Wednesday, September 12, 2007

to b. or not to b.

So here’s the deal. I’m having a mid-blog-life crisis. I suspect this is normal as people hit the one year mark in their bloggy careers, but I’m also struggling with more complex issues as well. I need your advice. Here are the facts.

Since I began getting more serious about publishing my writing, I have been neglecting my blog considerably. I’m lucky to get in a post once a week. I wish this weren’t the case since it was the blog (and subsequent encouragement from family and readers) that rekindled my lifelong desire to be a Writer. It may be lunacy for me to get so caught up in this obsession at this stage of my life, and I have tried to set it aside and focus on my family and teaching, but it’s like I have been bitten by a bug. Or maybe it’s more like a nasty virus. Or perhaps a blood-sucking vampire. Anyway, until I can get this out of my system—which may involve trying really, really hard to get something published and then admitting defeat—I can’t seem to defer the dream. Darn you Langston Hughes.

I am now spending most of my free time (or in reality expensive time, as it is purchased at the cost of time spent with my children or cleaning my kitchen) writing and revising essays for publication and reading other people’s (much superior) prose for inspiration. If I do have a random thought for my blog, I just can’t seem to find the several hours it used to take me to develop and edit an entry. If only I treated my blog as I had originally intended—a place to dump stray ideas—I wouldn’t have this problem. But I expect too much and I don’t want to disappoint my few, but loyal readers.

As I submit my work (3 in the mail already!) and research submission guidelines, I am discovering that some people are bothered by “recycled” material. This means they don’t like it when people send them previously published stuff, even if it has only been “published” on a dinky little personal blog. I am also discovering that once you launch something into the electronic stratosphere that is the WWW, you can never suck it back. I deleted old posts that I have since reworked for publication but they will likely be cached and readily Googled for quite some time. At this stage, the essays I’m trying to publish and the book I’m hoping to compile both involve cannibalizing my archives. Should I just close up shop?

And most disturbing, on three occasions I have discovered my exact words have been copied without my permission elsewhere on the web. (This does not include the whole “Convergences” freak-out, where I willingly flung something I wrote into what may or may not be a dark vortex of idea theft). The other day, a neighbor came up to me in church and told me she had read something funny I wrote on the internet. I asked her how she found my blog and she said she had no idea I even had a blog. Instead, she told me of a different site (one I have never visited before) that reprinted a story of mine. She only knew it was mine because of my first name and the names of my children. This was a bit creepy and made me want to double check everything I had ever written about my neighbors. (Ironically, this one is about that particular neighbor’s nephew, but since it was my son who wound up smelling less than sweet, I decided to leave it alone).

I should be flattered by the imitation thing, and normally it wouldn’t bother me that much, but my vain delusion of Writer-hood is based on the premise that I’m writing stuff that is totally original and unique. My blog friend Michelle once told me that you’ve got to try to be the purple cow. I’m feeling a sense of urgency to get my ideas in print before someone else does. What if I’m too slow and by the time I get into the field, there are purple cows mooing all over the place?

And finally, what I really need right now is feedback on the essays I’m revising and expanding for publication. My brother (who is writing a novel) plans to create a blog where he will post one chapter at a time for family and friends to read and contribute suggestions. I might do the same. If so, it would be a restricted site to avoid the aforementioned problems of having my stuff sailing aimlessly Out There. I would, of course, give access to any Mental Tesserae readers who asked. Every time recently that anyone has reviewed my writing, they have given me suggestions that lead to big improvements. (See, I had nobody to read that last sentence but me and just look what a mess it is!)

So, if you’re still with me after my spotty current posting record and today’s little soliloquy, I would love to hear your opinions on the subject. Just so you know, I don’t think I could ever torch this whole blog; I have put too much of myself into it and besides which, Gabie thinks it’s his blog and he would surely disapprove. But maybe a hiatus? Or a makeover? Please let me know if you have any suggestions. I am, as always, in your debt.

Julie Q.


Miscellaneous-Mum said...

I fight with this everyday. I don't write as eloquently as you do (well, I do try once in a while!) but I have DELIBERATELY never written anything that has ever pertained to what I am currently working on professionally.

It really kills me because I too would love feedback and encouragement. But my paranoia is based on a healthy knowledge of all that sucks in the 'legit' publishing world (that some day might hopefully might work in my favour)

On another note, congrats on getting your work 'out there' at the moment. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you.

An Ordinary Mom said...

Please don't torch your blog, we need your inspiration and humor ... even if we seek it from the archives.

I would definitely love to be a part of your "editing" blog, but I don't know how much wisdom I would have to offer.

And there is no need to necessarily declare a bloggy hiatus or sabbatical - just post when you feel like it. We all understand life happens.

On a side note, I still don't think I quite understand why publishing your own work on your own blog then makes it impossible to publish it somewhere else. I suppose I am a naive writer ... or should I say blogger?!?

Clovergirl said...

