My name is Mark William Jackson and I was a compulsive blogger. It has been eight weeks since my last post. At my worst I would spend up to two hours per evening posting, responding to comments and checking statistics. If I wasn’t in my dashboard I was checking my email to see if anyone had left a comment. I was obsessed and I had to stop. I started blogging as a way of promoting my poetry but the blog is a wicked beast in the hands of an addict – by the end I was writing poetry to support the blog.
It has been well documented (usually by bloggers) that a blog, along with facebook and twitter, are essential tools for the aspiring writer. Blogs are a cheap and easy way to get your work out to millions of potential readers. Start a blog and scream ‘death to the publisher infidels, we don’t need you anymore’. But, herein lies the danger, when the blog becomes the product instead of the marketing tool.
Two blogs are created every second. In publishing terms this equates to a slush pile that increases by a full-length novel every three minutes. Hoping to achieve fame and fortune via a blog is like throwing a bottled message into the ocean and hoping a publisher (or their influential equivalent) will find it.
But more dangerous than the exercise in futility detailed above is what one writer (whose name eludes me) called the ‘group hug effect’. A writer posts a piece of work which is nowhere near finished then sits back and waits for the followers to throw up their empty comments ‘wonderful’, ‘I love this’, ‘you have captured this perfectly’. The writer then receives some sort of inner glow and feels the work is complete.
Group hugs are provided by what I would call ‘blog trawlers’, similar yet opposite to ‘blog trolls’, whose aim is to offend, blog trawlers will comment on any piece of insane crap that a blogger posts. Blog trawlers maintain blogs of their own and comment in the hope of a return comment on their blog. Their blogs are usually filled with little images called ‘blog awards’ such as the ‘Sunshine award’. This community is fine if it is what you are looking for – an extended social network – but if you are serious about writing, this community can drag you down into a quagmire of shallow praise and false hope. I knew it was time for me to get out when someone offered me a ‘Sunshine award’. (The irony was totally lost in the offer.)
For any writer hoping to reach beyond immediate family and trawlers, there is a danger that once a piece of work is posted it is considered ‘published’ by many well-respected journals (Overland being one), and will not be considered for submission. This leads to a catch-22: you can either post on your blog and forget print and reputable online journals, or you can split your creativity, writing some for the blog and keeping some aside for submissions. Anyone who can do this and write effectively doesn’t need a blog to promote themselves, they’d already have a Nobel prize.
So, after a year of active blogging I ripped it all down and deleted my wordpress account, ran screaming to the darkest corner of my house and leapt into the foetal position, never again to look into the evil dashboard asking to be fed a new post. My blog was dead, I had killed it and danced on its grave.
That is, until last week.
I’d been long enough away to learn the perils. The domain is active again but not so much a blog as a minimal static website offering samples of my poetry that have been published elsewhere – this way I’m not throwing up something that should have rotted away in the bottom of a drawer. Comments are blocked on the new site so that people don’t feel compelled to comment for the sake of commenting, and I don’t feel obliged to reply. It is now set up merely as a ‘search’ point for if someone reads my work and feels compelled to search for more. So please, feel free to visit markwmjackson.wordpress.com. It doesn’t bite anymore.
Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.
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