Stop Telling Bloggers They Aren’t Writers

Posted on
Jul 11, 2017
16
Posted in: Book, Personal Essay

Being a writer means that you’ll never have a shortage of criticism, whether it is offered up to you in heaping scoops of vitriol from faceless masses on the internet, or you gather it yourself from your never ending well of neurotic self-doubt. Hooray.

Add “being a woman” into the equation and your cup overfloweth.

Fortunately, we writers are rational beings and so we give as much credence to positive comments as we do negative ones. JUST KIDDING. We focus on the terrible stuff that is said to us like we’re being paid by the hour.

My book came out two months ago. The reviews have been … well, glowing.


If only it was the kind things that people said about us that kept us up at night. Alas. The negative reviews are few and far between, and I focus on them far more than I should.

Some of the critiques are legitimate: My language is too vulgar (you bet your mom’s clitoris it is); I think I’m funnier than I am (how on earth could they possibly evaluate this?); I pee on things out of rage (guilty).

But then, embedded in a grammatically problematic creative Amazon review, I came across this line:

“She’s a blogger, not a writer.”

And like all things that strike a nerve, it did so because it hit close to home. For years, I’ve dismissed the writing that I’ve done on this blog. I’ve shrugged when people asked me what I did. I somehow convinced myself that writing a blog for a decade somehow means that I’m not actually writing, even as the awards and the accolades and the positive press began to accumulate.

Nearly every single blogger I know has done this same thing. And this mentality is so incredibly, utterly, profoundly wrong.

Let me be clear, before the pedants emerge from the ether, pushing their glasses up their noses as they whisper, “Well, actually“: not everyone who blogs is a good writer.

But not everyone who publishes a book is a good writer, either.

The criticism that we bloggers endure emerges often not from our work itself, but from the medium that we’ve chosen. The poet is never accused of not really being a writer, nor is the columnist, nor the essayist. But the blogger often is. We are accused of being literary dabblers, amateurs, hacks.

The transition from writing this blog to writing a book was not a seamless one. But that’s not because I’m a blogger – it’s because writing a book is difficult. No one, absolutely no one, knows how to write one until they’ve actually done it. It’s like having brain surgery or enduring the loss of a parent: you learn how to do it only by doing it.

My editor told me that the last few chapters of my book needed far less editing than the first few.

“That always happens with first-time authors,” she said. “By the end, you’ve figured out how to write a book.”

But to say that my years of blogging didn’t contribute to that is insane. Blogging taught me to write on schedule (and not just the self-indulgent time frame of “when inspiration strikes”). It taught me how to work through writer’s block, how to experiment with style and storytelling. It helped me figure out my voice.

Writing a blog taught me how to write.

And if I’m painfully honest, writing a book was, at times, far easier than blogging. Those early years of The Everywhereist were brutal. I wrote for a non-existent audience, I wrote through the headaches of a yet-to-be-diagnosed brain tumor, I wrote through threats and hate mail. I wrote each and every day, and I wrote alone, without an editor to gently guide me through the bramble.

But so many of us dismiss the legitimacy of blogs, even though having a strong online following is critical to getting a book deal. Literally every single publisher I spoke to wanted to see my blog’s stats. One told me that my manuscript was excellent, but was worried that my traffic just wasn’t enough.

Can emerging writers get published without a strong platform or social media following? According to my editor, yes, but you shouldn’t count on it.

That’s so important, I need to state in again in all caps. BEING A BLOGGER IS A KEY COMPONENT TO GETTING A BOOK DEAL, BUT WE’VE MANAGED TO CONVINCE OURSELVES THAT IT IS THE PRECISE REASON WHY WE CAN’T WRITE A BOOK.

When we critique bloggers for simply being bloggers (and not say, because of the quality of their writing), we risk losing a profound volume of literary and non-fiction work. And that’s a big problem, because there are already so many things that keep writers down. We don’t need to do it to ourselves.

