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  • Review of Home by Marilynne Robinson

    HomeHome by Marilynne Robinson
    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    I loved Gilead by Marilynne Robinson so much. The review is here: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/....

    But with Home, I had a different experience. I wasn't compelled through most of the book. At about the three-quarter mark, things started to happen and I felt my interest quicken. But here's a summary of my impressions, and my apologies to those who loved it so much they recommended it to me:

    1. I was disappointed to see this other, peevish, nasty side of Rev. Ames.
    2. I didn't like the Rev. Boughton very much at all.
    3. Jack is tedious and pathetic.
    4. Glory almost breaks free but then doesn't.

    Robinson really makes me wait for it, building my conflict between compassion and resentment for Jack. And just when I lose faith in him, there's a scene where the old misogynist/bigot Rev. Boughton asks to see Jack and his brother together in his room, and Jack insists Glory be included. As if he sees her as an equal to the men, rather than just the servant her father expects.

    In this, I felt Jack himself was a Rorschach test for the reader, in that while he seems almost feral, a man born without skin with which to hide himself from the world, easily wounded and always untrusting, you want to abandon him, but can you? If so, who are you? What are your values - what are your limits?

    So now Glory has decided to stop being codependent with her "fiancé", and switch her ministrations and self-sacrifice to her dying father and her feral brother. This is an arc? This is growth? What is Robinson's meaning, at the end of the story, when Glory decides to stay in a town she has said she hates, in a house she agrees to preserve as a monument/mausoleum to the family? It can only be read as failure to respect oneself in favor of service to others! This troubles me deeply.

    I apologize for the length of this next excerpt, but I have to reproduce it, because it's so telling:

    "(Glory) had tried to take care of (Jack), to help him, and from time to time he had let her believe she did. That old habit of hers, of making a kind of happiness for herself out of the thought that she could be his rescuer, when there was seldom much reason to believe that rescue would have any particular attraction for him. That old illusion that she could help her father with the grief Jack caused, the grief Jack was, when it was as far beyond her power to soothe or mitigate as the betrayal of Judas Iscariot. She had been alone with her parents when Jack left, and she had been alone with her father when he returned. There was a symmetry in that that might have seemed like design to her and beguiled her with the implication that their fates were indeed intertwined. Or returning herself to that silent house might simply have returned her to a s state of mind more appropriate to her adolescence. A lonely schoolgirl at thirty-eight. Now, there was a painful thought.

    "She recalled certain moments in which she could see that Jack had withdrawn from her and was looking through or beyond her, making some new appraisal of her trustworthiness, perhaps, or her usefulness, or simply and abruptly losing interest in her together with whatever else happened just then...She found no consistency in these moments, nothing she could interpret. He was himself. That is what their father had always said, and by it he had meant that Jack was jostled along in the stream of (the family's) vigor and purpose and their good intentions, their habits and certitudes, and was never really a part of any of it. He had eaten their food and slept beneath their roof, wearing the clothes and speaking the dialect of their slightly self-enamored and distinctly clerical family..."

    God! Who hasn't known people like this - men like this, children like this - who take and take and take from an ever-hopeful spouse or family and yet never seem quite able to be satisfied, or fulfilled, or happy! When all the sacrificial loving family member ever wants is for that feral person to be happy. Or at least safe.

    Like I said, Rorschach.

    And in this, I have to admit, Robinson delivers again, most profoundly, in pulling back the curtains and showing us, right down to the faint beat of a pulse along a pale wrist, the impact on a family of such a lone wolf. Not that the wolf doesn't suffer. Not that we don't all feel empathy as we struggle to surface from this mire, gulping and gasping air, sorry for Glory who remains below, yet intent on saving ourselves.

    View all my reviews

  • Review of The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler

    The Beginner's GoodbyeThe Beginner's Goodbye by Anne Tyler
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    After reading some of the reviews, I felt a bit off-kilter, as if I'm seeing something that wasn't intended by the author.

    Nevertheless, here's my impression: this story is about a man who, because of his physical limitations, resists closeness with other people, to the point that he marries a woman who seems certain to want the same, arm's length relationship. It's only after she dies that he begins to sense that he was wrong about that. During the grieving process, he comes to realize he's been living an arm's-length life.

