But, here’s the very big, bloggy deal—one you might not expect.
I’ve never met Tori. At least not in person. Yet she’s one of my best buddies in the blogosphere. And to top it off, Tori has done something no one else has, as far as we can tell. She has had readers of “The Ramblings“ plan her wedding—down to the tiniest of bloggy details—selecting everything from bridesmaid’s dresses to center pieces, invitations to bridal bouquets.
This upcoming trip has inevitably got me thinking about the benefits blogging has brought to me—big benefits—till-death-do-us-part benefits. So, below are some of the reasons for joining what we could call the “Very Bloggy Blast”—reasons why, if you haven’t already, you should begin a blog today. Heck, you should have started one ages ago.
Though I’m not a humor blogger, by any means, reading them rarely fails to make me laugh, as my own blogging efforts have put me in touch with some of best humorists I’ve ever (not) met—the soon-to-marry Tori being foremost among them. It’s even given me the chance to make fun of myself, to make light of some of my personal challenges, including the opportunity to write a Freshly Pressed post in which I moan about my miserably failed attempts to study French—and another about our borderline-lame efforts to move our dog with us to Vietnam, one that outlines all the lessons we’ve failed to learn in the process of “trafficking” our precious pooch.
Blogging has also afforded me the opportunity to guest post, even once for a humor blog. I may not be over-the-top, pee-your-pants funny myself—but I can ride the hilarious, wise-cracking shirt tales of folks like my friend Mark, who at “The Idiot Speaketh,” catalogues his innumerable misadventures in idiocy. Filling in for bloggers like Mark has helped make me feel less like a comic failure, and if not all the way, at least a little closer to something that remotely resembles funny.
2. Advocacy Opportunities
I began blogging when my partner Sara (check out her photo blog here) and I moved to Vietnam and then to post-earthquake Haiti. Sara is an international aid worker who specializes in disaster response, and blogging gave me a platform to address issues such as the hunger and poverty faced by the Haitian people and the housing needs of folks in Vietnam. (Check out Sara’s photo blog here.)
It’s also given me the chance to know other bloggers who use their sites for advocacy purposes. I think about folks like Betty who blogs on behalf of NGO Heifer International and Beth Ann, who each month donates, to a different non-profit, 50 cents for each comment she receives.
For women like these, blogging is about acting on behalf of others—not just talking about it, but doing it, making a difference, being the change they want to see in the world.
Writing isn’t easy. Sometimes we feel stuck. Sometimes the words won’t come, and so we push away our pen and paper. We abandon our keyboards. We procrastinate.
Blogging doesn’t allow me to do that. I’ve set up a schedule for posting. I have nearly 300 followers who expect me to post on Monday and Thursday mornings (EST). They do me the honor of reading what I write. I owe them the respect of posting when they anticipate I will.
4. Body of Work/Portfolio
Besides giving me a schedule for writing and expectations I want to fulfill, blogging has also afforded me the opportunity to create a body of work—to assemble a selection of writing samples I can use to sell myself as a writer to potential publishers—or simply a collection of essays and stories I can be proud of—ones I can share with friends and family.
For example, last spring I wrote about my ongoing struggle with bipolar disorder, a piece that was picked up by my local newspaper, the Lexington Herald Leader, and published as an op-ed for Mental Health Awareness Month last May. If I weren’t blogging, I might not have made myself sit at my laptop and made complete that particular, painful-to-write essay.
At the same time, blogging also gives me valuable information. It gives me concrete detail about my performance as a writer (artist, photographer)—how many subscribers I have, how many folks read each post.
Most bloggers I know are, in fact, addicted to stats—checking them multiple times a day—excited by each new comment, each potential reader.
This statistical information not only satisfies our need for instant feedback regarding our performance, it also allows us to gather data we can share with potential publishers about our ability to attract an audience and maintain their interest over a period of time. In an age where it becomes harder and harder to get a book contact with a mainstream publisher, blogging data provides concrete evidence that can be included in book proposals to prove your ability to sell an idea to a potential audience. And if you plan to self-publish, blogging provides a platform for promoting your book and a ready-made group of readers who might buy that work.
The writing process is an inevitably solitary one, but most writers create in order to communicate with others. Before the blogosphere, it was much more difficult to acquire readers and gather feedback about our work.
But blogging allows us almost immediate feedback on what we write—often responses from a wide range of potential readers. People follow my blog from as far away as India and South Africa, Vietnam and Pakistan, and WordPress provides bloggers with very concrete evidence of this. For example, the map my stats provide literally gives me a global perspective on the significance of what I write.
