Teething Problems: Finding a Blogging Voice Amid Circa 250 Posts
Blogging is harder than it looks.
It’s a trite bit of wisdom, but it’s completely true. I don’t mean time investment either – I mean actually sitting down and writing a blog article. Then another one. Then another one. Eventually you get better at it, then you look back at your older stuff and cringe… but it’s still there in your archives, haunting you. And (well-meaning) people judge you for it.
I have written 250 or so posts since I started this blog in November 2015 (my, how time flies…), and, suffice to say, it’s been a damn strange evolution. My previous experience at writing consisted of academic work, poetry, fanfiction, original fiction, and over a decade’s worth of contributing to online forums in various fields. I had my interests, I had a drive to share my interests with the world… but actually learning how to communicate this was another matter.. It is a skill I am still developing. Evolution never stops.
My initial idea was to offer thoughts on my writing experiences, and on the books I had read. I like to think I am pretty well-read generally. My notion of a style was derived from my experience in online forums, and Facebook (oddly enough). You can see that in some of my older blog posts – line-quoting and replying to someone else, or else a very short post that would work better as a status update (or as a thread-starter) than a blog. My tendency to post Real Life photos is still a legacy of this, as though I am updating Facebook – never mind the bits and pieces on my actual life, no matter how mundane (car issues, D&D characters). As of early 2016, I found I could create a semblance of regular structure via listing my monthly reads, but other than that, I went the comparatively common route of focusing on aspects of the fantasy genre I thought overdone (with a twist – my overdone things weren’t overdone when it came to criticism!).
Later in 2016, I ended up stumbling across Tolkien as subject matter, courtesy of a fellow author’s article (thanks, Neil!). It was great – a means of structuring my knowledge of the area into a blog series, all the while using my old “quote and reply” technique I inherited from the forums. Tolkien was also something I could safely hang my blogging hat on – I’d debated Middle-earth online for a decade, which is plenty of time to hone one’s ideas of characters and themes. At the same time, my newfound specialist ability worried me. I was (and obviously still am) a writer in my own right. So I made a point of providing updates on my own work progress, as well as more generalised thematic surveys of the genre. These surveys were less specific than my Tolkien material, since there are few authors I am as qualified to comment on in such detail as he, which led to some people being under the impression that I don’t read particularly widely. I hate giving false signals like that.
A nastier example of the false signal problem was when I started posting about politics too. I actually have a fair background in politics, both at the theoretical level, and at the practical level. It’s a subject that has interested me since childhood, and it is something I have written about in multiple different settings. But I really struggled to convert my enthusiasm into blog posts, and I was also well aware how… sensitive… the subject matter could be. Finding a voice was damn hard; my initial approach was to treat each post as a bare comment (Facebook update-style), or a short little rant, of the sort one makes to the TV after a long day at the office. I obviously keep such things out of my fiction (I hate polemical fiction), and also keep them from intruding into areas like my Tolkien or fantasy commentary. Sadly, this “short” format ended up making my political posts feel very superficial. That, in conjunction with the inherently contentious nature of the material, earned me plenty of criticism. My biggest worry at the time was that people would think me a dull polemicist, and my biggest blogging sorrow was giving the impression that I didn’t know what I was talking about. I knew I knew what I was talking about… I was just terrible at expressing it. Because blogging voice is damn hard, especially when you are branching out in an existing blog, and have already given people expectations.
I still remember someone arguing last year that A Phuulish Fellow was a blog best read from the beginning – it is a personalised story of interest, rather than a blog of set theme. I remain, of course, deeply honoured that someone would go back and read my material in this way, but I do think it is an interesting insight. This blog is, and has always been, a messy search for voice. A strange expression of “me” generally. I didn’t intend it to be this way… but then evolution doesn’t intend. It just happens, and the ever-growing “Category” column on the right-hand side is a testament to that. Feel free to make judicious use of that column, by the way – it’s there to weed out stuff you don’t want, and in a blog like this, that might well be wise. Some of my voices are more advanced than others.
Anyway, thanks for reading, whether this is your first visit, or your 250th. 🙂