    I love stories about people who come out of a fog and change their lives, empowered by the realization that they've been missing something important - that their reasoning was flawed, but it doesn't have to remain that way. And Anne Tyler is such a great wordsmith, anything she writes is wonderful. This book is perhaps a bit too subtle to win the raving applause it deserves.

    View all my reviews

  • Review of Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

    Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to LeadLean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    As I read Lean In, I was intrigued at being able to get inside the head of a dynamic, smart woman who is one generation younger than me, and see the corporate world through her eyes. One of the cultural questions she answered for me was this: why are younger women so averse to the terms "feminist" and "feminism"? Apparently, Sheryl Sandberg and her contemporaries believe(d) the following:

    1. Equality having arrived, there's no need for feminism anymore
    2. Feminists are man-haters who resist makeup and the shaving of one's legs

    Okay, #2 was a bit tongue-in-cheek. However, having observed conditions in the real world for a few years now, Sandberg has come to see that the playing field is not and will not be level until more women occupy positions of power in the corporate hierarchy. She doesn't suggest that this is due to any malicious intent on the part of men, but rather it's simply a matter of ignorance.

    To illustrate, she describes having to park far away from her office door when hugely and uncomfortably pregnant. When she designated preferred parking spots to accommodate pregnant workers, no one complained. It was seen as logical. But prior to her taking her place in the C-suite, the issue hadn't been raised.

    Sandberg talks about not slowing down out of consideration for what might happen in the nebulous future. The example she gives, now famous, is of a young woman confiding her fears of not wanting to accept a job with a lot of responsibility due to the impact it might have on her family. The woman was planning ahead - she didn't even have a boyfriend yet.

    With this example, Sandberg makes the point that women, having been highly trained and educated, are waving off promotional opportunities. The jury is still out as to why, but she suggests, and I agree, that part of the reason is this: in corporate America, a woman's decision to go through pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, and child-rearing is viewed as a private matter that should not impact her ability to work long hours and irregular schedules, including lengthy and frequent travel as needed. Rightly fearing this may drive her insane, a woman who wants a family may leap off the corporate ladder at a very early stage.

    Sandberg argues that if a young woman stayed on it long enough to secure a more powerful position, she would be able to exert more control over her work life (a perspective the young woman must trust will happen, since at her current low place on the corporate ladder she can only see her lack of power and control.) After a few promotions, she will be able to delegate some of her work to subordinates, afford more help at home, and influence workplace policies that unfairly impact women and families. Who can find fault with this argument?

    Sandberg is honest about her own mistakes, and I found that charming. For example, I was amazed that, for all her intelligence and education, she didn't originally intend to negotiate her starting salary with Facebook. Luckily a nice man (her husband) set her straight, and she made a counter offer to Zuckerberg. Reams of guidance have been written about how this error could have impeded her in later years, both at Facebook and with future employers, yet she didn't know. For other women who have not yet made this horrifying discovery, please read Ask for It by Babcock and Laschever (http://www.amazon.com/Ask-Women-Power...) which in addition to being enlightening and entertaining, offers tons of strategies for preparing yourself to negotiate. And not just for salaries. After reading that book I saved $150 on furniture I was going to buy anyway, by asking one question.

    But back to Lean In.

    I was also surprised that she wasn't well informed about how women can sabotage other women in the workplace, particularly women in power. This is an unfortunate truth with roots in biology, and is brilliantly explained in the amazing book, In the Company of Women by Heim and Murphy (http://www.amazon.com/Company-Women-I...) which I reviewed here:
    http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/... This also suggests the reasons Sandberg was hit with such a backlash for the well-intentioned Lean In.

    There is so much more to say about Lean In, but let me close with this: I enjoyed learning how this stellar corporate executive struggled, made mistakes, and ultimately learned some strategies that will enable her, her family, and the women (and men) in her corporation to thrive. It's not perfect, and sometimes it's not even pretty, but part of the lesson is to let go of the need for perfection.

    The other message, younger women, is to get as far and as fast as you can before starting your families. Don't opt out just because it looks too hard from where you're sitting now. The view improves with each rung on the ladder.

