I came to writing through fiction. I read marvelous stories and wanted the power to shape the direction the story would go. I wanted to tell my own stories. So I began writing. The birth of my children diverted my creative energies for a time, but when I picked up writing again it was with the intent to write fiction. I sought out communities of fiction writers and made myself a comfortable little space there.
But my road to fiction has not been smooth. Time and again I found myself putting down writing to take care of things which were a higher priority for me. So I put away my stories, knowing they would wait. What I did not put away was my blog. Once I began it in 2004 it has been a constant. I kept it even during the year when I was deliberately “putting writing on hold.” In hindsight I find it fascinating to see how I did not count blogging as writing.
In my fiction writing communities, blogging is perceived as an interruption. It is discussed as valuable and necessary and often enjoyable, but ultimately a distraction from the production of fiction. I’ve read conversational threads where writers caution each other about how blogging first can use time and creativity which is not then available for fiction. This is a valid concern. Anything which leads astray from the goal is a distraction. I’ve also read discussions about practicing the craft of writing where words written in blogs were not considered real practice. I read that discussion during the year when I had put fiction away and it made me sad. I wanted my blog words to be helping me so that when I came back to fiction I would be better at it.
It was something of a revelation to me that my blogging could be an end and an art in itself. I think it was Howard who said it to me first. He told me that my real writing skill was showing in my blog entries, which he loved, not in my fiction, which he thought was kind of nice. I was not happy to hear it. I had a sinking feeling that I might be the antithesis of C.S. Lewis who wanted to be known for his non fiction, but who is most famous for the fanciful Narnia books. I wrestled with that. I pondered. It was hard for me to feel valid as a writer when most of what I was writing was tangential to what my writer friends were pursuing.
Over time my brain creaked open to accept the idea that what I write in my blog has real value. What I wrote was not a distraction for me, it was a goal. Or at least it could be. This was when I began to look at creative nonfiction and personal essays. I found authors whose words I loved. I absorbed and practiced emulating the elements of writing which I admired. I dreamed of my own book of essays. I began to believe that this nonfiction work was worthy. When other people echoed what Howard told me, I started to believe it, and thought perhaps it was a good thing.
The discovery of blogging as a valid writing pursuit in no way diminishes my love of fiction. I still have stories that are waiting for me to tell them. I can say things in fiction more powerfully than I can in my blog. But I can say things in my blog more powerfully than I can in fiction. It really depends upon which things I am trying to say. My inner acceptance of blogging multiplies my options. Unfortunately it does not multiply my time and energy. But in the next 30+ years of my life, I’ll surely make time for both.
This was my frame of mind when I attended the AML annual meeting. While there, I got to listen to presentations and participate in discussions with people who believe that the blog is an art form in itself. Through their eyes I was able to see the value of the daily nature of blogs; how each entry is anchored by the time when it was written; how blogs build context and meaning through successive entries. It is almost like writing as a performance art. Various performances may be repetitive, but each has its own nuance. This was a fascinating way to thing about blogging, to re-view my own writing. I made one step more in valuing my nonfiction writing. Now I can see how my blog has value for what it is, independent of whether or not I can pull essays from it for publication.
I always knew my blog was important to me. I always knew it was a way for me to share thoughts and for others to respond. I knew it had value. But I love having new words to explain why. I love having language to explain the beauty I see, not just in my own blog, but in the many blogs that I have the opportunity to read. Blogs are folk art. Anyone can create one and they are learned from people nearby. Blogs are shaped by the creator and are wildly divergent from each other in purpose and in presentation. The blogs which interest me most are the ones that are created for personal fulfillment, as folk art is. (Sorry, these last two paragraphs are the humanities major in me going squee over discovering this new form for human expression, one in which I have been participating for years without ever seeing it as a form.)
In the end all this self realization and analysis does not change much. I am like a bumble bee who has taken a course on physics and turbulence. There is a risk that too much knowledge will interfere with what I want to do. It is time to stop thinking about it and just flap my wings. Flapping will carry me a lot farther than analysis. I will continue writing as I began. I will work on the project which feels right to me at the time, regardless of whether I can form a coherent explanation as to why. This is how I arrived at a place which I love and which I did not know existed before I was standing in the middle of it.