There’s another important reason why we need to not dismiss blogging: it offers a platform to writers in underrepresented demographics and a means for them to promote their own work. (In the past, I’ve noted my own problems with being self-promotional as a woman.)

 

Women, PoC, People with disabilities and chronic health issues, LGBTQ and all of the overlaps in those Venn diagrams – blogging makes it easier for all of us to be heard. (Sadly, it’s not entirely income agnostic. Blogs themselves can be set up entirely for free, but other socioeconomic factors, such as free time, and safe, easy access to a computer, Wi-Fi, or a library can easily get in a writer’s way).

But these stats don’t hold when we look at works that are published in major publications, books that are getting the most press and awards, or the deals that publishers are handing out. According to VIDA, an organization that tracks gender bias in literary coverage, The New Yorker published 459 pieces by men and only 159 by women in 2011. The New York Times Book Review covered 520 authors who were men – almost twice the number of women authors they reviewed. From March 2012 to April 2013, an analysis of the Guardian Review’s poetry pages revealed that they’d reviewed three times as many poetry books by men as they did by women. And though women publish more novels than men (60 vs 40%) the vast number of literary awards go to men, often writing about male protagonists.

Publishing itself may be an industry predominantly made up of women but that doesn’t mean that women are the ones getting visibility for their books. When a Cleveland bookstore turned all the books written by men backwards (showing just the white pages instead of the spine), the results were shocking – a sea of white shelves.

I suspect it’s due to a myriad of factors – institutionalized racism, sexism, ableism, homo- and transphobia, and inherent problems with the publishing industry itself. The point is, as bloggers, we have enough shit against us. And for those of us who aren’t white, cis-gendered men, we field a disproportionate number of rape and death threats. We don’t need the additional disparagement of being told we aren’t writers. Especially when, for many of us, blogging is what is going to get us our book deals, and may be one of the only avenues in which we can actually sell our books.

If you want to critique me on my shitting writing, I’ve an ample volume of work for you to peruse. Tear apart my memoir, if you are so inclined (though I will ask you to buy it first. And maybe a few copies for your friends, too. You could have a book club wherein you discuss how awful it is!) But don’t tell me that because I’m a blogger, I’m somehow not a writer.

Because I assure you: it’s the exact same damn thing.


Also published on Medium.

Leave a Comment

  • Nothing to add. But I’m both a blogger and a writer, so I’ll add something anyway.

    I have also devalued the writing I’ve done in my blog, written it off in my mind as worthless tripe, the equivalent of scrunched bits of paper furiously thrown in the bin on the way to having An Actual Piece Of Writing.

    Now I think any kind of writer would benefit from having a blog and posting in it. It’s not just the practice (the scrunched-up paper thing kicking in there, see, writing it all off as “practice”). It’s something more important. It’s the audience. It’s the writing in front of an audience and seeing how they react.

    You know what blogging is? It’s gigging with your 5-chord band at the back of smoky nightclubs for devastatingly shit wages, but listening to the crowd, playing that crowd, and over time, getting really, really damn good – then releasing an album and being written about as “coming out of nowhere”. And it’s also busking. It’s standing there in the street, pulling out your instrument (oo-er, oink, etc.) and playing music until people literally throw money at you to shut you up – and over time, that becomes money to keep you playing.

    Blogging is frequently where amateur writers turn pro writers, and sometimes, where the pro writers decide to stay.

    Stick THAT in your pipe, literature.

    • I love those analogies of blogging, Mike, they’re resonating so much with me. Thank you for sharing!

  • YES. Thank you. I’ve blogged for years now and it’s amazing how dismissive of it people are. I’ve launched a new blog that is intended to be my *job* eventually and I cannot tell you how hard it is. It’s more work than just about anything else I’ve ever done. I publish twice weekly, I’m the copy editor, the photographer, the tech department, the advertising department (I suck at this because I’m a woman apparently).

    But damnit I write more in a week than most “writers” with regular “writerly” jobs. And yet, I’m “just” a blogger. :

  • shubham varshney

    Very nicely written glad to read this post, and foremost congrats. Keep up the god thing, just leave bogus things behind move forward.
    Same Day Agra Tour by Car

  • Ashbags

    Bloggers ARE writers!

