Publish or blog?

April 27, 2007 at 3:00 am Leave a comment

photo from BrazilIt’s a dream I’ve had since I was 12 years old – to saunter into a bookstore and see my name, as author, on the spine of a book. Back then, I was heavily influenced by Carson McCuller’s work, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, way before Oprah listed it as a Book Club must-read. I churned out a novel when I was 13 years old – can’t recall too much about it other than it consisted of a foggy night; a mysterious man, wearing a cheap fedora, was leaning against a lamp post, lighting an equally cheap cigarette; soft yellow shards of light from the lamp post bathed the water-washed road…. A young girl was silently watching the man from her window….. Can’t recall any more of the plot but I do remember having visions of Humphrey Bogart starring in the film version (I was too young to realise he had died in the 1950s).

Following school, I became caught up in the maelstrom of corporate life but the dream of writing a novel remains. We all have friends and family who have written a novel in their spare time; quit their jobs to write; or constantly talk about penning the ultimate Great (insert name of country) Novel. Few have done so, yet we continue to hear the almost mythological stories: a JK Rowling scribbling away in Scottish cafes with her young daughter, both seeking protection from the icy cold weather, and going on to create publishing history; or a Matthew Reilly, whose first novel, Contest, was rejected by publishers for being unoriginal and cliched. Reilly self-published 1,000 copies of Contest and placed them in a local bookstore in Sydney. By fantastic coincidence, I was in that bookstore at the time, saw a copy of Contest and bought it – one of my smarter moves!

And no doubt we’ve heard how torturous the writing process can be – Virginia Wolf had a mental breakdown after writing her final novel, The Years; and Douglas Adams’ last manuscript was 15 years overdue. I angst and fuss over every word I write.

So what is it about the bright lights of authorship? A friend recently said to me that blogging is for failed writers and that blogs lack the credibility of a published piece of work. That bloggers are self-referential and full of their own self-importance and aggrandisement. Maybe….

But despite the odds against getting published, many of us still hanker after seeing our name on the spine of a book sitting proudly in a bookstore. Considering the explosion of blogs, have they fulfilled our publication dreams? The writing process is a hard slog, whether for blogs, fiction or non-fiction. Many blogs have been abandoned. I admit to finding the blogging process incredibly difficult and often wonder “why bother” (not sure I know yet!).

Our contemporary society is one of instant gratification, celebrity and 15 minutes of fame before sinking into obsurity again. Is this the allure of blogs? that it will give us our 15 minutes of glittering fame? or do we have two worlds co-existing – the vibrant world of bloggers having jumbled conversations in which you can tune in or drop out at anytime; and the traditional publishing world, a closed system of literary agents and publishers whose opinion of your writing holds sway? yet, we want to break into this elite world and be an insider, not an outsider. We have MySpace and Facebook that allow us to see our name “up in lights”, yet many of us still consider the traditional publishing route more ‘respectable’.

If blogging satisfies our inner writer, then why do we so often abandon them? what do blogs deliver in our contemporary society that published books don’t (leaving aside how hard they are to get published)? is it about finding our voice, sense of control and individuality in a world that every day is less predictable, more frightening, and “brand obsessed”? why do so many of us think we have something important to say? and equally, why do we think that other people want to read our stream of consciousness blogs? do blogs give us access to expert opinion that may otherwise be denied by mainstream publishing?

I ultimately went on to publish Rethinking Knowledge (well, edit and co-author a chapter) – a book focusing on (you guessed it) Knowledge Management. But this has not quenched the thirst for writing that debut novel. I have a special book in which I write down phrases; half-baked plots; half-formed characters; intriguing or colourful words. One day….a novel….meanwhile….a blog.

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Entry filed under: Reflections.

John Snow’s maps revisited ThinkingShift species watch

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