TO PLAN OR NOT TO PLAN (THIS BLOG)—THAT IS NO LONGER THE QUESTION
When I started blogging, I used to keep a file on blogging ideas—and try and plan the thing as much as possible. I guess, in a way, I was looking for a formula which would have wide appeal. I was also unused to writing short pieces on demand. My forte, up into recently has been The Big Thriller. How big is such a book? Think 450 to 500 pages, or around 150,000 words. In contrast, a blog such as this should be around 500 words—though I often go longer.
My crime—in blogging terms—was that I was an intermittent blogger. I just didn’t seem to have enough ideas to come up with something fresh every day (unless I wrote about politics). Alternatively—since, in reality, I’m rarely short of ideas—perhaps I wasn’t serious enough about blogging. In short, my problem wasn’t creative. It was a matter of focus and execution. I wasn’t following through enough.
The whole idea of blogging, as far is I am concerned, is to keep in touch with my readers, potential readers, family and friends. But what do they/you want to hear about. Well, based on my fan mail, fundamentally they/you want to hear about more books (that is THE demand) but they also like some insight into what else is going on in my life, how I think—and so on. But the dominant theme is definitely MORE BOOKS!
What has stopped me writing more about my books is that I have been going through a period of uncertainty while setting up a small publishing company. This has progressed steadily, but there have been enough setbacks for me to be reluctant to be too specific. In short, I guess I am embarrassed to air my mistakes in public; and, what is more, I am embarrassed to admit that. It contradicts my basic belief that a blog, such as this, should be as candid as possible—short of being commercially stupid. Unfortunately, we live in a world where wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve can be hazardous to one’s health. It is protected by one’s rib cage, and padding, for very good reason.
Such reservations aside—and I will return to that subject another time—I decided that when I re-started blogging, I would focus on consistency of output, but otherwise not plan at all. I would simply write about whatever popped into my mind and treat the whole thing as an exercise in stimulating my creativity—before getting down to the serious business of book writing.
Now, NOT planning not only goes against my nature—I’m obsessive about planning, though my execution needs work—but is counter-intuitive. After all, if you intend to blog every day, it would seem only commonsense to accumulate a store of ideas—be a squirrel, so to speak.
The reality is that spontaneity has worked. By saying that, I’m not claiming for a moment that I think each blog is a creative gem—a happy aspiration—but more that I have never failed to find something to write about within a couple of minutes of sitting in front of the computer. Frankly, I find that incredible—but such is the situation.
Blogging has also become very important to me for reasons I don’t quite understand. Whereas initially it was a chore designed to help market my books, now it is a creative pleasure and not knowing what I’m going to write about—or how a specific piece will turn out—is half the fun.
I don’t literally blog every day because life is rarely that convenient—though I do blog most days. However, my bargain with myself is that if I do miss a day, I’ll write an extra blog later and fill the space with a backdated blog. In addition, sometimes I write ahead a little—though rarely more than two or three pieces.
My good friend, retired U.S. Army officer, Tim Roderick, really deserves much of the credit for this blog. He thinks it will become important to my books sales over time, and has pushed hard for me to stay with it. He is a good example of the kind of friend a writer is fortunate to have. Does he nag? No. That is not his style. But he is persuasive—and unremitting, as befits a former Apache attack helicopter pilot. As a consequence, even when I have been feeling like death with flu (or some such mysterious ailment) I have blogged—before collapsing.
The hardest part is ending a blog. I like to find some kind of twist—much as ends a good short story—but that isn’t always possible. Failing that, I look for a punch-line. Sometimes that too does not come to mind.
But normally it does.