When a Blogger Writes a Book

A Mock-Up of My Front Cover

Publishing may be the pinnacle of success in the real world, but, after a summer of working on the same long essay day after day, I think of creating a book as creating a statue—no one sees it until every part receives proper polish. When it wheels from the workshop, it will feel to me as if it has always existed, as if it’s been found rather than made. Being tangible and transferable and eternal, it possesses instant reality, instant gravity. It is a thing.

In contrast, blogging has more intimate charms. The strangest part of blogging—not really knowing who’s out there—is also what’s best about it. It can be like small town radio. You sit in a tiny room, talk into a microphone that may or may not work, and cast your voice over cornfields, seas without fish. You speak at least in part to find out what you’ll say. And, when people listen, it means something. They could easily have ignored you or missed you altogether.

I know, people can ignore books too—as I may soon discover—but I wonder if the weight of a book makes it real even when no one picks it up. Because I’m publishing this book myself, it won’t have the trumpet release party or the carnival book tour. Still, now that I’ve used the title up, the thing will continue to be real and won’t go away, even if I someday want it to.

Friends often seem embarrassed when I talk about my blog, and, tellingly, they sometimes say, “Oh, are you still doing that?” Stereotypically, blogs aren’t complete or polished, and many people seem to think they can’t be artful. For them, blogs are emotional spills, affronts to reason and insults to craft, editing, decorousness, and self-restraint. Yet part of me loves the small truth in that stereotype. Blogs often present writing as compulsion instead of Art. You don’t have to read very long on WordPress or elsewhere to discover articulate, thoughtful, and skilled writers, but you also find authors whose greatest assets are conviction, sincerity, and humanity.

Art From Inside

Maybe the prejudice against blogs comes down to materialism. “You get what you pay for,” people say. That bloggers give prose or poetry away for free, they assume, must reflect bloggers’ skill. But a book has to be purchased. Readers (and writers) invest money and time on books assuming the product is lovingly well-wrought, worthy of endless attention.

It’s true, I’ve spent much more time crafting this book. I don’t think I can read and revise it one.more.time. Yet blogs are challenging in their own way. For all their intimate charms, blogs also make intimate demands. The next post whispers entreaties like an endlessly needy lover, and, when the only pay you receive is attention, soliciting that attention over and over becomes daunting. Where writing a book demands long-haul perseverance, blogs require bold faith you’ll find something to say today. And every blogger knows how crowded the market is. The proliferation of writing online is intimidating. A blogger’s desire to earn an audience often creates moving writing. Even when it isn’t skilled, it’s often more direct and fresh.

I’m happy I’ve had the experience of a “real author” this summer, rising to meet the same statue every day, mustering the weary determination required to court a perfect object. Yet I haven’t had my head turned. It will be months or years (or never) before I learn how successful my summer has been. If I’ve managed to entice a reader to travel this far into this post, however, I might know so in a few hours.

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10 Comments

Filed under Aesthetics, Ambition, Art, Blogging, Essays, life, Resolutions, Thoughts, Voice, Writing

10 responses to “When a Blogger Writes a Book

  1. You have captured so many of the nuances of the differences between this strange adventure and traditional writing “to the book”. I really resonated with your analogy of a small town radio station–that IS part of the appeal. Thanks for this and best to you in all your ventures.

    • dmarshall58

      Thanks. Every single form of writing makes peculiar demands and possesses peculiar virtues. Maybe I’m oversensitive, but I struggle sometimes to convince people of blogs’ value. Blogs may be more ephemeral and, at times, more impulsive, but they are also vital and expressive. I just hate to see them put down.

      Thanks for visiting. –D

  2. hhstheater

    I love the title and the subtitle and the cover art and your name on the cover and I’m sure I’ll love the inside once it’s in print!

    • dmarshall58

      I’m between electronic and physical proofs right now, but I’ve sent in the fully revised manuscript and expect to be marking the final final corrections in a real, concrete, version of the book. Then comes actual production.

      It’s been an adventure and a lot of labor. Now if I can only find some readers! Thanks for your support. –David

  3. Great post, love the small town radio metaphor. You’ve reminded us that we can have a foot in both writing camps and appreciate/exploit the advantages of each. Bravo for making your book happen!

    I understand your sensitivity and defending of blogging; in the Facebook/Twitter age, a piece of digital text longer than three sentences is becoming an endangered species. I like to think of blogging as the antidote — keeping the artistic torch lit, so to speak. 🙂

    • dmarshall58

      How quickly the dominant forms of expression seem to change–if you’re old enough (like me) blogging still seems relatively new. Yet now I read so many requiems on blogging, and I do sometimes feel, like you, that I’m somehow keeping an artistic torch lit… if only personally.

      Of course, I prefer to believe that Twitter and Facebook are just different forms with their own potentials and limitations. As an English teacher, I’m afraid of the idea that one form of writing or expression always replaces another. How will I make a living if I become a museum piece? Thanks for your comments and your good wishes on my book. Good luck to you on all your creative, artistic, and expressive ventures too, whatever they may be. –D

  4. Hi David! As a new blogger and a writer, I really appreciate this post. It helps me to understand what I’m doing here and, maybe more importantly, how to be here. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    • dmarshall58

      Thanks! Here (blogging, WordPress) is a good place to be. You get really valuable experience here, and everyone seems thoughtful and incisive. I hope you will find success and a supportive community of readers here. –D

  5. Thomas

    You’ve captured and distilled the reason so many of us choose to blog as artfully as Jack Daniel did with his fine Tennessee whiskey. This is the third post of yours I’ve read today and it’s reassuring to see that we (other bloggers) are not alone in our quest for that one perfect piece of self-expression. Seeing how far along this path you are, gives people like me that little push to keep on goin’….

    • dmarshall58

      No one has ever compared anything I’ve made to Jack Daniels–that is a first.

      Thanks for your comment. Maybe I have chip on my shoulder, but I wish people had more respect for bloggers and blogging. A lot of us are involved in that quest for self-expression and recognize experience and day-to-day devotion will get us there. The book I’ve been working on requires labor but so does posting here. It’s just a different sort of labor, all a matter of practice. –D

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