Another new VoiceCatcher series, “From Blocked to Blogger” will follow Rita Ramstad’s journey from frustrated poet to ecstatic blogger. Now a prolific writer, Rita will share her experience learning the art and craft of blogging as well the technological tips she’s learned along the way. If you’re a beginning blogger, this column will shorten your learning curve and give you the boost you need to become an unblocked writer.
From Blocked to Blogger
by Rita Ramstad
You were supposed to be reading this article weeks ago.
Write an article about the benefits of blogging? Sure! I’d love to! There are so many and I’m a passionate blogger. Piece of cake.
Except I found myself strangely blocked. I say “strangely” because I’m so rarely a blocked writer any more. In the last 15 months, I’ve written 112 blog posts. Length varies greatly, but they average about 1,000 words each.
That’s 112,000 words in a little more than a year – and that’s the equivalent of a hefty novel. Before I became a blogger, I was a frustrated poet with one book to my name. It took me ten years to write the poems in that book – ten mostly blocked, stopped, frustrated years of writing.
Now, I am not going to argue that the writing on my blog is of the same quality as the writing in my book. I know it’s not. And I have written a blog, not a book. I know that’s different, too. But finally, after years of struggle, I am writing, and reaping many of the rewards that come from getting the words out and in front of an audience. Blogging did that for me.
Leaping into the blog pool
If you, too, are a blocked writer, or a beginning writer, or a wondering-if-it’s-worth-doing writer, I’ve got some reasons you might take a leap into the blog pool. And even if you’re an experienced, confident, generally happy writer, I’ve got some reasons for you, too.
Like many blocked, frustrated, struggling-to-write writers, I am a perfectionist. Actually, I consider myself a perfectionist-in-recovery; but just as an addict can never truly stop being an addict, I will never not be a perfectionist. Writing a blog has been my primary tool of recovery. I didn’t know it would be that when I started.
As an educator, I thought it was important to learn about social media. A few years ago I started a blog as a way to do that. Finding a way back to my passion with words was just a lucky accident.
How did that happen? Initially, it was simply that the nature of the medium made it easier for me to write imperfectly. No one expects a blog to be literature. Relieved from the self-imposed pressure to create, I discovered that completing pieces of writing became much, much easier.
Once I started writing and posting regularly, I realized another thing about blogging that makes it easier to accept less-than-stellar writing: There’s not much riding on any one piece. You write a sucky post one day? That’s OK. It will soon be buried under the next few not-so-sucky ones. Letting go of my own high expectations freed me to write more than I ever have before.
Now, none of this would mean much if greater production only meant a whole lot of crappy writing. Fortunately, writing more made another great thing happen: My writing got better.
Motivation: an audience
Your blog might not be your “real” writing, but writing is writing is writing. The act of regularly crafting words for an audience will improve your work. It just will. I know this isn’t news and that you could get regular practice without blogging, but many of us don’t practice on our own. Through blogging, I discovered the one thing that can get me to the keyboard even when I don’t much feel like going there: an audience.
When you first start writing a blog, you likely won’t have much of an audience. This is great! It means that you can make mistakes in relative obscurity.
If you keep at it, though, you’ll likely to find and build an online community – a group of readers and fellow writers who give you reasons to write outside of yourself. It was a need for interaction with readers that helped me understand one of my biggest roadblocks to writing BB (Before Blogging): I crave an audience.
It’s not that I’m an egomaniac who needs to be loved. I am, however, a writer who needs to be read. I need to feel a concrete, immediate purpose for writing that I could never feel when writing poetry – even after experiencing some success with it. While I did (and do) believe that literary writing is of huge importance, it was hard for me to keep faith that my literary writing was important. Without that belief, I found such writing impossible to sustain in the face of all the other things that undeniably are important – earning a living, parenting my children, nurturing relationships.
Finding a supportive, encouraging community gave me the best gift of all: Finally giving myself permission to write about what I really want to write about, in the way I most enjoy writing.
I let go of my aspirations to write Literature about Really Important Things. I let myself admit that writing poetry isn’t the creative work that gets my mind racing when I wake up early in the morning. What I really wanted to do – and explore through writing a blog – is figure out how making a home intersects with making a good life.
So I let my first blog go and launched another one focused on my efforts to renovate a home and grow a blended family in it. I think the true topic of my blog is redemption – which is still a pretty important thing, right? – but I’m writing about it in a way that I never would have imagined when I was younger and told people that I wanted to be a writer.
I don’t really know where the blog is going to go, or even where I want it to go or what more I want to get from it. I do know, though, that if I decide to pursue more traditional routes to publication, the blog will be something that better positions me to do so. I’ve got a large and growing body of work to draw upon, and it’s much easier to get a book deal when you already have an audience and a platform. Blogging can get you that, too – and that’s why all writers really should have a blog, whether they are blocked or flowing, frustrated or happy, beginning or experienced.
Ready to jump in? How to get started is the topic for another post. I’ll get to writing that one soon, but right now I have five other posts I’m itching to write for my blog. Considering how the perfectionism beast kept me from meeting the deadline on this one, I’d better get to them. I’ve got more growing to do, and writing my blog is the best way I know to do it.
Rita Ott Ramstad writes about second chances on her blog This (sorta) Old Life. In a previous writing life, she was a poet. Her collection The Play of Dark and Light received the Stafford/Hall Oregon Book Award for Poetry in 2003.