So … what IS the point of blogging?

This latest kerfuffle has made me consider that very question. Do people blog because they’re “attention whores”, hungry for notice? Do they blog because they’re trying to sell you something, be it a book or a new skin care product? Do they blog because the publicity department in their publishing house told them they must?

I can’t speak for anyone else. I can only tell you that my own answer is: none of the above.

When I started my blog, back in 2005, I didn’t harbor any illusions that it would help me sell books. And I still don’t believe that blogging is all that effective a promotional tool. People don’t buy your books because you blog; rather, they come to your blog because they already know your name, and want to know more about the author whose books they’ve already read. Maybe you’ll pick up a new book reader here and there, who wanders onto your site through some random link, but I doubt those numbers are very significant.

I suspect that the opposite happens just as often — that something you write on your blog so offends a visitor that they swear never to buy any of your books. That happened to me last year, when I wrote a post about an author who behaved badly, and I confessed that I understood the human impulses that drove her. I was soundly condemned as being just as guilty as she was, because I wasn’t ready to pick up a rock and join the stoning party. From there it only got worse, with bloggers soon spreading the false rumor that I had dispatched my fan-minions to threaten anyone who disagreed with me. (Which begs the question, where are these amazing fan-minions, anyway, and could I get them over here to wash my windows?) By the time the rumors finished percolating through blog sites, I possessed horns and cloven hooves. The thing about rumors is, you can’t stamp them out. You can’t do anything but endure them and hope that people realize, over time, that they’re false. And that the people spreading them are liars.

The whole experience made me shut down my blog and walk away. I decided I would use it only to announce book news and media events. It was no longer a blog, but a publicity bulletin board.

For a few months, it was wonderful. No blogging! No blowback! I felt a burden had fallen from my shoulders. As it so happened, I was dealing with a family crisis at the time as well, and not blogging gave me time to deal with that crisis. I got supportive emails from other ex-bloggers, telling me: “Ending your blog is the best thing you can do for your own peace of mind. It’s vicious out there, especially for someone who doesn’t have the claws to fight back.”

So why did I come back to it?

Because I missed connecting with the people I’ve learned to know through this blog. And I missed talking about the book business. Even after 22 years as an author, I’m still hearing things, learning things about publishing, and whenever I do, I want to tell someone else about it. I live an isolated life, and seldom get to mingle with other writers. And my non-writer friends here don’t really care about the latest buzz on advances or Amazon.com. So whom do I go to with the latest publishing gossip? Who wants to hear about it?

Other writers. Who were reading my blog.

That’s why I came back to it. Not because it sells books. Not because it gets attention. But because I can’t think of any more effective way to share news and information, to compare notes, and to commiserate over our common frustrations, than through blog sites. That’s why I visit the blogs of so many other writers — I’m comforted when I read that Annie Author is banging her head over writer’s block, because I know I’m not alone. I get a sympathetic twinge when Wally Writer says he can’t find his latest book in Barnes and Noble, or Nick Novelist agonizes over the lousy review he got in PW — because I’ve been there too. These universal experiences link writers into a caring, sharing community — but we can’t link if we don’t hear about them. And that’s where blogs come in.

But there are blogs I’ve learned to avoid, blogs that reflect the personality of someone I would not want to associate with in real life. And they’re almost always written by people who are not published authors.

If you call another writer (and I apologize for writing these words) a bitch, slut, whore, prick, or asshole, I think I know what kind of person you are.

If you tell another writer or blogger to “STFU,” I know what kind of person you are.

If you encourage others to gang up and attack another writer, or actively work to destroy that writer’s career and livelihood, I certainly know what kind of person you are.

It may be the point of YOUR blog. But it certainly isn’t the point of mine.

23 replies
  1. Gina Black
    Gina Black says:

    I’m really glad you’re back blogging again. I learn so much from publishing veterans like you. I see your blog as a gift. I can’t pay you back, but hopefully some day I can pay it forward.

  2. JD Rhoades
    JD Rhoades says:

    I blog because I’m incapable of shutting up. But I don’t think I’ve ever blogged about how people shouldn’t blog. My irony circuits would overload.

  3. Pepper Smith
    Pepper Smith says:

    I was pleased when I saw that you’d started blogging again. I’ve quite enjoyed reading your experiences and insights in the writing and publishing worlds.

