Friday, May 4, 2012

The Death of Blogging and ... Blogging.

I recently read an article about the death of blogging -- or perhaps a certain wheeze in its lungs and a tricky heart valve -- and my own heart danced a little. Do I want blogging to die? Well, I'm a writer who gets paid to write. I have four college tuitions gunning for me -- like red dots of light quivering on my chest, oh, the high-powered rifles have me in their sites. I've always worried about the effect of unpaid content on writers, collectively, especially the writers who write the kinds of pieces I have for The New York Times Modern Love column about a therapist who wrote me a poem or Boston Globe about humans versus zombies game showing up in the college classroom where I'm teaching a workshop or Real Simple about writing a love letter on behalf of a stranger on a plane...

I've continued to publish essays but this blog takes up the same head space that writing for money does sometimes -- and I'm conscious of that.

And, that said, I'm worried more broadly about free content in the Information Age and -- amid the incredible inundation of things to read -- how do writers of books convince the public that some words still need to be paid for? Have I contributed to a cultural message that words are cheap, if not free?

It's hard to talk about making money as a writer in our culture, in general. Why?

1. You're in a career where the most common adjective used to describe your job title is "starving"; Poe died in a gutter. Real artists shouldn't expect to make money, right? (The Poe reference is an important one -- as Poe was a writer who certainly wrote for money to support others.)

2. Many people believe they can write books -- unlike, say, perform brain surgery -- and so writers aren't doing anything particularly remarkable.

3. Many people want to write and writers should be thankful to simply get published at all. Who do we think we are, anyway?

That said, there are working writers out here who support themselves and sometimes families -- and as I just had lunch with writer Rowan Jacobsen who's just back from writing about some very dangerous territories -- some of these writers risk their lives to get words to us.

Why do I write this blog? Well, long story, but let's say I do it to show editors that I work hard to connect with readers. Like most authors, I've been told that this kind of platform helps writers build an audience for their books. However, this is the research that's coming back to us: blogs -- even those with huge followings -- do not necessarily translate into huge book sales for the author of those blogs/books.

The other issue here is that I have a bunch of different audiences. Baggott, Asher and Bode are very different voices. Baggott alone has many different voices. My writerly voices doesn't necessarily match my own voice. And so what you get here isn't what you're going to get in PURE -- a post-apocalyptic world of swirling ash. My blog is no dark thriller. Sometimes I think that knowing the author affects the reading experience in ways that interfere with the story instead of enhancing it. (Is this true? I'd love to hear what you all think of this.)

What I do like about my blog is that it gives me the opportunity to shout out to other writers -- both up-and-coming as well as established and award-winning. But do the interviews really drive much by way of sales for my interviewees? I don't know that either. (I enjoy introducing them to you nonetheless.)

Too, it gives me a space to sometimes work through ill-formed ideas that eventually become well-formed thoughts.

(And my mother, Glenda Baggott, is an ardent follower. How could I let her down?)

The past month my entries have been spotty. I've been promoting PURE, doing a final rewrite of FUSE, and starting to dig into Book III of the trilogy, BURN. And I'm developing ideas that will one day many years from now become books on shelves, I hope. I'll be on tour for a chunk of this summer -- with European publishers of PURE -- the UK, Spain, France - which means trying to maintain as much incubation right now as possible to get the best foothold in the novel I'm at work on.

I've been thinking intensely about the publishing industry in general. (In chaos, isn't there also opportunity? And I'm gearing up to write a piece that's a challenge to my fellow writers on that score.)

I've also been thinking about transmedia -- which has been an area of focus for me for the last two years. Some of those thoughts are actually coalescing.

We're also moving this summer -- which entails incredible planning and paperwork and eventually much much boxing up.

And, of course, I have four kids so... one broke her foot and there's much care-giving; it's prom season, people; end of the year teacher meetings; auditions; performances; art shows, mentoring; gearing up for summer camps and pre-college; SATs; dance performance; the 12 year old scored 7 goals in the regional tournament and went on to states for his bracket -- stop me now before the truly maniacal bragging kicks in.

I come back to: What is the purpose of this blog? If it's not really creating a platform that translates into sales, and I don't really have a voice that propels people into the worlds of my books ... what is this? And, moreover, what role will writers have in the coming years, how will we as a culture support those writers, how will writers support each other in an ever-increasingly competitive environment?

Again, I don't know.

And yet ... here. Here's one more post. It's free. But it's not -- not in the grand scheme of things.