Sunday, November 18, 2012

Finding my voice

When I first started this blog back in 2003, I did it because it was expected of me as a new writer. Websites were de rigeueur, so of course, I had one, but blogs were the new kid on the block, the bandwagon everyone was jumping on.

So, I jumped, too.

And missed.

What the heck was I supposed to say? I wrote fiction, not conversations with strangers. I posted a few things every once in a while, but heck, I barely managed that other author necessity, the newsletter. How was I supposed to think of stuff to say every week? Or worse, every day?

The blog sputtered and nearly died several times. For a while it was pretty much a repeat of my newsletter. I had books to write and a family to raise as well as a full-time job. And readers didn't talk back to me, anyway. Might as well just chuck it.

(Sidenote: I pretty much felt the same way when Twitter came along. All the advice said, “Have a conversation with your readers, don’t just post when you have a new book.” But I’m terrible at starting conversations in real life, let alone cyberspace. I’m just not that interesting a person!)

Yes, I did the required reading and posting on other people’s blogs, but mostly I just read them and learned about publishing (and snark). Posting on them didn't seem to lead people back to my own blog and stating that I’d covered a similar topic myself in a post was (is) considered blatant self-promotion and frowned upon.

Then one year (2010), for my own edification, I decided to keep track of all the books I read. I figured the easiest way to do that was to make a post on the blog with a sentence or two about the book. Not a review, just a record.

To my surprise, the hits went from single to double digits each day. I pretty much doubled my readership and that surprised me because I really wasn't posting for the readers, I was posting for myself. I was my own audience and so had loosened up. Maybe I was on to something here?

And then I started the writing workshops in September, 2011. I took the idea from Dean Wesley Smith about putting each chapter out, then collecting those chapters and making a book available. I’d been teaching writing in both the real and virtual worlds (Second Life) for quite some time – making those workshops available on the web seemed the next logical step.

This time my numbers tripled. Each Tuesday I’d have between 40 and 50 people visiting, apparently just for the workshop. Some would email me with questions or comments, but mostly, the only indication I had that the site was getting more traffic was in the hit numbers, because still, few left comments.

(I double-checked the settings over a dozen times those first few months of starting the writing workshops, concerned that maybe I’d turned the comment feature off by accident. I hadn't.  My readers are just not talkers. In other words, they’re like me!)

But somewhere along the way, posting those writing workshops helped me to find my voice when it comes to posting on this blog. I threw off the artificial constraint I had put on myself (trying to figure out what people wanted to read) and instead posted what I wanted to write. Sometimes that’s my opinion about something, sometimes it’s a reflection about an event, sometimes it’s barely anything at all but me enjoying the flow of words and exploring a subject for fun.

But its me. It’s my voice.

Took me nearly nine years to find it, but find it, I did. And my hits nearly doubled again.

Thank you to those who have been here from the beginning, thank you to those who pop in occasionally just to see what’s going on. And thank you to those who read every post, every time. You may not say much, but I know you’re there and that’s what counts.

Beginning writers, want some advice? Learn faster than I did! :)

Play safe, everyone – I’m having fun and I hope you are, too!


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