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Monday, 3 December 2012

My guest post for Strictly Writing: The pleasures and pains of blogging...


I was recently asked to write a guest post for the wonderful Strictly Writing blog, which does exactly what it says on the tin: 

"We are a varied group of writers - published and aspiring; poets, short-story creators and novelists - with one thing in common: an enduring love for the craft of writing."

Needless to say, I was chuffed to be asked, and found it very interesting to have a mid-challenge pick over the role that blogging is playing in my writerly life. The desire to write is probably the greatest fuel to my Thirty@30 fire.  Here's my guest post. And if you're a writer, or interested in writing, I strongly advocate popping over to Strictly Writing to enjoy the thoughts and tips on offer...

Joanna Thomas: the pleasures and pains of blogging

I started blogging just after my 30th birthday, as part of a bucket-list style challenge to try out 30 brand new experiences before turning 31. Number one on the list was to start a blog, and the blog was to be about my journey through the challenges. You see what I did there? Wiped one challenge off the list with little more than half an hour’s worth of fiddling about with Blogger. Easy-peasy.

Except, blogging about my experiences has turned-out to be as important, challenging and rewarding as each of the other Thirty@30 experiences themselves. Writing the perfect piece takes me hours. I agonise over every word just as I agonise over the words in my novel. I pour my heart and soul into each blog, and worry as I send it, defenceless, into the world. I Facebook and Tweet my posts with the same anxious pride that others reserve for pictures of their babies. I hope that people are going to read, like and share them, and am hurt when some of my dearest, closest friends seem to ignore them. Conversely, I am elated when people share their own stories, and give me inspiration for new challenges. I am overwhelmed by the support of people I don’t even know, and, of course, many that I do. Putting your writing out into the world makes you vulnerable, but I’ve found that even swinging on a trapeze doesn’t match the exhilaration of hearing that people are moved, touched, or interested by my words. A particular highlight was being re-tweeted by the wondrous and bonkers Amanda Palmer. That piece received 600 page views in 24 hours, a huge deal for me.
My writing process for the blogs is completely different to my efforts at fiction. I have discovered a liberating sense of urgency around penning my posts, because I can’t wait to get them online. I’ll stay up until 3am tapping away at my keyboard, knowing that there’s going to be some fairly instant gratification once I’m done. The same can definitely not be said for my novel, which I have been working on for five years and which I fear has become stale. I keep worrying at it, prodding old wounds, burying my head in my hands at the exhausting hopelessness of it. For all that I agonise over my blogs, I rarely start writing one without finishing it, which I think and hope keeps them fresh. If only I could do that with my novel! Sometimes, of course, the blogs are too raw, and I have to go back and make tiny tweaks when I think no one’s looking. It’s worth it for the breathless excitement of typing straight into Blogger and hitting the ‘Publish’ button.
Blogger and writer Joanna Thomas
For all the differences in the process, blogging has taught me that good non-fiction, just like good fiction, is all about storytelling. If you give readers a story arc and a healthy dose of dramatic tension, humour and emotion, they’ll go with you, and forgive the raw moments or rough patches. Fortunately that’s something I find relatively easy to do when writing about my challenges, since each one implies a mini-journey for our hapless but bloody-minded heroine, aka me.
As I write these words I’m seven months into a twelve month challenge, and still have lots more Thirty@30 experiences waiting to be discovered, enjoyed (or not!) and written about. And whatever happens once the challenge ends, I know that blogging will forevermore be a part of how I express myself through words. Now, back to that pesky plot hole in chapter four…
Visit my blog: Thirty@30
Follow me on Twitter: @JoannaJosefina
Joanna Thomas is a London-based writer with a day-job as managing editor of a legal publishing company. She blogs, writes poetry, and is editing (and re-editing) her first novel. She is also a freelance fiction editor.