Just a quick comment to say HELLO! I love your blog, I found it actually from an email from the GCFL list, where they had a story of yours, which I don't even remember now. I'm now hoping you knew they were emailing it! The URL is
I love the blog, but put yourself first!

Scribbit said...

I would love to read whatever you write, whether here on your blog or something for publication. I'll get what I can take.

And that purple cow thing? I think it was Seth Godin that said it first. See? I'm not even remotely lavender myself. :)

Meaghan said...

We would miss you if you stopped the blog! I only just found your site and I'd hate to see you end it, though I do understand the need to keep things under wraps until they're published.

Your random, dumped thoughts would be plenty to keep this blog running.

Sandra Tayler said...

We really need to get together and discuss this at length.

The short version: I write things that never go online because they're slated for traditional publication venues ...eventually...(I hope.) Traditional venues are no longer the only ones available. I've been blogging for more than three years now and I've accumulated enough entries that I'm now culling through them and picking some to be published in a print-on-demand book. The rules are changing about how things should get published. My husband and I make a living by giving stuff away for free online and still having people pay for print copies.

Jenna said...

I for one, hope that you don't quit the blog! I love to read your thoughts, random or composed. Maybe treat your blog as a journal/writing warm-up, that will get your juices flowing for the "real thing". This is what I am doing. I've only been published a few times, but I'm hoping for more, and when you've got those submissions out there, and are sitting on pins and needles...and even when you get rejections, it helps to have something positive coming from your writing, even if it's just our gracious comments on your blog. Good luck to you, whatever you decide, though. I'd read anything you wrote!

Heffalump said...

I have missed your posting more frequently, but I am happy to read whenever you do post.
I think that there are some dreams that don't wait. You may not have the inspiration or the drive to pursue this dream at a later time. I don't think you should give up.

TARA said...
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TARA said...

I say follow your heart. Of course we hope you don't abandon your blog completely, but ultimately you've got to do what makes you happy. Post here when you feel like it and don't pressure yourself to post with any predetermined frequency.

I'm really excited you're also focusing on getting published. I know you'll have a long list of acknowledegements ahead of me, but perhaps by the 4th or 5th novel you can dedicate a small portion to your favorite college roommate. ;-) Did I say that that?

Amy Jane (Untangling Tales) said...

Well, I don't suppose you were holding your breath for a new person to start commenting, but hi, and here's what I think:

As soon as your words are in print, anyone unscrupulous person can grab them (though, yeah it's easier to do on-line, and-- I've not had the "privilege" of testing this yet-- maybe it hurts less if you've been acknowledged/paid a bit first?)

So far I've not been "violated" this way (copy-stealing) but the thought of it happening, or the fear of running out of ideas sometimes feel like a spur toward new ideas-- to keep going.

I'm obviously not "motivated" enough to find out if I'm a "purple cow" or not, and that type of this (your motivation) puts you in a very special catigory. You've got the desire, you've got the how, you've got the do and I think what all these people are trying to say is you've got the talent too.

I think with that combination you are going to see success "if you faint-not."

Having a specially protected site to release stuff while it's young does sound appealing, but from your self-description here I think it might not be worth your time (to you). You already seem reluctant to release your writing before you feel it's done.

Will that change knowing you have a smaller (safer?) audience?

Just something (else) to think about.
Blessings on your journey!

Radioactive Jam said...

Not sure but I think setting this blog to private / invite-only will exclude it from future probes by Teh Google. Also I think the cached stuff falls out pretty quickly. Well, relatively speaking. Might take a few months even, but that's better than say, years.

Annette Lyon said...

According to Writer's Digest, it depends on the publication as to whether they consider a blog post as the piece having been "published." Many places don't care if it's been on a blog--and I'm aware of at least one book that came as a result of an editor reading a blog and wanting a compilation from it.

Long way of saying my vote would be b. :)

Oh, and don't stress about making perfct posts--several hours EACH? Yowza. That would cut into your "real" writing time.

Luisa Perkins said...

Your struggle with the time issue is similar to mine. There are no easy answers.

Only you can decide what is best for you, but the Alien Planet of Blog would be impoverished by your absence. Whatever you decide, I'd be thrilled to be a reader at any time.

Andrea said...

I love reading your blog and would miss it. My vote is to use your blog for random (non- publishable thoughts) if you have any of those. (not thoughts.. but all your posts are so awesome so all could be published in my opinion). And do other writing in a more private setting (either private blog, or on your own computer/ notebook).
I agree with the rest that you have to do what works for you and your situation now.
Just let us know where to find your work.

Peg said...

I'm not a writer but I do have an appreciation for those who do that inspire me, make me smile or make me think outside my normal box. I can't remember how I found your blog but I'm so glad I did as I've thoroughly enjoyed your blog. I have no words of wisdom. I just wanted to come out of lurkdom to say thanks and best wishes with whatever you decide.

Goslyn said...

Oh pleeease don't close up shop! I am so short of computer time these days, but I wou;d miss you terribly if you left.

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