Unlike a lot of you out there, I don’t hang out with other bloggers. I don’t go to the conventions, I’m not on Darren Rowse’s Christmas card list. Not because I choose not to, but because I don’t really know any other bloggers.
In fact, I didn’t know who Darren Rowse was until a couple of weeks ago. Wouldn’t know him if he delivered a pizza to my door in the next ten minutes.
Oh, I remember now, he’s the guy who was too busy to answer an email query I sent him a couple of months ago on the advice of my blogging mentor. Who doesn’t know him either.
And because of that, I often feel very alone with the blank page.
It’s Not Who You Know, And It May Not Be What You Know
Sure, I have a few blogging acquaintances online, and I’m glad to have them in my virtual circle because they say nice things about my blog on theirs.
And that’s actually a good thing. Because that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. And not knowing what I’m doing online, technically-speaking, is absolutely killing me.
Not finding a clear solution online is even worse. Because what is posted and positioned as solutions reads, to someone like me, as inaccessible techno-babble.
All of this makes me stronger (remember, it’s killing me) because there’s only one thing I do know how to do well, and that’s write. Write my lonely non-technical ass off, every post, every day.
Nobody knows it all. And if they do, chances are they won’t return your emails, either. We are left to make our own way.
If I’ve learned one thing – after six months that about sums it up – it’s that we must cling to that which got us into this in the first place. Because if you don’t have a wheelhouse, a claim to some expertise, then you’re left to build your blog through commiseration and community, which is like inviting a neighbor to your party instead of the local movie star in town to see his Mother.
Or, becoming that star in your own right. But that’s tricky, and it easily backfires.
How To Intimidate Your Reader Into Oblivion…Or Just Plain Piss Them Off
I try to read all the blogs I can, and to be honest I don’t make it past first base in a lot of them. Got one from a Big Famous Blogger the other day, and he was advocating some technical stuff like installing a custom post plug-in template, requiring PHP and HTML proficiency, and… well, here’s part of what he said:
What I did was take my single.php file in my theme and create a copy of it. At the top, I put in the necessary PHP comment to mark the template as such. I named the template single-971.php because “971″ is the ID # in the database of one of my money posts. I then made those changes to that template that I wanted to do for the post.
Frankly this just pisses me off, because I don’t have a clue what any of that means. PHP sounds like an airborne contaminant to me. So I didn’t finish the read, and while he may be making orders of magnitude more money than me, and is almost certainly orders of magnitude smarter than I’ll ever be (though I doubt he’ll ever publish a novel, if you get my drift), not a dime of it will come from me.
If singing to the choir is your thing, have at it
The bigger game, though, is singing to the congregation.
There’s a case to be made for dumbing it down sometimes. Now, if you happen to understand what that guy was talking about – and given this venue, I’m betting that more of you do than don’t – try this on for size and see how it feels. Because what you are about to read comes from a professional fiction writer and teacher – that’s me – and I wouldn’t in a million years put it into a blog intended to be of value to aspiring writers. Yet it’s the literary equivalent of the above sample:
To optimize the character arc in the second quartile narrative subsequent to and in context to the foreshadowed inciting incident, the sub-text must reflect the hero’s inner journey as it relates to the limited visibility of the antagonistic pressure driving him deeper into the netherworld of Campbell’s darkest mythic journey.
I read the techno-babble equivalent of that every day online. Even here.
My point, in case it’s eluding you as much as it is me: the full breadth of understanding will come. Do what you do, writing about what you know, and most of all, make it accessible and valuable to those who seek to know it, too.
But while you’re at it, don’t engage in the self-service of simply making yourself sound smart – another Big Name Blogger who has never published a novel in his life recently graced us with his personal “recommendations on how to write a novel,” thank you very much – at the expense of reader interest, and thus, in an ironic twist, your own credibility.
We all have to be better than that. By assuring ourselves, and our readers, that we’re not better than anybody else. That perspective imbues the distribution of content with a gift-like nuance, one that human beings instinctively recognize and respond to.
Cling to that. And watch who comes to the party then.