Is all writing right for blogs?

by Kristin on November 13, 2012

in Culture, ideas & paradigms

Photo by mrsdkrebs

When I think about it now, I can see what a silly idea it was. I started my blog back in 2007 as a platform for writing my book. The plan for the book, back then, was a series of vignettes, so the chapters would be short. I would just put the first drafts up on my blog as I wrote them, and then go back later to develop them more.

Soon enough, I realized that wasn’t a very practical approach to blogging. But there would still be plenty of crossover between my blog and my book project, I figured. I’d be able to insert big sections of certain blog posts into my book, just plopping them neatly into the appropriate chapters, adding transitions as needed. I could still kill two birds with one stone, making the most of my writing time.

Yes, I used to think writing was writing—that any time I was putting words together, down on the page, I was ultimately working toward one broader goal. It didn’t matter, really, whether I was writing ad headlines for a client, or an article for a magazine, or a post for my blog. Writing was writing.

In some senses, that’s true. I’m a believer in Malcolm Gladwell’s  theory about the 10,000 hours you have to devote to something before you can achieve “success” (in his book Outliers). Any time devoted to practicing a skill, and working hard at it, matters. Those minutes all count. And any time you work at a memory or an idea, trying to identify its core and put it into words, you are doing important work that will manifest itself in multiple ways.

But I’m also realizing that in many ways, all writing is not the same. Some writing is easy, and some is hard. Some energizes me, some drains me. Some is public, and some is private. Some writing can be skimmed by its readers—a bit of food for thought—while other writing requires a reader’s full attention—of the heart as well as the head.

I’ve had to really embrace these truths about different types of writing these past couple of weeks, as I’ve devoted big chunks of time to my book project (because I’m taking a writing course, which I mentioned here).

When I try to write for my book in the same mindset I apply to my blog, I can feel myself hurrying, pushing forward. I skimp on the details, not taking the time I need to set the scene—to show, not tell, the emotions—because I’m in a rush to “get to the point.”

Instead, I need to dive deep, immersing myself in a different place and time—whatever I was experiencing and feeling then—and write. So that’s what I’ve been doing: writing and writing and writing, in the sort of aching way that feels both satisfying and grueling, like a workout.

When I’m done, I have the urge to “do something” with what I’ve written. I want to turn that hard work into something “useful” that I can point to, like a blog post. But once again, I realize that all writing is not the same. This writing I’m doing for my book is different, even if the themes are very similar to those I write about on my blog—even if I’m still me, writing about my experiences.

The two forms are different, in part, because the expectations and mindsets of people coming to read a blog are different from those sitting down with a book. At a blog, people want to be entertained, inspired, or challenged in a small, manageable way. But books, I think, invite readers on a journey—one that requires some commitment, one they might even become lost in, later looking up from the page and having to reorient themselves to the place and life they are in. I need that sort of commitment to share the most difficult parts of my story. It’s a commitment to both the distance and the depth of the journey, and it’s that commitment that creates a truly safe, shared place.

What do you think? If you’re a writer with a blog, do you find yourself struggling to decide what you should publish on your blog? And if you’re a reader of both blogs and books, do you find yourself approaching them in different ways?

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  • HopefulLeigh

    I read a lot of blogs and I read a lot of books. I absolutely approach them differently, for the reasons you mentioned. When I sit down with a book, I expect to be carried away for awhile. When I read a blog, I expect it to be short and provoke some sort of reaction- a new idea, a feeling of empathy or solidarity, what have you. The way I write my blog and write my book projects is different, too. Blogs, by nature, have to take a more narrow focus in order to hold someone’s attention in a sea of other blogs. All writing is worthwhile but it’s good to consider why we’re writing, who our audience may be, and what our goal is.

    • kt_writes

      Exactly! Those differences seem so clear to me now—it’s hard to imagine why I was trying so hard to blur those lines. Maybe just for efficiency’s sake?

  • Katie Axelson

    I like the way you separate blogging from book-writing. I wish there was a different word for blogging, professional writing, copywriting, et al. rather than it being lumped under the umbrella of “writing” because I often feel like it doesn’t count. It’s not freeing the way other writing is. It feels different–sometimes in a good way and sometimes not. Sometimes everything I write feels like a blog post and sometimes I can’t write a blog to save my life. Words are such finicky friends, really.

    • kt_writes

      I can definitely relate to this! “Sometimes everything I write feels like a blog post and sometimes I
      can’t write a blog to save my life. Words are such finicky friends,
      really.” It takes me longer than I think it should to shift from one style of writing to another—it’s such an important shift that I’ve even been using two different devices for the different styles (laptop for blogging and client work, iPad for the book project).

      • Katie Axelson

        Oooh, I’ve not tried that (mostly because I only have one device) but I have tried different settings for different projects. (Professional work in the office or kitchen, blogging on the couch, book in the bedroom, and editing at the coffee shop). Unfortunately, those finicky friends don’t always follow the rules, even if time would always allow for scene changes.

        • kt_writes

          I have different settings for different projects, too! At least when I’m writing at home. My laptop is on my desk for blogging and client work, but I do book writing at the dining room table. :)

  • Katie Axelson

    I feel you, Kristin! I love how you separate blog-writing and book-writing. I’m with you in that they’re different types of writing just like copywriting, professional writing, fiction writing, et al. are different. That medium does matter. Unfortunately, that’s not super encouraging when everything you write sounds like a blog post (here’s to hoping that doesn’t only happen to me).