    Google’s definition of a blogger = *a person who regularly writes* material for a blog.

    Hoping to purchase your book soon.

  • jonathanwthomas

    I once ran into an old English professor at the grocery store a few years after graduating, he was one of those brilliant hard asses that made you miserable but a better writer in the process. He asked me what I was up to and I told him I started a blog about British History and Culture and it recently became my full time job. He was like “Oh, you’re making a living as a writer? That’s awesome. That’s what you wanted.” I was taken aback, until that moment, I’d never thought of it like that. A bit of a boost to the ego but it’s a problem I’ve grappled with a lot – am I a real writer? Yes, yes I am and so are you and so is everyone who taps at a keyboard and hits publish.

    On a completely separate note, I really should try and get a book deal. But that’s where the crippling self doubt and inability to take my own writing seriously steps in…

    • Dara D

      Link to your blog, please! We need to build up your readership stats to get you ready to pitch your book.

  • Here’s another funny thing I’ve noticed re: publishing industry and gender discrimination: if the author is a woman and/or the book is written from a woman’s POV, the marketing strategy often tends to exasperate this (sometimes irrelevant) aspect of the work by injecting girliness in everything they can (from cutesy fonts to pink pastel covers)… My boyfriend is currently reading Margareth Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and from the outside it looks like the unauthorized biography of Barbie. Same happens in the music industry, where “female singer/songwriter” is weirdly considered a genre of its own.

  • Waiting to get your book delivered by the end of the week. I am sure the writer vs blogger theory won’t hold, but will see.

  • Boom! There you go, hitting the nail on the head again. This is one of those scabs in my brain that I kind of pick at, because it bothers me that YES, anyone who blogs isn’t taken seriously as a writer, but YES, it’s also true that most books by bloggers suck. Not that books written by non-bloggers don’t, too. Your book actually was the first book I’ve read by a blogger that didn’t suck, and I think that just had more to do with the fact that you are a very talented writer, point blank, with some solid copy-writing chops that show.

    But some professional bloggers (meaning, they are successful, have huge audiences and bring home the bacon from the blog) are fantastic with their blog content – like, short, swift pieces that are on-target with what’s going on, but just wilt when they write something longer. Their blogs are still well crafted for what they are – short nuggets of awesomeness – but for a longer piece that feels like it should unfold with more depth (maybe? is that it? it’s hard for me to articulate this), the come up short.

  • Oh man, if someone’s telling you you’re not a real writer it must be coming out of a deep well of insecurity because your writing is absolute fire! You’re one of the few bloggers out there keeping things real and with a sense of wit to boot, don’t let the trolls get you down 🙂

  • JCN

    Maybe it’s me, but I love to read whatever you publish. You are too smart to get hung up on what other people think or say. Keep producing great work. That is all that really matters.

  • Brett Minor

    I totally support you. I wrote my blog several times a week for six years and just laughed when someone would mention me writing a book.

    “I don’t now how to do that”

    But then one day, a publisher approached me based entirely on the writing They had seen on my blog. Bloggers ARE writers. Even if they suck.

    Transformed Nonconformist

  • Andi Plummer

    You’re one of my favorite writers. Not just blogger and not just of female writers. Ridiculous that people feel the need to diminish your writing. And i’m way too excited that my tweet made a blog post. After all this time having a twitter has been worth it. 😉

    • Everywhereist

      Aww, thanks, Andi.

  • Congratulations Geraldine!

    I’ve only just found you and 5 seconds later I sent off my Email address so that I could follow your blog!

    I’m a blogger who typically writes roughly 2,000+ words per blog post. And why? Because I like writing, and because I can!

    So my two pence worth to this blog piece is: Hear! Hear! “Extra. Extra. Read all about it” and just keep doing what you’re doing absolutely brilliantly. After all, YOU’RE the one who has written the book. Have they?

    Probably not!

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