One Writer’s Guide to the Blogosphere

Originally Published in Wisconsin Writer’s Association Newsletter, March 2015

The first thing I did when thinking about blogging was watch, once again, the movie, Julie and Julia. It’s the true story of how writer, Julie Powell, blogged about cooking her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The result was a book deal (2005), a movie deal (2009) and being launched as a writer. My goals were less grand but her experiences helped me in some surprising ways to find my own path to blogging.

After watching the movie, I perused some of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of blogs already out there; almost any interest known to man is the topic of a blog. Some impressed me with their clear message or purpose. The chaotic, cluttered and unorganized ones showed me what I didn’t want to do. From that, I could see how important it was to make a good first impression. I also understood I had the flexibility to do pretty much whatever I wanted.

Then, I thought long and hard about my goals. In the movie, Julie let the whole experience unravel her life. She worried about who was or wasn’t reading her; she obsessed over whether or not she was disappointing her readers. She had self-described “meltdowns” that wreaked havoc on her life, her work and her marriage. This insanity was something I knew I wanted no part of.

I was sure of one thing. If I was going to do this it had to be for me. I wanted my work out there and thought this might give me a sense of accomplishment. And if I were read that would be like icing on the cake. And if I received comments, that would be like sprinkles. Writing friends reminded me that once a piece was on the blog it would be considered “published.” I decided I could live with that.

Lastly, I found help. I probably could have done this myself but knowing my learning style, I needed a guide. I asked around and found just the person, someone with computer skills and her own blog. We met once a month and she helped me get started. In between sessions, I was alone as I began to post my writing and become more comfortable with the program. Any barriers encountered or questions were put on my list for our next session. It was money well spent.

There are several different programs for designing and maintaining a blog with comparable options for layout and easy navigation. The programs keep statistics to check such things as number of visitors and number of reads and an on-line support network for questions.

I’ve been blogging now for six months and have over fifty pieces posted in seven categories. Family memoirs, my adjustment to retirement; friendships. No subject is too small. For any piece that was previously published, I’ve included the date and place of publication at the beginning of the post. This process has me writing every day and always working on something because I now have a place to put it.

Being newly retired from a world full of deadlines, my blog fills a gap by giving me a project. And it’s the best solution since I’m setting my own deadlines now. I’m still submitting in the traditional way and currently have two essays I’ve submitted to magazines. Once they’re either published or rejected, I can post them on my blog.

My blog (a million little memoirs.wordpress) has taken on a life of its own. I’m energized and motivated to write all the stories I’ve carried around in my head for so many years.

These good feelings made me curious about Julie Powell and her follow-up story has an interesting wrinkle and perhaps a lesson for all writers.

Julia Child’s editor says that she, Julia, didn’t appreciate the expletives and other personal matters Powell included on the blog; Child would not endorse the book or meet her, saying Powell was not a serious cook, was doing this as a joke and seemed “flimsy.”

How heartbreaking for this writer. While Julie Powell is now famous enough to be on Wikipedia, perhaps she’s more importantly an example of why it’s imperative to know yourself and your goals before blogging. And to remember that once it’s on the blog, it’s out there forever, for all to see.

 

 

 

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