Sunday, January 27, 2008

Why Blog? According to Chris Anderson ...

As a part of the interview with Chris Anderson (The Long Tail) for Blogging Heroes, I asked him whether blogging required a significant time commitment. His response addresses the question, but also talks about why he blogs, what he gets from it, and more. He comments you may find interesting if you're a blogger or intend to be.

You know, I don't spend that much time blogging. I feel guilty about how infrequently I post. I’ve got this massive backlog of draft posts for the Long Tail blog, for example, that I feel guilty about.

As you've heard from probably everyone you talk to, having a blog is this beast—a monkey on your back. It wants to be fed every day, but we all have jobs and it's hard to do. So I don't blog as much as I'd like. I try to post on one of my blogs every day. But that doesn't mean that on every single blog I blog once a day. But I feel like I’m blogging all the time, and I also feel like I’m under-blogging.

Basically I devote an hour a day to blogging-related functions. That is, either writing posts, or editing other people’s posts, composing drafts, or thinking about or pulling together research that will go into drafts. I wish it were three hours a day. I'd love to spend more time. It's a really satisfying process. I think I do my best thinking via my blogs. Because that is really what a blog is about: a blog is a scratch-pad, and a discipline to collect your thoughts, compose your thoughts, advance your thoughts, and do it in public in a way that can amplify your thoughts by not only reaching an audience, but also getting feedback on your thoughts. Blogging for me is really largely a way to make myself smarter.

Blogging is incredibly satisfying. I’d love to be blogging full-time. But blogging is an avocation; I don’t make a penny from it. I have to balance it with my day job. We have colleagues here at the magazine who have taken blogging sabbaticals, which is to say they've taken sabbaticals from work so they can blog more. I'd love to take a blogging sabbatical.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Too Busy Writing to Write?

While I haven't posted in a couple of weeks, it wasn't because I wasn't writing. Several posts are saved in the background here and at the Crosley blog, awaiting completion. And over the past three weeks I've written something over 20,000 words' worth of chapters for the two books I'm writing. Another 12,000 words need need editing before I can turn them in.

The 12,000 words (about 50 manuscript pages) are waiting because I keep abandoning them to write new material. Just like I set aside the posts here. Why? Because I lose interest in the part I'm currently writing, and jump ahead to write later parts of the books. (The counterpart of that in terms of blog posts is that I think of a new subject while I'm writing a post, and put the current post away so I can get started on the new post.)

This isn't a constant for me in my writing; if it was, I'd still be working on my first book, instead of having written 42 books. It sort of comes and goes, and probably represents a desire to have the current project(s) finished--which of couse won't happen if I don't finish chapters. Fortunately, as I've done in the past, I'll eventually pick up those abandoned chapters and finish them, largely because I'll become bored with the later chapters.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Interview with Me at Virtual Wordsmith

I enjoy being interviewed for the obvious reason that it gives me the opportunity to talk about my work to someone who's interested. More than that, I can use an interview that focuses on a particular book to share the experience of writing a book. Which I did in this recent interview with me about Blogging Heroes.

Have a look at the rest of Lynn's blog. She has a fine collection of interviews and reviews. And check out her Web site.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Blogging and Ketchup (or Catsup)

When I was a child in the 1950s, we had hamburgers every Friday night. It was a big deal, largely because my mother cooked full-course dinners with all the trimmings the rest of the week. Hamburgers were fun food. (There were no fast-food outfits around then--not where I grew up, anyway).

The Friday night table always included a squeeze ketchup (or, if you prefer, catsup) bottle that carried a line art illustration of a waitress holding a tray on which there was a hamburger and a squeeze ketchup bottle. That bottle had the same illustration on it, as did the bottle it depicted, and so forth, as far as one could make out the details.

I was reminded of this a little while ago when I was browsing the list of bestselling books about blogging. (I have a vested interest in that list, of course.) Like the ketchup bottle illustration, the blogging books mirror a reality that mirrors a reality that mirrors ... and so on. It fascinates people; nearly a hundred books about blogging are selling in the thousands of copies. And some of the books are turning into blogs, while others started out as blogs. It's like squeezing the ketchup bottle and having another bottle come out!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Interviews and Reviews

Having spent quite a lot of time interviewing people by telephone for Blogging Heroes, I was rather surprised to be attacked in a recent review of the book. The point of attack was the reviewer's contention that I had other people write the book by asking questions via E-mail. I don't think that's a good way to write a book--unless you intend to give the people who did the writing for you credit as co-authors.

Besides, that's not how I did it (something the reviewer would know, had he bothered to read the book before writing the "review"). The interviews were the result of actual conversations, from which I pulled quotes to use in the book, along with detailed research. I also wrote mini-bios of each interviewee. So putting together Blogging Heroes was anything but the cut-and-paste job of which I was accused. Having written 42 other books, I can tell you that planning the interviews, finding the right subjects, conducting the interviews and writing the book took as much effort as the average book of that length. Read this post, this one, this one, and this one to see what went into the book. It was no walk in the park (my editors will agree).

Had I sent a bunch of questions via E-mail, I would have had to poll a couple hundred bloggers to get a 320-page book. When you ask people to type up responses to questions, you're asking for minimal replies. You get more (and better) material when you actually talk with your subjects and get involved in the conversation. The bottom line: interviewing is another kind of research. The quotes were created by the subjects and me--not unlike going out and gathering facts by hand-searching old newspapers, magazines, and books, and on-site research--the kinds of research I did for CROSLEY and my other non-fiction books. The reviewer recommends that people page through the book. You can do better than that: there are entire chapters available free on the Web. If you like those, get the book.

No, I'm not bummed out by the carping. This is only the fourth negative review I've had in a quarter-century of writing books. Besides, in-person response at recent book signings indicates that people are fascinated by Blogging Heroes.

Not incidentally, some of the interviews I did last week were for this forthcoming book.