There’s a folder on my hard drive marked ‘incomplete’. It’s not a folder of design projects, it’s a folder of incomplete, half-baked ideas and blog posts for dearrumi.com. It’s a reminder to me, every time I sit down to write a post, that forcing it is not an option for my writing. That I’m not so good at this social media and marketing thing for a reason.
My ‘incomplete’ folder is a jumble of strange thoughts. There’s a post about ‘Middle Manager Syndrome’ (people who aren’t the boss, but have a significant number of people who answer to them on a daily basis. They’re basically pummelled from both sides.) that seems to have no particular point except to vent. I wrote it in the middle of a design project that gave me all kinds of heartache. I spent several weeks working on a design for a manager who refused to present the project to her boss until she was satisfied with it. As it turned out, the boss hated everything. In Pakistan, there is no concept of paying someone for hours worked — you get paid when the final project has been delivered. And if I had, at that point, told them that I would charge them for redoing the whole thing, I would most likely have been paid nothing at all.
I tried writing about the craziness of social media and the negative feedback that authors were previously shielded from (I called it ‘The Good, the Bad and the Vicious’). That ended up being more of a whine than a blog post. And possibly headed for online author suicide. Yes, it’s a brave new world and authors no longer create their fantasies in ivory towers. They’re now down in the trenches, walking among their readers, sometimes showered with rose petals, and at others, pelted with rotten tomatoes. We all know this already and there’s a good chance that a post on such a volatile subject will leave me sandwiched between two opposing sides that will hate me equally.
Then there is a post titled ‘The Insecurities of a Newbie Author’—it has a title and little else. I was writing a post called ‘The Dreaming Tree is Dead’, referencing Dave Matthews excellent song and the dearth of new ideas in our fictional worlds. Has everything already been written about? I don’t have answers to that, and the post still sits, unsure, incomplete, in the folder of the same name.
For all these posts, I struggled to come across as knowledgeable, informative, entertaining—all things that I’ve been told my blog must be. If I want followers, readers, fans and stalkers, I have to write tips about writing, comment on popular topics, choose catchy headlines, and maintain a regular flow of content.
Now, I’ve never kept a diary. I was never interested in recording my feelings or daily events or just ranting about my life. The idea of a personal journal that the whole world could potentially read, therefore, just doesn’t appeal to me. A blog that offered substantial value to its readers was definitely my goal.
No Expert in my Field
It just didn’t work out that way.
I’m enjoying writing, but I can’t sustain a blog about writing—I’m new to the field and there are numerous blogs out there that have all the good writing advice I could imagine and more. I could write about design, but it doesn’t attract an audience that would possibly buy my romance novella. The same goes for politics, current events or news. I suppose, as a woman, I could always write about women’s issues, but that niche has also been done to death.
So where do I go from here?
This question was particularly essential when I tried to submit my blog to a community site. I was asked to list dearrumi.com under a specific category and I just couldn’t classify it. The blog started off as a way to promote Butterfly Season, so I have some posts about writing the book. But there were things around me that inspired me to write, like the posts on Karachi and Peshawar, the drama of Pakistani politics, my favourite books, the aliens that are taking over the Internet…
I’m all over the place; I write about everything and anything.
Don’t Fit In
Every Sunday, I sit down to write a post for the #MondayBlogs hashtag and I start writing with confidence and assurance. When I’ve run out of zest, I switch to Facebook for a break, maybe even a dollop of inspiration. All I get from there, however, is an unending stream of quizzes: what kind of horse are you? What color is your aura? What shoes define your personality? The popularity of these polls makes me wonder at a global obsession with defining oneself according to an arbitrary set of standards. Must we be a part of a whole? Could we not be a whole by ourselves?
Let me move on from being a Pakistani, a woman, a writer, a designer, a forty-year-old wife and not-mother. Let me move on from the Facebook quizzes that tell me how dark my personality is, what famous literary character I am, what Disney princess I should have been (what if I want to be both Belle and Rapunzel? Why do I have to be just one?). I don’t want to be a solid, a square peg, a round hole or a black, white, brown or taupe sheep. I want to be liquid. A fluid being who grows and seeps through crevices, touches on different people, different places as it moves. I want to absorb some things and reflect others. I don’t want to ‘fit in’.
I am a romance writer working on an epic fantasy. I am a woman who doesn’t own fifty pairs of shoes (about six pairs, not including slippers) or mascara. I am a graphic designer whose favourite projects has been indexing books for a sports publisher (books about Everton, which drives my husband, an Arsenal fan, a little crazy. It’s made worse by the titles that I proudly display on my bookshelf, almost all of them about Everton FC). I’m a friend who doesn’t call you, a sister who will never abandon you and a wife who will always support you. And I am a blog owner who writes what she wants on her blog, based on whim and whimsy, not timetables and readers.
Un-classify me, please.
Number one tip for a writer of novels – don’t make your blog about writing. That way, your only ‘market’ for it is other writers. If you want to attract readers to your blog, make it about anything but!!!! Write posts about things you WANT to write about, it’s the only way to make it interesting. That’s what I do – I don’t have a schedule and write a post only when something pops into my head that makes me want to put fingers to keys. Write about anything and everything. It hasn’t hurt my blog – I get hundreds of views a week 🙂
I know! I’m one of your hundreds of views. I love your blog posts, Terry. And this is great advice. Thank you.
I think my problem is that I spend too much time reading listicles – ten ways to bring in the audiences, 15 headlines that work, etc. etc. I can’t seem to do those, so I guess I have to learn patience. I also know that I need to write more consistently. I leave it too long between blog posts.
Lovely post – I so enjoy your writing – it’s always a pleasure to read.
I’ve experienced some of what you talk about (started the blog to promote the book, gave writing advice, put up some short stories, etc., etc.) but I reduced to a monthly post as I developed migraines from sitting in front of the computer screen for long periods.
I agree content is tricky; online marketing and social media (cold calling on an invisible audience) more so, especially when time and resources are limited.
Currently I prioritize my fiction writing – the reason for blogging in the first place – and I’m making steady progress. I find satisfying the creative urge renews my enthusiasm, reinforcing the reason to write.
I wish you good luck – and look forward to reading any conclusions you discover!
Thank you Teagan. I find that if I feel I have to do something, then my enthusiasm for it wanes considerably. I’m better when my mind thinks I want to do it.
Pleased to see I’m not the only one with a folder full of uncompleted blog posts. Nevertheless, I was a little surprised you’re so unconfident about your blog as it always reads as interesting to me – and surely the focus that brings it all together is YOU. While I’m sure Terry’s right about nailing your marketing strategy through your blog, I’d say write what you want, as often as you want and see what happens!
I think it’s the marketing aspect of it all that drives me to question everything. But I have come to the conclusion that I write better when I’m not trying to market myself.