My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Happy 6th Birthday Writing About Writing (And a Folksy Lesson in Tenacity)

Happy Birthday Blog!!!!! 

For six years we've been cranking out writing wisdom (along with anything we could think of that had plausible connective tissue with writing) and hopefully the best is yet to come.

Blog: I want a million Facebook followers this year!

Me: That might actually happen.

Blog: (pauses) Oh....um....well I want to reach five million page views by next year!

Me: Yeah, that's probably going to happen later this week.

Blog: (stammering) Uh.......six million!

Me: Most likely early summer.

Blog: Ten...million?

Me: Yeah. There you go. That's an outrageously unlikely goal. Well done.

Blog: Okay ten million total and...a um five hundred thousand hit month...oh, and I make enough money that you don't have to pet sit anywhere where the driving would impact paying attention to me.

Me: Do you remember when you thought a ten thousand hit month was going to make you happy?

Blog: Pfffffffft.

Me: Or when you found out we'd hit a million page views?

Blog: Meh.

Me: Or how about when we realized that writing was literally paying the bills.

Blog: That's so last week. I'm big time now. My dreams have to be even bigger. Now let's bring in the extremely well compensated, not at all stigmatized, and entirely consent-respected sex professionals.

Me: I'm fairly certain this party is inappropriate for a six year old.

Blog: Hello incredibly shmexy gender variant folks, here to provide a premium valued service of erotic entertainment. Let's start with a bit of dancing to this song:

*Chris steps out and closes the door to the celebrations*

Hi everyone.

Just needed to get out of that room. Blog's going to be at it for a while. I thought maybe we could talk.

So...six years.

That means six years and two months ago I received a degree in Creative Writing from SFSU, sat down for a month and change to ponder what my very best approach to creative writing for a living was going to be, and then came Blog. As much as I value my writing education, perhaps the best thing I learned (a refrain echoed by our visiting guest writers) was how much the entire industry was changing.

Bigly big changes. Yuuuge changes. Not the little kind where you have to figure out if literature periodicals or mainstream magazines are going to be better to submit to.

The paradox of what has happened in the last six years (and particularly in the last one or two) is that people will ask me for my advice on how they can get my numbers, my reach, and even my income, and then will argue with me when I answer their questions.

Or they will scoff at my non-traditional approach to being a working writer, and then resent me when I've made more progress along traditional bellwethers in less time.

Nothing like Schrodinger's Jelly Rando: simultaneously pissed at you for not being a "real writer" and for having more readers and making more money than they do.

Now I definitely had the blessing of a lot of good, professional advice in that writing program that I was able to sift through for the lowest common denominators; a lot of privilege that shaped my life before I took my first step onto a community college campus in my late twenties; the opportunity in my first few years of blogging to put in 40+ hours, make no money, and have flexible secondary jobs that made that possible; and Creepy Guy probably gave me a year's worth of exposure in a day. However, I want to also stress that I have not simply had a blog for six years. I have been blogging for six years. I have been writing–basically every single day–for six years.

One of the principle mission statements of this blog is to provide a real-time glimpse into the growth and development process, so that no one thinks writers are magical creatures who just go into a cave, play Fallout 4 nonstop for two years, drink gallons of coffee, and then get hit by inspiration that causes them to shit out a bestseller in twelve sweaty, grunting hours.

So here we are....year kicking off our SEVENTH year.

Conventional writing wisdom suggests that within traditional publishing it'll take about TEN years of dedicated submission, lots of rejection, free publications for exposure, low profile publication, shitty pay, hours of unpaid self-promotion, building up a portfolio, and maybe a very crappy first book deal, tiny advance, and moving towards book two or three to get to a point where writing is barely paying the bills.

Non-traditional routes are a little faster. Also a little less "legitimized."

But what people really want is the secret sauce. And every fucking time I say "But do you have the rest of your hamburger?" they just want to talk about the sauce. So for the folks who still think it's magic and I've somehow got some trick, here's how I pulled it off. (It's going to sound pretty banal once I'm finished with the list, but here it is.)

There is no secret. There is no trick.

  • Working actively for six years.
  • Five or more posts each week
  • Posting SOMETHING...even if it's a little fluffy and skipping very few days.
  • A total of about 1 week off each year in sick days, completely missed posts, and total schedule collapses.
  • At least one hour but usually an average of five to six per day.
  • An hour a day almost every day of social media self promotion (maintaining my FB page mostly)
  • Writing through a newborn, a baby, a toddler, a wee one.
  • Writing through a loved one getting cancer.
  • Writing through a break up.
  • Writing through intense grief at custody/visitation issues.
  • Writing through a major health issue.
  • Writing through 60 hour a week commitments to other jobs.
  • Never once putting the blog on a hiatus no matter how bad it got. 
  • Writing while on vacation.
  • Not being too good to promote myself.
  • Knowing my limits, but....
  • ....testing the shit out of those fuckers.
  • Finding Patreon (holy shit thank you Patreon!!)
  • Be willing to learn developments in the industry, but also never forget that without content, none of it will matter.

So thank you for reading, and here's to Blog, here's to many more years, and here's to a career that still has plenty of up to go. I'm going to go rejoin the party now that I hear they're taking "Big Time" off the loop.

(Raises a glass)