  • Charity Jill Erickson

    So, so good–a very important thing for the internet (& me!) to hear. Blogging (well, effective blogging) has totally different conventions than sustained prose. When I read blogs that are lengthy & intricate I always skim/tune out. When I read books by bloggers who write the same in both mediums (I can think of a couple of specific examples) I feel short-changed. There is no depth, no details. At first I wondered whether it was because these writers were Christians and didn’t want to risk talking about messy realities; but I think that their blogging sensibilities probably had a lot to do with the unsatisfying nature of their prose as well.

    • kt_writes

      I think you’re really on to something, when it comes to “blogging sensibilities.” It makes me suspect I have “book sensibilities,” which I’m always trying to tame (not always very successfully) for my blog. Now that I’m seeing all of this more clearly, perhaps it won’t be such a struggle. Thanks for your thoughts about this!

  • Jennifer Luitwieler

    I’m going to try to keep this brief, but you know that is not my wheelhouse, as it were. Yes. I thought my book would be the same. Cut, paste, add some cute phrases, some well wrought insight and maybe some awesome chapter titles. Presto-Change-o. Nope. It took what you describe here. Pushing myself, always, to find the real kernel. I don’t know if I succeeded (I truly mean that) but yes. I tried.

    Now when blogging and writing a book, I find my energy ebbs and flows. There are days when I could crank out ten list posts and nothing on a book, and vice versa. There are also days when the change in perspective, mental imagery if you will (and you will) were just the break I needed to find the right tone in one or the other.

    Then, there were/are times when I found myself blogging about something interesting (to me) that I might have thought while writing the book. It’s like a palate cleanser. I think the one thing I continue to try to remember is: write for yourself first. Write like no one will ever see it. Because that’s where the truth is.

    Smart lady, you.

    • kt_writes

      I hear you, about the ebbs and flows of energy and focus. That’s the main reason I’ve been setting aside big blocks of time two or three days a week for book writing rather than trying to do a little bit each day. Once I get going and get in that frame of mind and tone, I tend to be able to keep going, and even lose track of time. (It’s that flow state Jason likes to talk about.) Thanks for expressing that you know how this feels, and thanks for the “write for yourself first” reminder. I need it daily.

  • Delynn

    I frequently toy with the idea of writing a book (like you, based around many of the same themes I cover in my blog), but have never felt it to be the right time, and frankly, I’ve felt intimidated by the task of long-form writing. This post, for some reason, makes it feel like a really positive challenge. I so appreciate your writing and your thoughts. Many thanks, from one divorced, Christian, liberal writer to another.

    • kt_writes

      I’m so glad to hear that! Writing a book—especially on a topic that’s difficult—can definitely be an intimidating prospect. Once you begin (at least if you have the right mindset, of exploration and discovery) it is an immensely positive challenge, indeed. I will check out your blog—thanks for stopping by here!

      • Delynn

        I like that thought–writing for the sake of exploration and discovery. I think I’ve shied away from writing a book because I thought I had to have the whole thing mapped out ahead of time, and I mostly just have meandering thoughts at this point. But I can imagine starting with a loose framework and letting it congeal into something with a central theme/conclusion as I go. I would love it if you checked out my blog (but no pressure of course–not trying to promote myself on your site!). I started it for my own processing, but it’s turned into something I’m proud of; blogging is such a great way to document healing and growth, not to mention a fabulous writing exercise. It’s at Wishing you a happy Wednesday!

  • suziwalks

    YES YES YES! When I first started blogging (back when we ALL blogged, we all read everybody’s blog, you remember, before Facebook?) I wrote in a very transparent style, because I was writing for my friends. Now, I blog less, I don’t know my audience as well, I am older and wiser, so I write with more care. Laura Winner once said, well, it doesn’t take a lot of courage, I’m sitting in my house writing a Word document. She never really made it as a blogger, but she writes great books.

    Blog writing at its best provokes a reaction. There must be a question at the end, or a snarky thing to poke at, or some secret that everyone loves playing with in the comments. I find that most of my writing is more bookish. I always compared myself to my friend who got upwards of 18 comments per post, whereas I was lucky to get 4.

    Also, I was very disappointed when the Waiter Rant blogger’s book didn’t have old blog posts, as he really was writing book style on his blog.

  • Lisa Colón DeLay

    you bet.

    I find myself writing in these various ways…and it’s been quite confusing for me at times.

    Writing for my job (communiques, strategies, etc)
    Writing articles
    writing blog posts (casual)
    writing humor posts
    writing to instruct (more formal)
    writing to encourage
    writing research papers (academic)
    writing manuscripts and proposals
    (there could be more)

    At first blush….it’s like a I shift to a bunch of hats and can’t find my voice. But, it’s not really that, it’s just that writing must adjust to need/audience and format. And this leaves it all ripe for some failures too.

    And what you say is true b/c I’ve noticed many don’t seem to get it right across all venues (me included). Maybe I’ll read someone’s book and think, “oh they were so brilliant in that post back then, but this is dry and lifeless and heck.”

    Great food for thought.

  • Erin Burke

    This is great! I think one reason I started blogging is because I wanted to write something with more immediacy instead of spending all of my time on longer term, maybe never to be seen in public projects. Writing for different platforms definitely feels different, and I think that both kinds help me to grow as a writer in different ways.

  • themoderngal

    Sometimes I write posts that I never publish — either they’re a method for working through tough feelings that don’t really need to be shared with the world as a whole, or they’re a method of helping me remember how I felt privately about a certain event, but it’s not prudent to share those feelings.

    I think it is important to write in many different frames of mind because you get to explore your writing skills that way. Not everything has to be published, but everything will help advance your writing and your voice. So it all does serve a purpose, even if it’s not a public one.