Traditional authorship has always been an awkward and frustrating pursuit, even for those who ultimately succeed in reaching their goals.
Envision submitting short stories, manuscripts, news write-ups and even editorials to countless magazines and publishers, getting almost no interest and even less detailed feedback.
Now compare this to the modern blogging route.
Today’s bloggers doesn’t need the support of publishers to attract audiences, nor do they need permission to get their work seen online. They’re largely independent.
This makes it so much easier to try blogging — but it doesn’t really make it any easier to master it.
Why? Because the barrier is low for everyone, and the internet is saturated with blogs of all kinds.
Just as with regular authors, if you want to get noticed, you need to do something special. What should that involve? Well, it helps a great deal to learn from some of the great authors. They might not have talked about blogging in particular, but their words are still relevant.
Let’s take a look at the lessons we can take from them:
- It’s a craft to work on
- You must bet on yourself
- Originality is fractional
- Creative fuel is essential
It’s a craft to work on
You may know of the late Terry Pratchett as a master of comedy fantasy, but what you might never have considered is how remarkably prolific he was. His hit Discworld series reached 41 entries by the time of his death in 2015, spanning just 32 years, and those books weren’t the only ones he worked on. So what did he have to say on the topic of writer’s block?
“There’s no such thing as writer’s block. It was invented by people in California who couldn’t write.”
What Pratchett understood was that the presentation of writing as an otherworldly art with energy that ebbs and flows is deeply flawed. When you’re struggling to get the words out, it isn’t that the muse has deserted you — it’s that you’re simply not good enough at writing. You need to know everything from how to tell a story to the fundamental rules of blog writing.
This might sound somewhat depressing, but it really isn’t, because it means that your fate is in your hands. Great bloggers produce content consistently through practice and dedication, not through innate talent, and you can do it too. You just need to get good enough.
You must bet on yourself
You can set up your blog, upload your posts, and simply wait for someone to take notice. You can do that, yes — but you shouldn’t. Hilary Mantel is an author with two Booker Prize wins under her belt, and she didn’t reach that position through being meek. Here’s her outlook:
“You write to impose yourself on the world, and you have to believe in your own ability when the world shows no sign of agreeing with you.”
We just noted that plenty of writers just aren’t good enough, but what happens if you’re doing fantastic work yet receiving no recognition or even attention? You mustn’t get discouraged or expect things to change with no effort. Instead, shift your approach. Try something new. Assume that your work will find an audience given enough time and effort.
Try sharing your work with other bloggers to see if they’ll post it on their sites. Share snippets through social media. You can even go to a different market by compiling your blog posts into a book and getting it published (Jericho Writers has a great piece on viable publishing methods) or simply giving it away for free if you’re confident that it’ll win you an audience.
Originality is fractional
I suspect that everyone who’s ever put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) is worried about being original. We all want to be distinct from others — to feel that we’re expressing our own thoughts and not the recycled thoughts of others — but it isn’t all that realistic, as Mark Twain once argued with characteristic eloquence:
“The kernel, the soul—let us go further and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances—is plagiarism.”
The crux of his contention was that our opinions and impressions of the world are stolen: if not wholly, then piecemeal. In childhood, we soak up our surroundings, and typically end up having perspectives that either mirror those of our parents or oppose them (with the influence being similarly powerful regardless of which).
The only originality we can offer, he asserts, stems from our minor quirks and preferences flavoring the thoughts and ideas we use — and that’s where you need to be strong. Don’t worry so much about how popular your ideas might be. Provided you can phrase them in your unique style (Art + Marketing has a great piece on this), your content will have an original feel.
Creative fuel is essential
Stephen King is a powerhouse of the literary world, having written more books than a hundred regular authors put together, so you might expect him to have a unidirectional focus — perhaps imagining the King literary machine to be permanently toggled to “Produce”. But that’s far from the case, because he also consumes books at a relentless rate. As he puts it:
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time — or the tools — to write. Simple as that.”
Despite hammering out pages on a daily basis, King still makes time to read voraciously, as he’s done throughout his life. He wouldn’t have been so productive if he didn’t. He knows something that many aspiring writers don’t: you need creative fuel, and reading is the best source.
We just looked at how overrated the concept of originality is, and these things tie together, because the fear of taking ideas can push people to refrain from reading extensively. Forget about that fear. When you read frequently, all the concepts and styles mesh together in your mind, and what emerges is yours.
Blogging is a different beast from conventional authorship, but there’s plenty of overlap, and a lot of the lessons are the same. These points in particular are extremely useful for motivating you to march towards success. Read as much as you can, don’t worry about originality, keep working at it, and bet on yourself — it’ll hugely help your chances.