Writer to Writer: Unpacking the Boxes

Me Inn Crop

Howdy Friends,

So here’s the deal:

I’ve had several blogs for several years over on Blogger/Blogspot. It was a very satisfying relationship, with many good times, and we never got to that bitchy point where some couples get when they decide that they can’t stand one another and proceed to torment each other about perceived inadequacies. Sure, there were many times when I wished that Blogger could perform a little better in certain areas, but divorce was never really mentioned or considered.

However, over those same years, many of my blogger friends kept insisting that I move my literary playground over to WordPress. “Come join the somewhat-elitist club,” they said temptingly. “We have all the best plug-ins and spiffy functions. It doesn’t matter how good your writing might be, with all the jazz hands and flashy software, even the most boring bucket of inane bloggery will make you look like Moses, freshly arrived from The Mount with glowing words of wisdom.

Well, that angle definitely had an alluring amount of appeal. I’ve produced many buckets of inanity over the years with my blog posts, many of which should have been tossed away into Bad Idea Land by the over-worked maids as they scurried to recycle the bed pans in the morning.

But still, I’ve been on Blogger for so long, and the various URL’s for my blogs have been lovingly converted into Bookmark Status by my 4 actual fans, that it just seemed a bit rash and rude to cause a commotion and decamp. (And as any social media expert will tell you, the whole goal of digital survival is to get people accustomed to going to the same spot for your latest missive. You start jacking with that, and the planets could go out of alignment.)

So I stayed where I was, continuing with my efforts to enrapture the world with my literary output. And things seemed fine, as long as you define “fine” as “every once in a while, more than 10 people would read a blog post”. I was good with that.

Then a few things happened, inter-related bits that led to an unexpected opportunity. I decided to publish a book. On my own. Granted, this decision was ill-advised and poorly-planned, mainly because I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. But I marched forth anyway, because sometimes you just have to leap off the cliff, or all of us would still be living in caves and waiting for satellite TV to be invented.

And during the course of my book preparation, wherein I was heavily editing some long-ago posts about a family trip to Paris, trying to beat those posts into submission as actual chapters that could feasibly appear in a book, I basically ignored all of my blogs. I went weeks and months without posting anything. This can be a death knell to a struggling author, and in one sense it was, because the traffic stats took an initial soul-killing tumble. (Every once in a while, I would get a “Why have your forsaken us?” email from the small but dedicated group of my blog followers. I would try to soothe them with explanations that I was working on a book, and they would try to be polite about this literary interruptus, but really, they just wanted me to get back to giving them something fresh on a daily basis.)

Then an interesting thing caught my eye. The stats on two of my blogs stabilized instead of draining away to nothing, and there were still times when the numbers would surge. Nothing record-breaking, mind you, but it was clear that even if I was away from my daily-output desk, people were still trying to find me, and they would go back to the older posts if that’s all they could get. And some of the traffic patterns were from new people, meandering their way to my sites in that fascinating Way of the Internet where clicks can lead hither and yon and suddenly someone who wasn’t following you before is now posting a comment saying “More, please.”

Very gratifying. And a nice confirmation that if you work hard, trying to do something of at least minimal substance, there’s a chance that you will reach that person who gets you, the true target of all your late-night typing, even if you are not trying to actively engage them at the time. I have thousands of blog posts out there, the result of continuing to try even when I thought no one cared.  (Yes, all writers go through moments of doubt. If you don’t, if you never worry, you won’t strive to do your best. That simple.) End result, if you are creating decent stuff and making it available, people will find you. Maybe not as many people as you envision while lying in bed at night, but still, they will.

To keep setting the stage of my current mindset: along with the apparent abandonment of my regular blogs, I was going through the trials and frustrations of trying to publish a book, on my own. It’s not easy, it’s confusing, and it can lead to a lot of alcohol-swilling at inappropriate times. It’s a learning process, a process both interesting and scary. There are professionals out there who can guide you through all this publishing mess, but they usually want money for their efforts, and the vast majority of dreamers in this country don’t have the finances to build their dreams. Another simple fact. If we all had the resources to achieve our dreams, we would all already have them, and we’d probably be bored and unappreciative, because true satisfaction comes from effort, not ease.

And all of the above rambling leads to a few talking points that I have been vaguely lunging toward with varying degrees of success. One, it’s not important where I lay my hat, it’s more important that people can find the hat, and subsequently get a sense of the person who would wear it. And two, the bottom line of my attempt at a book launch is that it was an abysmal failure. This is not uncommon, especially in the “we’re still learning how this works” playing field where anybody can digitally publish a book, becoming yet another grain in the sand of the avalanche that was kicked off by Amazon introducing this little thing called a “Kindle”. With the millions of books available in electronic format, unless you are already an established author, you have to do extraordinary things to get even a single person to write a positive review of your book. It comes down to that, plain and simple.

So, it becomes a matter of this: I’m starting this new blog on WordPress for a number of reasons. I’ve finally decided to “move it on up to that deluxe apartment in the sky”, whatever that means or whatever it portends. I’m probably fooling myself in thinking that it would make any difference, but I have heard the rumors that, for instance, certain search engines give a lower validity rating to blogs on Blogger as opposed to blogs on WordPress. Who knows if this is true. We’ll see.

More importantly, with a theoretical “fresh start” in this virgin environment, I’m going to (only temporarily, trust me) shift the focus of my “new” main blog from random posts about whatever to a real-time accounting of what it’s like to have published a first book that didn’t take the world by storm, and then compare that to what I am doing now as I prep my second book. (The material is there for Book Two, I just need to weed-out and cultivate, a challenge that is never-ending up to the day of letting your child toddle out into the world.) This plan might sound boring to some, but I really hope to help out other struggling writers who are just as confused as I was when I stood on the precipice and said “screw it, I’m going to publish a book.”

Most importantly, for the folks who have always stood beside me and expect a certain amount of whimsy and entertainment, that aspect is not going to go away. I’m still going to use my original blogs on Blogger to experiment with this and that, and much of that will appear here in the new Bonnywood Manor outlet as well. Just give me some time to find a nice balance wherein I combine the opportunity to keep the stories coming, yet at the same time provide a travelogue to my fellow writers who have one toe in the “Take a Chance” pool but are concerned about going any further. New dawn, new day.

I welcome your comments. And I welcome the opportunity to try to do the right thing, however misconceived.



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