2003, 2004, 2005 & 2006: Named one
of the 101 best Web sites for writers by Writers Digest Magazine.
Blog, Sweet Blog
Dave Barry has one. So does Michael Moore, Anna Kournikova and Al Roker—and countless other people, some famous, some not.
Let’s face it—if you surf the Web on a regular basis these days, you can’t help but run into a blog.
A blog—or Web log—is an online notebook of sorts. It can be a diary, a journal, a written “soap opera” of daily events, or a series of unrelated postings. A blogger can share information— usually through a series of related links—or she can share herself, allowing glimpses into her day, her thoughts and her world.
Blogging is easy, fun and creative. But even more importantly for writers, blogging is writing. It may not be profitable for the bank account, but many writers benefit in real ways from their Web logs.
“It’s an electronic rough draft,” says Linda Sherwood, a humor columnist, mother of four and dedicated blogger. “It’s a place to hammer out an idea and publish your not-yet-polished work and receive feedback on it.”
Sherwood also considers her blog, called “I’m The Mommy, That’s Why,” a good tool for her “real” writing. “It’s a place to relax, and to put those half-thought ideas down for further development later. It’s a place to vent. If I blog about it, I won’t forget that great idea that otherwise would be lost before it developed. It also helps develop and maintain a consistent voice for an audience, which is especially important for a columnist,” she says.
Freelance writer, mom of two and blogger Lani Schwalbe agrees. “Writers write. I wanted to do a warm up every day, get the writing juices flowing, without having consequences if it’s bad. By going with a blog, I had accountability (readers) but I didn’t have to worry about writing publishable stuff. It’s kind of like the warm-ups runners do before they run.”
So are you ready for your warm-up?
Selecting the site may be the hard part. “I went to Blogger and followed the directions. It was pretty simple,” says Sherwood, adding it took about two hours to get her blog on her site and with her site’s format.
Most blogging sites will host your blog and provide tools that will allow you to automatically update your page without any HTML, file transfer or other specialized knowledge. The blogging applications used on the sites also give you a variety of templates, so you have some control over the way your blog looks. So have fun, and let the blog reflect what you’re going to be writing there—be it a serious reflection on the events in our world or a rant about your day among two-year old ladybug hunters.
Benefits to You, the Writer
Schwalbe writes entries of 200-1,000 words a day on her blog, “Twenty Minutes.” “I’m writing everyday, no matter what, except when my electricity went out!” jokes Schwalbe. “It keeps me in shape, so to speak. I have also taken a few entries, polished them and sold them, so it has quite literally paid off!”
Sherwood began her blog to give her mother reading material. Still, she has found the blog keeps her disciplined. “(It) makes me sit my butt in the chair and get some writing done. It’s a quick way to put that half-thought-out idea down.”
Because blogs are essentially free writing, they give you an opportunity to “try out” subjects you usually don’t write on assignment. They can also be used as a marketing tool, allowing you to promote your other “real” writing.
Benefits to You, the Mother
Schwalbe sees her blog as a method of holding onto memories of her daughters growing up. “I’m taking time to write down details about my kids that I probably wouldn’t have recorded if I wasn’t desperately reaching for something to write about every day,” she admits. “Many of my entries are about what the girls are doing and saying on that particular day, things I’m sure I would forget if I didn’t record it.”
This way, many years from now, Schwalbe’s daughters will have a written collection of their growing up years—collected lovingly (and with some laughs) by their mom. What could be a better keepsake?
So What's Not to Like?
Another gray area when it comes to writers’ blogs is the question of copyright. Is material on a blog site considered published, thereby only marketable as a reprint?
“Blogs are a gray area for publishing,” Schwalbe says. “Some people consider a blog to be published, therefore in some instances you may not be able to sell first rights on something you’ve blogged.”
“This is a tough issue,” admits Sherwood. “By publishing something in your blog, you may be compromising your ability to sell something as original—especially if you have a popular blog.”
Sherwood has sold essays from her blog. “Some have come from several blogs over a period of time on the same subject. Others are just a single blog with some editing. If I think it’s something that I don’t want to risk, I don’t post it. Still, I say that blogging is more of a rough draft with an audience.”
Schwalbe adds, “The law of intellectual property is very much in favor of the writer. What you blog is yours and yours alone, and I don’t think anyone could argue successfully that it’s in the public domain. However, like everything on the Internet, it’s very easy to steal, so you have to be vigilant if you want to protect your copyright.”
Mary Dixon Lebeau is a freelance writer, newspaper columnist and employment counselor. She lives in West Deptford, NJ, with her four children. Mary can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.