How to write a book · self-publishing · The writing business

Because I started a blog – 10 years as an accidental citizen of cyberspace

This time a decade ago, I was starting a blog.

I was rather surprised to be doing it.

I was not an online person. I did not tweet or Facebook. The internet hardly touched my daily life. I was fully and gainfully occupied without it. It might as well have been a separate and mythical dimension, like hyperspace.

But on a wet evening in February 2009, I was with a friend who had a worldwide reputation in his creative niche. He ran this thriving empire through the ether, from five well-visited blogs.

When he said ‘let’s make you a blog’, I said yes.

I was suspicious of the blog thing, because I am never an early adopter (see above) and also because I disliked the word ‘blog’. (Still do, if I think about it.) But I’d just come out of a mind-whirling experience (you’ll know this if you’ve read Not Quite Lost).

My blog helped complete the transformation.

Before the blog, I was an author in limbo. Skip this paragraph if you know my origin story, but in 2009 I’d just found an agent for my first novel. Before that, I’d ghostwritten novels for other people. Now I hoped I’d be published as me and start my proper career at last.

Alas, publishers wanted New Real Me to be like Old Ghostwriter Me because that was profitable. (Psst…. if you want to be like Ghostwriter Me, you might like my professional course )

And so I remained, both published and not; an author but not really – unless I denied my own creative drive.

That changed when I became a blogger.

  • On my blog, I could be whoever I wanted, and I would decide who that was.
  • On my blog, I did not have to wait for anybody’s permission.
  • Once I had a blog, I had a place to invite people to, a room of my own, a gallery to say who I was. I could go to other blogs and chat – anyone’s I liked.

Through my blog, I made many friends. I grew confident in my own aesthetic judgement as a publisher. I gained the confidence to publish books on writing, my novels and to vary my genres because I could bring readers along on the journey. (Contemporary fiction, speculative fiction, travel diaries… what next? Whatever I like.)

Bloggers have a gung-ho have-a-go mentality.

Because of this, I discovered I could speak on podcasts without microscripting everything first. As I am a fanatical polisher and editor, speaking off the cuff was squarely in my discomfit zone. Eek! Spontaneity! But bloggers feel the fear and do it anyway. This became professional speaking and teaching gigs both in indie world and beyond. Which I discovered I rather enjoyed.

So this blogging anniversary is significant. A marker of big life changes.

Now in 2019, is blogging still as powerful for authors starting now?

Maybe, maybe not. We still need ways to gather readers and discover common ground, but I think much of this now happens in the speedy, flitty public spaces such as Twitter and Facebook. I think blogs are still read because subscriber numbers are still growing (thank you, guys!) but the commenting is no longer as fervent – if I look back at old posts I’m astonished to see hundreds of comments on one topic, which now seems inconceivable. I feel authors still need a website as a home base and a blog to show they’re alive, but the more settled communication now happens in email newsletters (psst … here’s mine).

(And is that a new book you see there? Indeed it is. Hop onto the link to find out, straight from the horse’s mouth.)

What do I expect in another ten years? I have no idea. I’m not a goal setter, except for individual projects where my goal is simply to finish them well.

I could never answer that question in job interviews. ‘Where do you see yourself in x years?’ A truthful answer would betray that I hoped to have graduated far beyond their job, doing something that was much more ME. Though I couldn’t have said for sure what that was.

Now, though, I’d say that in another x years I hope to be doing this, or something like it, and doing it better, and finding other related activities I can add around the edges.

I’ve found what I was looking for. Creative integrity, confidence and independence.

Which I think shows that 10 years of blogging has been a jolly good move.

Do you blog? How long have you blogged for? If you’ve been blogging for a while, have you noticed any general trends? What has it brought you?

37 thoughts on “Because I started a blog – 10 years as an accidental citizen of cyberspace

  1. Very interesting, Roz. Reluctant blogger but doing it so well! I am somewhat reluctant to spend my time blogging rather than writing my next novel … But this year hope to combine interesting posts linked to process and research topics (aka some of the stuff you must leave out of a novel because it’s the 90% that’s below the surface). Meanwhile, Roz – more power to your blogging elbow! And here’s to books that you want to write too.

  2. Grats, Roz! I won’t reach my decade until 2021, but in other respects, my blogging journey has been very similar to yours, especially the bit about finding friends. That was the biggest surprise. The next biggest was that I really, really enjoyed blogging. I hope blogging never goes out of fashion because then we’ll all lose our digital ‘homes’.

    Oh and bravo on the new book. Tweet coming up. 🙂

  3. Happy 10th, Roz!
    No, I don’t blog, not really.
    I’ve had a couple blogs over the years but I spent too must time writing down lists of topics in paper journals and perfecting essays to go with them. And, when I did post something on one of my blogs, I checked a box that kept anybody from leaving comments.
    The blogs didn’t have anything to do with my writing and I didn’t use my real name. And, I didn’t promote them.
    I wonder what compelled me to start and stop those blogs. And, I wonder if I’ll feel the need to start a new one in the future. Who knows?

    1. Hi Tina! An interesting low-key blogging experience – and interesting to see your thinking about it. I empathise with your perfectionism. I’ve never been the kind of person who could just slap a post out, I have to consider and hone it carefully. Although blogs are casual, every word you write in these publicly accessible places is a taster of the other work you do.