  4. Kyle K.
    Kyle K. says:

    You notice how this other writer not only HAS a blog and complains about blogging on said blog, but also has a Twitter account, and a Facebook page, and a MySpace page, all of which she ADVERTISES on her own blog…

    I agree. We know just the kind of person a writer who disses other writers publicly is. And I’m glad you’re taking the higher route and defending yourself!

  5. patry
    patry says:

    I always feel as if I know the bloggers I read regularly; and when I’ve met them in person, I’ve never been proved wrong.

    Thanks for all you share here.

  6. JD Rhoades
    JD Rhoades says:

    You notice how this other writer not only HAS a blog and complains about blogging on said blog, but also has a Twitter account, and a Facebook page, and a MySpace page, all of which she ADVERTISES on her own blog…

    And the odd thing is, I’ve interacted with Josephine in all of these venues, and she’s always been quite nice to me.

    Is a puzzlement.

  7. Jude Hardin
    Jude Hardin says:

    In my experience, most writers are very supportive of one another.

    And that’s the way it should be.

    I suppose there will always be those who–for some reason–feel compelled to say negative things about others, but it’s not very endearing, and it’s not very professional.

  8. l.c.mccabe
    l.c.mccabe says:

    Tess,

    I am also glad that you returned to blogging. I enjoy reading your posts. They are filled with honesty about how the creative process is not as simple as a mathematic equation. It’s messy and nerve wracking, but it can be really satisfying as well.

    Stay true to yourself.

    Karma has a way of sorting things out.

    Linda

  9. MFMakichen
    MFMakichen says:

    Hi Tess,
    Wonderful post. I think it’s extremely difficult to take a balanced position and hold it. People seem much more interested in the extremes.

    In the end I think people have to do what works best for them and part of that is doing what you truly want to do.

    One of the things I like about this post is that you’ve put the focus back on what you like about blogging. I think that’s fantastic. I look forward to your next post.

  10. Ghasem Kiani
    Ghasem Kiani says:

    I was really astonished by what the other writer had written about you. It was an unfair statement. I visited her blog, following the link you had provided, and I didn’t find it agreeable to my taste. Anyway, your blog is one of the best and most useful blogs about the art of writing. Please continue with the great work.

  11. techiebabe
    techiebabe says:

    I blog to get things out of my system. If other people enjoy reading it, well, that’s up to them, but it started off as a selfish thing for me.

    Now, I have embraced the community side of it and have lots of “friends” whose blogs I enjoy reading, and use my blog to communicate with them as well. Plus my relatives have discovered it and started reading. Uh-oh!

    Meantime, I have a secret blog where I can write things about my past that I need to get out of my system. Very, very few people know it’s me. It’s incredibly cathartic.

    And finally I have a blog on my local newspaper’s website, which is really for writing practise and to build up a portfolio of articles.

    None of these have to be the “right” reason – I don’t think that someone’s motivation for blogging matters too much; rather that readers seem to have forgotten that the internet has an “off” switch. They don’t click away in the same manner that they would with the TV. Personally I enjoy your blog, so I read it. Simple!

  12. chicki
    chicki says:

    I agree with Gina. I’ve learned so much about the “real deal” in the industry from reading your blog. Hopefully, some day I’ll be able to pay it forward also.

  13. Jnantz
    Jnantz says:

    Ms. Gerritsen,
    I think you’ve chosen the correct way to handle this. Feeding a troll never works, and unfortunately these days, when you are in any way in the public eye (even if it’s just the blogosphere), turning the other cheek is about the only way. You’ll be judged by the judgmental people anyway, so why make yourself out to be the attacking or retaliatory type, when you’re not. Ignore crap like that and hope the person will eventually realize that when you spit that much invective at an audience of zero, all you are really doing is drooling with force.

    As far as the legions of fans coming to your place…sorry, I don’t do windows.

    😀

  14. Tess
    Tess says:

    Dusty,
    yes, it is a puzzle, isn’t it? But it seems to me that women reserve their nastiest attacks for other women, and they’re a lot easier on men. You’re far more likely to hear the insult of “bitch”, etc., from another woman.