    View all my reviews

Should You Quit Blogging?

If you came of age when I did, in the time of carbon paper and WhiteOut, you’re probably as enthralled as I am about all the possibilities available to us now through technology. One is the ability to start a blog, and a lot of my friends have done that. But lately, some of them are discouraged.

It’s time to rethink blogging – what it is, and isn’t. What it can give you, and what it can take away.

Let me start with a story.

I happened to notice that a popular blogger stopped posting. After a month I emailed her. I mean, sure, it’s cyberspace, but how would we, her subscribers, know if she were lying dead in a ditch or something? Turns out, she was fine, but since I was the only person who checked on her, my inquiry started a discussion about why we blog, and whether it’s really worth it. She said:

When my business was way down last year and I had time on my hands, I began to expand my blogging network.  I spent hours each day reading other people’s blogs, commenting, etc.  After awhile, I felt like I was a member of a fun club…I got so caught up in it all, I lost sight of the fact that, for me, most of the posts weren’t even worth the time it took to read them…When all was said and done, there were maybe five bloggers who I felt had something to say (you are one), beyond just being clever.

I kept asking myself what the point of it was, and I couldn’t come up with a good answer.  Tossing off blog posts is fun, and getting comments is fun as well.  But, honestly, I’ve never felt as though what I was doing was important in the big picture. It all seemed like simply a more respectable and creative version of Facebook.

I love to speak to women and to conduct workshops. That is what juices me and allows me to believe that I’m having an impact on women’s lives. And in some perfect world, I would love to write regularly for a publication, which would do the same thing for me. But I know that won’t happen.”

In response, I said:

Blogging is a mixed bag. I love it and I don’t love it. It’s an awesome way to create a community, and some of the comments really lift me up. But it’s probably not contributing to sales, and even if it is, the ROI isn’t enough to justify it.

She and I agreed we were on to something, and after our conversation, I wanted to think about it. Here’s what I decided: there are only three reasons to have a blog:

  1.  It’s an enjoyable hobby. You blog when you feel like it, and if nobody responds, big deal. Seeing your work in print is its own reward. Maybe you’ll do more with it someday, but until then, you count it as experience.
  2. You’re trying to sell something, whether it’s paid speaking engagements, book sales, advertising on your site, or a widget of some kind. You work your ass off blogging because you desire success. (Note to authors: if this is your plan, stop now. Convert your blog to a static website and apply all your resulting free time to networking on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Goodreads, etc.)
  3. You’re passionate about an idea or theme, and you need to talk about it constantly. You get a charge from the sense of community arising from your visitors and their comments and emotions. You don’t care if you go hungry.

I’m number 3. I need to figure out the second half of life. I love the community that blooms when we all ponder this together. That’s why I blog, and write books, and interact on social networks. Everything I produce is about one thing: the second half of life, and living it mindfully and powerfully.

I love my Any Shiny Thing website, because it’s like being a media mogul. With a website/blog, you’re the head of a TV station, deciding what videos to post or link to. You’re the radio station owner, deciding which podcasts to produce. And you’re the newspaper owner, publishing your own little paper every week. You’re the boss, but like most self-employed people, you work for a hard-driving bitch. It takes time, energy and creativity, and you don’t get time off.

Except for the bitch part, I’d tell my friend that she actually does work for a publication that can impact women’s lives, but unfortunately, the work is unpaid (in terms of dollars. In terms of oxytocin, the chemical women experience as a result of bonding, there’s a pretty big payout! But you can’t write a check with it.)

So here’s my bottom line: as a boomer, I’m thrilled with technology, and I hope to use it to build on my topic for everybody’s benefit. But frankly, blogging can take a lot of your time and not increase your sales by one book. So it’s really important to be clear about what you’re trying to accomplish, and how much you’re willing to put into it. Because life is short, and you don’t want to burn time or energy on the wrong thing. Isn’t that one of the tenets of our discussions? One of the most important rules we all agree on, now that we’re old enough to know better?

What about you? Why are you blogging? What do you get from it?

Leave a comment

68 Comments

  1. A lot of material for pondering. I often think about this and wonder just what it is I want from my blog. I love the creative process and the communion of women. However, there are times when I long for the days of sitting on the front porch and chatting with women friends. I guess this is my new front porch.