  4. I’ve been blogging for a year and it’s fun. Lots and lots of fun.

    It has to be something I look forward to and I think that applies to everyone. It sounds like it has changed a lot in the last ten years but change is part of everything. If I can hang on for another decade it will be interesting to see what I have to say.

    This was really interesting. I’m glad you shared this with us.

    1. Thank you, Bryan! I didn’t mention the fun part, did I? I’m glad you did. There’s an intrinsic sense of achievement in putting together a piece, finding a pic, seeing people arrive and want to talk about it. Keep going and I hope you reach your 10th!

  5. I don’t think Facebook or Twitter are complete replacements for blogging. I use Twitter a lot but only for links to my posts or shortened ideas. Posts on social media can attract readers to the more complete version of a post on your blog. Blogs provide low-cost, alternative publishing to the mainstream media. Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr are exerting heavy-handed manipulation of content and censorship. There is a need for independent ideas. Blogs serve that function.

      1. Important information is often overshadowed by an unending stream of sensational clutter. Blogs such as yours appeal to a small niche who will look for it as they need it in their writing. Finding what they need efficiently depends on how the information is organized. Your suggestion of a mailing list is a good start. Providing more access points would be a next step. I have much work to do to perfect my blogs. Thanks for the tips…. and may you continue your blog!

  6. Happy 10th Anniversary Roz! 🎉 I’ve only been blogging for three years and I enjoy the interaction and feedback on my poems and photographs before deciding which ones to include in forthcoming publications. I’ve met so many lovely and creative people through blogging and find it’s a very supportive and engaging community 💜

  7. I am two days older than you, blog-wise. Congratulations!!!
    Ten years is a long time and yes, things have changed. Yet here we are, still keeping on keeping on.
    Much love,

  8. My first blog post under my pen name was Feb 20, 2011. However, I’ve been contributing to “online magazines” (what we called them before the term “blog” arrived on the scene) since about 2000. At one point, my wife and I were actively maintaining five blogs on nonfiction topics. (I developed my own web-based content management software before WordPress existed.)

    When we got into self-publishing in 2006 (thanks to Lightning Source), our large backlog of posts became fodder for several nonfiction books. We had fun and did reasonably well. We had many people ask us how we managed it, so I wrote some online conference software and we hosted the Self Publishers Online Conference (SPOC) for four years (2009-2012). Each conference lasted 3 grueling days with 5 seminars per day and a couple hundred attendees.

    My pen name blog came about when I started writing fiction in 2011. It began with a bit of an identity crisis (as many blogs do) while I figured out who was my audience: other fiction writers or fantasy readers? I eventually settled on writing posts for readers. However, over the past couple of years, I’ve been battling depression and have written very few posts (or much of anything else for that matter). I’m back to writing daily now and will probably revive the blog at some point.

    I’ve watched blogging evolve from it’s nascence. In retrospect, I’d say blogging has traversed the Hype Curve and has now settled down. It’s no longer a big deal, and the “what I had for breakfast” blogs have been mostly abandoned. Blogs are now the domain of folks who still have the attention span to write more than 140 characters at a time and can assemble a series of thoughts into a coherent message. Everyone else has texting and social networking tools to satisfy their need to communicate with friends.

    As for what blogging has brought me, well, you can glean from my story above that I’m a big believer in content reuse. Write once, publish many. I’m also a believer in owning your content through your own blog and owning your audience through your own email list. I treat my blog as the hub of my Internet presence. Social networking tools are good for getting the word out about new content on the blog and for hosting conversations with readers in an environment where they feel comfortable. I’m willing to let the social networking sites own those conversations, so I’ve turned off the comments on my blog.

    I guess I’ve done it again, haven’t I? Another long comment with part of my life story. Sorry about that. Take it as a compliment that your post inspired so much thought and introspection. 😉

    1. Hello Hooded Man! I remember when you first started commenting on my blogposts, peering out from your spooky cowl. You’ve always been one of the most prolific and thoughtful commenters and I’ve always appreciated it. I didn’t know your origin story, so it’s interesting to hear that… especially that blogs were once called ‘online magazines’! Gosh!

      I think you make a good point about the changing nature of commenting and people’s evolving tastes. Those who want a quick Like or a run-by fix of cat cuteness go to one kind of place. Those who want to tickle their brain cells a bit more, or stick around for a main course, go for another.

  9. Kudos to you for jumping aboard in ’09. The blogosphere probably wasn’t as saturated as it is now. (Or is that just my skewed feeling?) Ten years is a LONG time. I’m in awe.

    I started blogging almost 2 years ago (I created an odd blog here, or there way earlier, but it never stuck), and have had a blast since. As I evolve, so does my blog, but my plan is to remain at it for A WHILE.

    It seems that I used to be/ am a lot like you in the regards of what I thought/ think of blogging. I thought it wasn’t something that serious people do. I thought it was all about makeup reviews and heartbreak stories. I’m pleased to see that it is not all that. I’ve really grown to enjoy it here.

    Good luck on your blogging journey.

    1. Thank you – and what a great name you have! I like what you said about ‘having a blast’ – I think I stuck with blogging because it was all a natural fit. Glad you’ve found your natural fit too. Here’s to more!

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