  15. Charlene Teglia
    Charlene Teglia says:

    I started blogging in, geez, 2001, 2002? My original blog was a place for fiction and comraderie. Then I started my “real” blog for more comraderie, because when you live on a mostly unpopulated peninsula, you want to talk to somebody. *g*

  16. cjewel
    cjewel says:

    I’m glad you’re blogging again. I missed you while you were gone, and I hope you continue blogging for a very long time to come.

  17. Abe
    Abe says:

    Tess,

    What the hell are you worried about? Blogging is a way to get in touch with other writers, true, but i’s also informative and a need for the minion of your fans out there to find out what’s on your mind outside of the written page. Did you notice that when you stopped blogging, how miserable we were? Sure there are people out there that will tell you to “STFU” (it took me a minute to figure this one out). But it’s all opinion and not fact. Your blog tells BOTH sides of the story, and that is what we love about you. So, don’t worry. It’s what you feel in your heart what makes you who you are. Not based on what some insensitive a-hole thinks about you. You’re 100% natural. We love you. Also, who else but you would use the word “kerfuffle?”
    Abe

  18. joliehale
    joliehale says:

    I’m hesitant to badmouth Josephine over this, because like JD Rhoades, I have had friendly interactions with her. I’ve been following her blog for awhile, and she occasionally visits and comments on my blog in return.

    I think Josephine recognizes there can be benefits to social networking, but she overloaded on it and decided to limit her participation because that is what’s best for her. Over time, I have picked up on Josephine’s frustration with her own blog, which by the end of 2008 had become a time-suck and a distraction for her. She specifically said that in the future, she would limit her blogging mostly to book reviews. I think Josephine’s projecting this frustration with her own blog onto other bloggers. She thinks that because using her blog for personal reflection/discussion has become a negative for her, that means other writers should consider it a negative for themselves as well.

    Josephine’s philosophy, if I’m interpreting her blog correctly, is that writers write and social networking should take a backseat to that. But since you seem to feel the same way, I can only conclude that Josephine is basing her “attention whore” comment on limited or inaccurate information, and that she has not been a regular reader of your actual blog posts. I don’t see any other explanation for why a usually nice person like her would make such a nasty comment about you. Bottom line: Josie blogged hastily. I hope she comes to realize it.

  19. april
    april says:

    I know I don’t reply often, but I do enjoy reading this blog. I love any personal connection authors give to the readers. I’m not saying it’s required, but it’s the little extra that keeps me coming back.

    I’d love to say I blog because I’m an attention whore, but I’m not. It is kind of a thrill when more than just my family reads my blog though. I set it up as a generic place to rant and rave and think (in that order really). Then, it became my place to update the family on the baby. Now, it’s a mix of both.

    Blogging is an art in itself. I read a bunch and everyone has a different purpose and voice – some are success and some are not. Obviously, because I keep coming back here and follow regularly, this one must be doing something right!

  20. BernardL
    BernardL says:

    I’ve certainly picked up a plethora of writing and editing tips since blogging, but my writer friends normally don’t do hit pieces on their blogs. If blogging became a chore I would have no problem stopping. When people blog comments like the ones in your examples, Tess, they do far more damage to their own credibility than to the person they are attempting to belittle.

  21. joe bernstein
    joe bernstein says:

    Tess-I think the reason you may hear more nasty stuff from women is that for so long if a woman used salty language she was considered “trampy”.Nowadays it’s no big deal.The general civility of language has disappeared because of the tabloidization(is that a word?) of society.
    Another thought:you’ve been successful in two difficult fields.Jealousy perhaps from wannabes who haven’t had success at anything.
    I’m only jealous of where you live:)

  22. therese
    therese says:

    Ditto! I’m also thrilled you are back blogging!

    I began blogging because, like you, I have an insatiable curiosity and am always finding cool little tidbits I want to share. I also like it because, as a mother of four girls, I often felt like I never had a chance to complete a thought and now on my blog, I can! I can make a point, the whole point, and not be interrupted!

  23. Autumn Anderson
    Autumn Anderson says:

    We, as people with a light within, a core which all blossoms from, are hard enough on ourselves…it is a wonder why people think they have the floor, the spotlight, to be able to speak ill…there is only enough room for me on this stage. I can’t go around and do not have the time to get infected with anyone else’s “mirroring”.
    We all know the one who calls someone else a whore is a…(insert your word here).
    Keep doing what you are doing…it works, and you are celebrated!

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