And comments—comments are a blogger’s pride and joy—the gift that keeps on giving. They make what we do truly meaningful. Most of my posts now accumulate as many as 60 to 90 comments each—a huge number of very immediate and caring responses to what I’ve shared. These comments make me cry. They make me laugh. They make me keep on writing.
7. Creative Growth
But even more importantly, the fact that I continue writing, continue producing—paragraph after paragraph, post after post—has allowed me to improve as a writer. To grow. To mature. To attain new skills.
There are a huge number of gifted bloggers, and reading them has allowed me to imitate what they do best—and even to get feedback about what works in a particular post and what is less successful. This is invaluable information.
It used to be that writers and artists gathered at literal locations like the Algonquin Round Table during the 1920s. Today bloggers gather at a place like Freshly Pressed—present the best of their work and hone their craft. I may have felt honored to have my work featured on Freshly Pressed, but more importantly, a forum like Freshly Pressed offers examples of excellent work that other bloggers can strive to emulate. It demonstrates what works. It shows us how to be better writers, stronger photographers, more daring and accomplished artists.
But the blogosphere also provides the support we need to grow as writers and artists. I, for example, have been working on a memoir, sharing parts of what I’ve written on my blog along the way. Fellow bloggers have been enormously supportive of me in this process—offering innumerable suggestions for how I might get beyond my blocks or tackle a particular passage in an another way. I’ve received numerous emails offering encouragement and have even had one blogger, Renee at “Life in the Boomer Lane,” call me on the phone so she could give me more extended feedback and offer suggestions about agents and book proposals.
I have one blogging friend whose partner died unexpectedly several months ago. She has received much emotional support and caring from her readers in the wake of this enormous and painful loss. I’ve been honored to offer some of that support, myself, and to send virtual hugs to a fellow blogger overcoming such a huge life crisis.
Sometimes, indeed, support in the blogosphere comes from an entire community of writers. For me and many others this has been the case. What has meant so much for me, at least, is not just receiving one email of support but many, not just a single empathic comment but 70 of them—and sometimes many more than that.
At the same time, community means much more than simply support during times of need. It means fellowship in both good times and bad. It not only allows us to grow; it allows us to thrive.
Blogging offers a demographic of similar souls—the ability to connect with like-minded individuals who share our passions and concerns—our greatest hopes, our deepest dreams.
Because writing is often done in isolation, the ability to connect with others who do similar work, who wrestle with words alone all day—the opportunity to reach out in both posts and comments—breaks down barriers and allows us to expand as artists. It allows us to know that we are part of something bigger than simply me, alone in this house, on this particular street, in this singular country. It allows us to hope for more—to dream bigger dreams—to think on a global and even universal scale. It helps us see the bigger picture and paint a part of it, as well.
But as evidenced by our upcoming trip to Nashville this weekend, the process of posting and commenting affords us the chance to develop special friendships with specific individuals who are a part of our larger blogging community.
I have two blogging buddies, Tara of “Tara Piece of Paper,” and Mark of “Mark my Words,” who met via the blogosphere while living in different parts of the US. They are now a couple. In fact, Tara is moving this coming weekend from Nevada to Oregon so she and Mark can live together. Blogging has brought these members of our WordPress family the deepest kind of friendship–the ultimate in very bloggy love.
This past summer Sara and I had the pleasure of meeting and eating with two very special writers who occupy important spots in my blogroll—spending an afternoon with Lisa from “Woman Wielding Words,” and another with Emily of “Hey from Japan,” who came to Kentucky all the way from Tokyo, mostly to visit her sister, but also to spend an afternoon with us.
I was honored to take these friendships beyond the blogosphere—to bring these writers and their families into the everyday world I so often write about— into the real world where we eat ice cream cones with new-found friends.
So, Sara and I are preparing to do just that all over again—in this case, taking a road trip and making yet another writer from my blogroll into a real-life, about-to-be-married friend.
And, to be honest, we can barely wait. It’s gonna be a hard-core, utterly fantastic, very bloggy, Nashville bash!
(Love and hugs to Tori and Tom–)
Have writers from your blogroll become friends?
How have you benefited from blogging?
To read the follow-up post that covers the wedding itself, click here.
Note: If you are new to my blog, you might like to know that I am writing a memoir and blogging about growing up in an organized crime family. (The post you’ve just read is not part of that series.) For a list of my memoir posts, click here. If you are interested in reading any of my protected posts, please email me at email@example.com or let me know in the comments below, and I will gladly share the password with you.