A few years back an ex-girlfriend asked me why I bothered with my blog if nobody read it. This was shortly before I won the Ustinov and the growth of Movie Maintenance, so I didn’t have much to my name and she probably had a point, although the ‘ex’ part of that descriptor probably gives you an indication of how willing I ultimately was to listen. But even knowing she might have been right, it wasn’t a question that really gave me pause or prompted any serious introspection regarding my motives. I blogged because I liked blogging. It was never something I started with the assumption that anybody outside of the occasional friend or family member would read. Questioning the futility of this isn’t invalid. Writing without an audience, on paper, can look a lot like yelling into the void.
But I don’t think writers fundamentally write for other people. I mean sure, being aware of prospective audiences and gearing your writing towards them is essential, but writing would be a hollow exercise if you were entirely telling stories for other people. Your work needs to come from somewhere real, otherwise it lacks weight. To me, writing should always come from an itch you have to scratch, a story you have to tell. That’s the basic seed from which the bigger piece grows.
For example; over Christmas I wrote a novella called Khancoban, a short thriller featuring Maggie from Sunburnt Country finding herself in the middle of a nightmare situation that she essentially has to fight her way out of. I was super proud of it; I thought it was tightly written and full of strong twists and turns. But outside of being available on my Patreon, I haven’t done anything with it yet. Maybe three or four people have read it. But as much as I’d love it to reach as many eyes as possible, I haven’t been going out of my way trying to make that happen. For now, being proud of Khancoban is enough; it was a successfully scratched itch that hopefully one day translates into something other people enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing it. But if that never happens? I’ll live.
My blog sort of fulfils a similar purpose writ large. It’s a place where I articulate and explore ideas that don’t have a home elsewhere. It’s somewhere I can get out my thoughts and opinions on writing, freed of having to be part of a work of fiction. And, beyond that it now provides for me personally a valuable record of my writing life, with entries spanning back to a very different time when my approach to things was largely divergent to what it is now. Add to that more personal reflections on my times overseas, and this blog essentially forms a kind of public journal.
Nowadays, I’m flattered to hear quite regularly from young writers who find it of value. That’s another reason why establishing a blog, even if nobody initially reads it, is a worthwhile pursuit. Charting your development and the lessons you learn about your craft can, it turns out, be valuable to other people as well. Learning that was a really nice surprise; I never approached blogging with any notion that anybody else would get something out of it, so knowing that a small group of people have is awesome.
Maintaining a semi regular writing blog is a great way to keep yourself constantly reflecting on and considering your growth, development and approach to your craft. If you’re worried about people not reading it, don’t be; assume no-one will care, and you’re free of the need to write anything other than exactly what you want to. A love of writing, after all, is the first and most important criteria for pursuing a career in it. Getting people to actually read your stuff should come later. It’s also worth remembering that everything you write is a form of practice and every bit of practice helps you improve. A blog is a fantastic way to scratch a different creative itch, to keep a personal record and maybe, eventually, to provide worthwhile advice to those in the same position you once were.
Writing words about writing words.