Blogging and Writing.
For me, the distinction between the two is both outstandingly obvious and somehow wickedly complicated to rationalize alongside my motivation for writing in the first place.
I always viewed blogging as a sort of circus of self aggrandizement. A pool of humanity all desperate for attention that they couldn’t get in the real world. It was a dank and cynical outlook on what is clearly a thriving community, all from an outsider’s perspective.
The driving factors behind blogging always seemed all wrong – misplaced. The aim is to write regularly to an audience that, at least initially, doesn’t exist. So, if you value your time, the objective is to grow this audience, and is propped up and encouraged by metrics like ‘shares’, ‘likes’ and ‘views’. Blogging was therefore in the same cringe-worthy vein as our base desire for fame and celebrity.
Safe to say setting up a blog was uncomfortable for me. A travel blog no less – with all the connotations of privileged “gap-yahr” millennials I’d surely have to shake off before anyone took me seriously. Besides, I’m a nobody – why would people want to read about my trip?
In the early days of Badventuring I’d post a reasonably succinct and hopefully funny anecdote from the week before and throw a handful of photos in at the end. I’m chaotic enough in disposition that these funny misadventures were reasonably common and the blog posts felt good, even if a little like bullet point lists. I published them on facebook and sent links back to my family, so everyone could (obviously if they had nothing better to do) have a look at what I’d been up to.
As time went by, I noticed my writing style evolve. With enough time to reflect on the trip, life and everything I poured a little more of myself into each post. The accounts melted from objective to subjective and each short story was crafted and mulled over, trying to find the best way to convey all the colour, character and emotion in just a few black letters on a blank page. I began thinking immersively and creatively, seeking not just to tell people about my trip, but allowing them to view it with me, through a little window somewhere between my head and my heart. There was a joy in it that I hadn’t felt while merely punching out posts and watching how many views I’d racked up. I was delighting in writing.
Therein lies the irony. The more of myself I put into those posts, the more effort to create something worth reading, the more I found myself needing people to read them. I wanted to know what people liked, didn’t like, what rankled them or what held them captivated, if only for a moment. I needed this to grow – to become a better writer.
The only thing was, the audience wasn’t there.
I’d essentially been writing a book, broken down into chapters and posted sequentially throughout my trip. Typically books require editors, publishers, promoters and marketers. They’re forced in front of critics and newspaper columnists to review. The readership is created.
I was posting my book on my blog, where no-one was going to help me reach an audience, irrespective of how much of how much effort I was putting in. I’d got my channels all mixed up.
You see, it’s only now that I realize one of the biggest distinctions between my blogging and writing.
Blogging is for conversation. Writing is to tell a story.
In lieu of a publisher, writing needs a conversation around it to reach more people. Nothing is worse than curating a post you’re really proud of, only to release it into the abyss – zero views. But there’s nothing to keep people engaging with you if your conversation (i.e. stories) are just a one way street. Engagement requires involvement, questions, feedback and regularity. It requires you, yourself to be engaged with reading posts from other authors, commenting and learning from each other. It isn’t unilateral.
Good writing has already led me to some great opportunities. I won Bike magazines adventure writing competition a couple of years ago and was sent on an all expenses paid trip to Peru with Adventure Peru Motorcycling. As a condition, I had to provide a write up and photographs to cover nine pages of the next magazine – prime reading real estate.
I’ve had a taste of success – of a career I’d long believed to be the reserve of those with rich parents – travel journalism. Even so, I’m self conscious. I keep lapsing into the mindset that I, Tom Hartland, could never be a travel writer. Opportunities such as these simply don’t happen to people like me. But then why not? Why not create these opportunities for myself? Why not be justifiably confident in my writing?
I’ll need to grow as a writer, sure, and one of the best ways to do that is to grow as a blogger and conversationalist. The only thing that’s been holding me back, has been me…