    Hugs,
    Laura

    Reply
  2. i get lost in the blogosphere both reading and writing. but i need a break from it once in a while. i am in a place now, thinking, why do i write a blog? is it accomplishing anything? i suppose i do it simply as a creative outlet, and in hopes of inspiring someone.

    Reply
    • Sky, that means you’re blogging for reason #1, and God luv ya. Enjoy, have fun, and blog away! My goal was to try to get peeps to be mindful of their reasons, and you def. are. Best wishes.

      Reply
  3. When I made the move from living in suburbia to leaving in a log and stone cabin in the forest, I had some adventures. I experienced loneliness and isolation, too–but those have been companions all my life, and let me tell you the loneliness of living in the wilderness is nothing like the loneliness of living in a housing tract for a dozen years and never getting to know your neighbors…. I also experienced moments of pure, profound joy–standing on the edge of a deep canyon, watching snow pour into it; having my reading interrupted by the young bobcat who wanted to chase lizards below my deck; walking in the forest with a full moon illuminating the new-fallen snow…. People these days have little patience for the richness of verbal story telling in conversation. So I opted to do what I’ve always done when folks don’t seem to be listening: I express my thoughts in writing. My blog mostly reflects my stories of the mountain… and sometimes the stories of my heart.

    Reply
    • Kay, I just checked out your last blog post and am sending love your way. Stress can be a killer, and I hope after you reach a new place, you’ll be okay. Maybe I should have added a fourth reason for blogging, the Kay Category: people who simply have something to say. http://www.skaymurphy.blogspot.com/

      Reply
    • Some times we simply write to stay sane… I wrote for 2-1/2 years on my blog, “Taking Care of Mom,” about being my mother’s caretaker the last years of her very long life. She died March 4, 2011 at 101 and ten months. The writing saved me in ways nothing else could. Sometimes now I feel adrift because I lack the passion and purpose I had when writing about caregiving my mother. That said…I love my blog, whether anyone reads or not.

      Reply
      • Then you’re in reason #1, Martha. You love it for its own sake. It doesn’t have to be anything, it just is. That blog helped you get through, like a good friend. My condolences on the loss of your mom, and best wishes in finding the peace you deserve.

        Reply
  4. Yours is the fourth post I’ve read this week on this topic. Four or five years ago when I started it was a “must do” for a writer, or aspiring writer, to have a blog and post regularly. I think with the increased popularity of other social networking sites like Facebook there is more opportunity to network and build relationships in a way that is more seamless with our busy lives. That said, I do enjoy blogging. My site has morphed and changed over the years as my focus has changed.

    I always enjoy reading your thoughtful posts, Lynne. I’m happy we’ve connected through blogging and other social networks!

    Reply
    • Isn’t that funny, Linda, that it WAS a “must do.” But things change, and honestly, I wonder if you couldn’t get the same interaction from a Facebook fan page, if you worked it. People don’t have to join FB to interact on it. If they “Like” it they can comment, but that’s the only requirement. It combines the qualities of a blog and website, and you can get a vanity URL – I’ve seen regular domains (like JohnSmith.com) map thru to their FB fan page. Everything changes, which to me is riveting. The conventional wisdom of 2 years ago is replaced with the new “must have.” We need a quiet space to sit and thing about ROI, and I don’t mean just $$. Thanks for stopping by, and best wishes with sales of your awesome memoir, http://www.amazon.com/Two-Hearts-Adoptees-Journey-Gratitude/dp/061560675X/.

      Reply
  5. I’ve asked myself this question many times in the past few months. I started my blog as another creative outlet and didn’t know much about blogging or what to expect. The unexpected wonderful part was the community of women I’ve met and come to know online. Blogging does take up a lot of time, though, and I’ve wondered if my time would be better spent elsewhere. I’m still pondering it. There are times I’ve thought of letting it go…then I’ll spend time on it and think “I love my blog!” Thanks for the post…you always make me think about things or look at them in a new light. Hugs.

