I’ll admit it: for a long time, I didn’t think of blogging as “real writing.” I thought of it as hobbyist — nothing wrong with that, not really. But if I was going to be a writer, blogging wouldn’t cut it.
Maybe in the early stages of blogging that was true — maybe, before the internet was expected in everyone’s households, blogging was just journaling online. Blogging reminds me of my xanga, where teenaged-angst-ridden-Naseem would write key phrases like, “My soul hurts.” (True story.) Blogging reminds me of the journal I wrote, every day of my freshman year of high school, chronicling my burgeoning depression and my arguments with my parents.
Now — especially as a narrative nonfiction writer, memoir-y and essay-y and very confessional-y — I can admit that my writing is still that, but also that there is nothing wrong with it. It is a writing form. It is a release not only for the writer, but if thought about (and treated) as another art, is also one for the reader.
That is not to say that everything I write is writing — pieces I am willing to put my name behind on the internet, or in a magazine, or beyond. I think every nonfiction writer comes to a point where they know the difference between “this is a piece” and “I needed to rant.”
Speaking of ranting, the point of this is to introduce myself and why I’ve decided I will pick up blogging in addition to my other writing.
Something like six years ago (Jesus), I discovered a website called 750words.com. Based on an idea from The Artist’s Way, it was (is) designed to encourage writers to write something every day. 750 words is roughly three pages, and the idea is to build writing into your daily habit.
Confession: I am terrible at using this website. Last May, I actually managed to complete my first one-month challenge, where I wrote over 750 words every day for a month. A few of the rambles actually came together in a piece called “If I Were A Boy,” which is in Proximity Magazine, issue 7. A few days later, of course, I missed a day.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t write every day — I do, or at least, almost every day. Even in those days I missed, I was writing in Scrivener or Word or in my notebook. What I love about the site is that the point is to build the habit — there’s no “virtual punishment” for not writing on it. That one month was an amazing reinforcer. Write, write, write.
It was around this time that I really examined my life as a writer. My day job isn’t writing. I’m a scientist, currently working on stress and concussions, and my next project will be the differences in concussions between male and female rats.
The truth is, I love my job. I love what I do. Science has been a part of me as long as writing has been. In many ways, one informs the other. But I do have the daily “should I write full time” struggle, and I think my answer is: I don’t know. I don’t know if I have to know.
Anyway, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that, even if it’s not full time, I identify as a writer and take myself (as a writer) seriously. With support from my partner and best friend, I have begun to rebrand myself as a writer-scientist hybrid.
I created a website. Just this past month, I launched a Facebook page. And I also decided to join Patreon. I haven’t really promoted it because I realized that I needed to have more of my work out there before I felt like I could. (I know The Art of Asking tells us to ask. I tried, Amanda, I really did. But I think I need to have a place to ask from — so that’s what I’m trying to build now.)
My first thought for that was, of course, to write more and send into magazines. But literary magazines can take weeks or longer to slog through the slush pile. My agent search has petered out because I need more manuscript-length material (more on this in another post, but I am so lucky that I have people who want to read other manuscripts from me, even though they passed the one I sent them).
Then I read a blog post from a writer called The Relentless Files. Vanessa’s description of what blogging brought her made me pause. I reached out to my best friend, who is an artist, who has been blogging for a year or so now. Said best friend gives herself yearly themes, and this year’s is “victorious.” It’s her celebration of life, of carpe diem-ing, of, in her words, “saying yaaaaaas to life.”
And I thought, hell. Tumblr didn’t work for me, because I didn’t reblog things, and because I don’t use a lot of visuals. But why not an actual blog? One where I write things that aren’t pieces, but are still writing? One where I can write about whatever the hell I want — be it science, be it movies, be it unicorns. I love engaging with people on any level. Isn’t that the purpose of a blog?
Here I am now, making the same commitment Vanessa made — blog every week. Every week, I will write a reflection on something. Sometimes, it will be the decoding of a popular science related article. After I see Concussion, I am sure I’ll spend a long time writing about that. I’m hoping to reflect on the new Star Wars movie too, in a timely manner.
I also want to know: what do you want to hear about? Gender concerns in the sciences? Mental health issues? Being at an elite university and how it broke me? Having mental illness in the family? Growing up a kid to immigrants? To a brother with autism? Being in an abusive relationship? Why I haven’t watched Jessica Jones? (Hint: it’s for that exact reason.)
I want to do with my blog what I failed to do with my Channillo page — garner a conversation about the things that we all go through, but are often unable to articulate.
If approached a certain way, writing can be far from solitary. I have a four hour commute each day, and plenty of time to think. Now’s the time to write.