Two questions recently:
How difficult and time-consuming is it to start a blog and keep it up?
Don’t you find all the social media stuff distracts you from your writing?
Maintaining a Blog
The short answer to question one is: sometimes very difficult, other times, not so much. The real key, for me, is scheduling a regular time to accomplish my blogging for the week. I try to do this on Monday mornings. (I sometimes get a head start on Sunday night.) I sit down, write down the three to five topics (and sub-topics) I want to tackle that week, and get to work. I like to have two days where I feature writing prompts and one day where I feature a video blog. That only leaves two “open” days, most weeks, to come up with content for. (For the record, the video blog takes the most time because not only do I write out the content, I have to read it several times and edit it to keep the video in the 3- to 4-minute range.)
Social Media as Distraction
Yes. Too much social media can be a distraction.
But, social media is more and more important for emerging writers. You have to find balance. Some days, I’m really good at it. Other days, not so much. It is a constant battle for a nerdy, technophile like myself. I enjoy the social media innovations, and I find a lot of value in growing my online presence. I’ve virtually met a number of people who have been a help or inspiration. But, I also have to remind myself that too much “brand building” and not enough writing is a bad thing.
Social media engagement has to be proportional to actual work on writing. I try to remind myself, daily, of the writing work I want/need to accomplish, and keep that ideal in front of me throughout the day, so that I stay on task.
I feel, though, that it is important not to wait until you NEED a blog to start one. I’ve made an effort to build my online presence slowly, smartly over the last six months, before I’m ready to seek a book contract or teaching position. I want to have a wide variety of posts and an assortment of content on my blog, all of which (I hope) demonstrates my ability to market and promote myself while maintaining a focus on my art.
I’ve started blogs in the past, several of which slowly faded away. It took me several tries to find a pattern (both of work, and of content) that I feel is sustainable AND beneficial to my end-result goals. Rather than wait until people are actively seeking me out (“Hey, does that guy who wrote that Pulitzer-nominated novel have a blog?”) I’ve chosen to build early and slow, learn how to manage the work load, and not subject rabid readers to the trials and errors every new blogger experiences. Now, as I prepare to finish my MFA, seek a job teaching fiction, and push my work out into the world for others to see, I’ve already established a reasonable, sustainable online rhythm. It’s not perfect, and there is plenty of room for me to grow, but if I do produce a best-selling, award-winning book (or ten) that has people wanting to know more about me, I’m already ahead of the game.
If you are thinking about building your online presence, my advice is to start slow, learn as you go, have fun, but find a system that allows you to methodically grow your audience and “digital imprint” while you continue to focus on your craft.