Monday, October 4, 2010

To Blog or Not to Blog ...

As Janet announced on Friday, Prairie Chicks is winding down. By the end of this month, this blog will be history. That is, it will consist of archived articles only ... still available for reference. We hope it will remain useful for researching topics covered by the Chicks over the last 21 months. But no new articles will be posted. (At least for now ... but don't hold your breath!)

Over the next two weeks, we will post our reflections on what it has been like to be a Chick. I was not one of the five original Chicks who started the blog in January 2009. I became involved a couple of months later when the Tuesday slot became vacant. I was one of three members of the Saskatchewan Romance Writers (SRW) who agreed to rotate posts on Tuesdays. My first post began with an admission of doubt, mixed with excitement:

"Recently the opportunity arose for me to participate (or not) as a regular on this blog. Me? I knew nothing about blogging. I doubted my ability to get up to speed. I hadn't even been reading the blog until one day in January when a minus 40 wind chill kept me home from the SRW meeting. Then I began dropping in daily to learn from the creative women who started this. I heard myself say that I would learn the ropes. A new door opened, and now I am delighted to call myself a Prairie Chick."

That first post was my introduction to the world of blogging. It gave me the opportunity to talk about how my writing life had developed to that point. Now, 39 posts later, here are some random thoughts on blogging as a Chick.

Writers take up blogging for a variety of reasons. In the October 2010 issue of The Writer, the featured topic of Point/Counterpoint is "Are Writer Blogs Worth It?" The short description of the article in the table of contents states: "Two writers debate the pros and cons. Blogs, says one, give writers an easy, cheap way to promote and build their platforms. Hold on, says a dissenting writer -- blogging is overrated in many ways, the most obvious being that you don't get paid." Jackie Dishner takes the YES position, while Naomi Mannino says NO.

I did not join the Chicks for the purpose of self-promotion, to build a platform or to build a loyal fan base, which are some of the reasons Dishner gives for a writer to blog. I was then, and remain to this day, an unpublished author. So those objectives do not apply to me ... yet. Sharing information or points of view on topics related to writing or the writing life, exploring new ideas, and becoming somewhat of an expert come a little closer to what motivated me to join.

Since then I have become comfortable with the mechanics of posting using Blogger, have learned a little Html code, and experimented with inserting pictures (although I have used that feature sparingly, to say the least). One of the most gratifying experiences has been getting "acquainted" with other writers who comment on points raised in my posts. Often those comments contain nuggets of advice that are invaluable contributions to the topics or issues under discussion. I read the blog almost every day, missing only when I am not at home. Such a range of topics and variety of writing styles! I have been informed and entertained by my fellow Chicks and our guest bloggers.

There have been some negatives to my blogging experience. I seem to have less time for regular writing, although that is probably more related to reading blogs than blogging itself. Since I do not write category romance, I sometimes found it difficult to find topics that would appeal to readers of a romance blog. I agree with Naomi Mannino, who takes the "con" position on blogging when she points out: "Blog posts are not quick and easy to write well." She also mentions that she doesn't need more 'exposure' and she is not selling a book. She declares that a Twitter message of 140 characters (which she calls "micro-blogging") is all she is willing to do for free! I have not yet joined the world of tweeting.

On balance, however, my involvement with Prairie Chicks has been extremely positive. The camaraderie amongst the members has been great, I have been proud of what we have done over the (almost) two years, and writing to a deadline is a good exercise in self-discipline. In fact, I am motivated by the experience to seriously consider launching my own blog. (More about that, and an update on my current writing projects, in my final post two weeks from now.)


Jana Richards said...

Hi Helena,
I wonder about the value of blogging too. Naomi Mannino is right when she says that writing a blog well takes time. I know I spend a lot of time writing mine, time that comes out of my fiction writing time. But I'm hoping the effort I've put into the Prairie Chicks will translate into some name recognition, at least amongst our fellow writers.

Blogging with the Chicks has taught me that I really do enjoy blogging, and I plan to continue. More on that in future posts.

All the best,

Karyn Good said...

It's been a great ride. We're so happy you were able to join in and let us get to know you.

Looking forward to hearing about your future plans. Jana's, too!

Hayley E. Lavik said...

I agree with the effort of blogging vs. twitter. I always try to blog about something that actually interests me, so it feels worthwhile to write about. That's why I don't cling to a schedule on Eventide. Better to write with enthusiasm and stick to discipline for the stuff that matters.

Think you'll give twitter a try sometime?

Helena said...

Hi Jana,
It seemed so apropos to stumble on the articles in The Writer, and from the discussion there I get the idea that you have to decide why you want to spend the time that blogging requires. I hope you have notched some name recognition out of Prairie Chicks.

I've enjoyed blogging with the Chicks, too. Hopefully, if I did it for promotion at some point in the future it would be an indication to an agent or editor that I am serious about writing, esp. if it is combined with a website.

Thanks for dropping in.

Helena said...

Thanks, Karyn. As I said to Jana, I have enjoyed the experience, and I really did learn a lot over the last year and a half, or so.

I'm looking forward to the next few weeks, too. Bitter sweet to read the last couple of posts from everyone. I'm really determined to stay in touch with those of you who have your own blogs.

Helena said...

You have set a good example (for frequency, and content too, of course) on your blog, Hayley. If and when I put mine up, I may not go for a rigid and/or frequent schedule either. And I would want to be blogging about things that I am vitally interested in as well.

I suppose I will give Twitter a try at some point. I was quite enthusiastic after your presentation in July. Then it got shoved to the back burner along with so many other things!

Janet said...

I loved this post, Helena - and I've loved your tenure with the Chicks :) It's sad to see it go, and I hope (really, really hope) that you venture into the land of blogging (so I can stalk you).

It's always hard to decide whether or not to do something that may not have any merit in your future career. I know blogging does not get you a publishing contract - or a huge fan base (OK, in some rare cases, it does), but I do know that I love to blog and will continue to do so. Tweeting, however, is still not tempting me. I think that one more 'social' network will just push my writing further away.

It has been a pleasure blogging with you on The Prairies! Thank you for your insight and curious nature - I've learned a lot from your posts :)

Helena said...

Thank you, Janet, for your very complimentary comments. I have to admit that you were very persuasive about the benefits of becoming a Prairie Chick at that Feb. '09 meeting! And I have no regrets. I learned so much from all of you who had the brilliant idea in the first place to create the Prairie Chicks.

See you in blogland!