke in secret. Sometimes I write poetry. Sometimes I write fiction.
The bad news is I don’t have the time to devote to writing I need or desire. The good news is I write anyway. The other good news is I can write whatever I please because I’m not answering to anyone, and I have nothing to prove. I’m the only person at my job with a degree in poetry. When you exist as a universe of one, you can conquer it (or not) any old day you please.
The other bad news is that I don’t send my work out. I may have made a half-hearted attempt once every five years or so to send to one or two journals or contests. But I haven’t made a job of trying to publish. I already have a job that eats up all of my time. I hate thinking about trying to publish. Looking at the Poet’s Market makes me unhappy. I just want to write.
I’d say it doesn’t matter if no one reads what I write, but you’d see that for the lie that it is. The blog exists; therefore, the desire for audience does as well.
What doesn’t matter is how highbrow the audience is. I have nothing to prove. I’m not working my way up the academic ladder. I have a job where I will likely stay for many years. I don’t need publications to keep it. I can be an academic vagabond if I want.
And so I blog because I can, because I have nothing to lose.
I’m not even concerned that I might miss an opportunity for a “real” publication because of the blog.
(1) Blogs can be taken down as easily as they were put up.
(2) Why would anyone even care if poems were previously found online? They aren’t going to lose money because of that. They weren’t going to make money off selling poetry, and people are more likely to buy books of poetry if they can google the poet’s name to find out if they like the style. I know I am.
(3) I’m writing fiction for my own entertainment. I know myself well enough to know I’m not likely to even try to make it anything other than that.
(4) If I am going to ever work at self-promotion, the blog is as good a way to get there as any.
Besides all that, I’m learning from the blog. That really does mean something.
Breaking up a chapter of a novel into 500 word chunks to post on a blog is a whole different process that I would have ever encountered otherwise. It makes me pay attention in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise. It makes me question the necessity of entire paragraphs. It’s even heightened my awareness of the way others might understand the story.
So what if only one friend is reading it? It’s been good for me.
Blogging the novel creates some structure and design in my life that I wouldn’t otherwise have. It’s very difficult to arrive at that once you finish a graduate program in creative writing and go off somewhere to a job where you fall deeply and irrevocably outside any kind of community of academic writers.
When you have no one to answer to you don’t get up at 5 in the morning, not even to write a novel. The blog, if nothing else, keeps a record of how well you’ve answered to yourself. An immeasurably good quality if you ask me.
There is a stigma attached to the act of self-publishing that has probably held me back from blogging stories and poems as much as anything, but the hell with that. It doesn’t mean anything anymore. Not to me personally in my situation of having nothing to lose. And not to the world at large when everything is changing to a self-marketing, social-networking model.
What knows what will happen next? Maybe I’ll put together my own e-book at the end of the blog. It might be fun, and that’s why I went to Poet School in the first place…for the party in my mind.