    Reply
    • Hugs back, Cindy. You said, “I wonder if my time would be better spent elsewhere.” That’s the thing I wanted people to ask themselves: what is your goal? Because as a person who used to teach blogging classes, I suspect most of us women would get the same community love from Facebook if we spent as much time there. And probably other sites, too, if enough of your friends went there. I think http://www.VibrantNation.com has promise, even though it’s a commercial site. And there are age-related sites, too, but you have to be careful they don’t try to sell you diapers or Viagra! Goodreads.com is really enjoyable, and I’ve just been checking out http://thewomensnest.com/.

      Reply
  6. Good information.

    I read a few years ago that for an author to succeed, he or she must have a website; so I got one. Then I read that he or she must blog; so I started blogging.

    The thing is, every writer has a website and they blog, too. So how to set oneself apart from all the others is as problematic as getting one’s submission off the slush pile on an agent or publisher’s desk.

    Reply
    • Exactly, JC, and my point was that I THINK – I’m not sure yet – that you can get the same level of exposure and enjoyment from interacting on several popular social networks. I am wondering if blogging will lose its luster after a while when people begin to evaluate the comparative ROI. I’m talking authors who specifically do it to increase sales, that is. If a person is doing it for reason 3, that’s different. Good to hear from you.

      Reply
  7. dhaupt3

     /  October 26, 2012

    Lynne, great article. You know the whole e-thing is a double edged sword isn’t it. Without it I wouldn’t know you or half of the people I now count as friends, strange but true. It’s also makes us vulnerable to people who don’t share our views, e-like us, or whatever and being they think they’re invisible choose to trash us on line. My blog is strictly a review blog that I have in close relationship to my forum for B&N so I try really hard not offend anyone.
    I know this might not be the reason to or not to have a blog, but it’s mine and I choose to because I really want to promote all the wonderful authors out there who mean so much to me and without whom I couldn’t do what I do.
    Deb

    Reply
    • Deb, you’re a number three-er also. If you do if for love and because you believe in what you do. I enjoyed participating in your blog and wish I could visit more often, but this year’s a killer as to time. But you’re very professional, and your discussions reflect that. Best wishes.

      Reply
  8. I hear you, Lynne. I started my own blog a few weeks ago. Posted twice, then realized it was sucking time away from my “real” writing. I’ve just started on book two of The Raven’s Daughter trilogy, and with now THREE agents reviewing my manuscript for book one, I know where I have to spend my time. I did okay with my first two blogs, given that I’m a newbie, but I don’t believe for one second that people who read my blog are going to cough up dough to buy my book. So, I’m going to build a new website, since my old one is defunct, and spend my writing time where I need to. One agent I queired said on his website “Stop blogging and write your book.” He said he didn’t even want to see on a query letter bio that someone has a “successful blog” because it means they aren’t working on their books. He said “I don’t sell blogs. I sell books.” I thought he was off base then, but now? I think he may be spot-on base. I might blog now and again when I have time, but who has time? I love your blog, though, and I’d miss it if you were gone. Also, guess who else apparently quit blogging? The Queen Blogger herself, Julie from “Julie and Julia” fame, who made her first book from her blogs. She shut down her first blog, then started a new one. But…her last blog entry was 2010. I think she ain’t writin’ no blogs these days.

    Reply
    • Everything you said, Peggy, is valid. Esp. the part about not writing. I do a 500 (+/-) word essay every Friday. I polish it and work it until I feel proud of it, and it’s worth it to me, because AST has reached a point where it’s gathering in a lot of like minds. BUT – the the point the agent made, if you multiply 500 x 52 weeks (no vacations!) that = 26,000 words. A pretty good start on a novel, eh?

      Reply
  9. Perhaps I’m in the I have something to say category. I write because I think of myself as a writer, and a writer writes. It’s hard to keep going at times without some sort of immediate gratification. Blogging for me is about writing to be read and engaging with readers to elevate the conversation. Not quitting anytime soon.

    Reply
    • Hi Donna, I think you’re in the #3 category then. If you’re fired up by an idea and can’t stop, well, that would describe me, too.

      Reply
  10. I live in a world surrounded by what I call meaningless chatter. My blog provides an opportunity to examine and interact with others focused on an idea or goal. Sometimes it feels like posting in a vacuum because followers often do not comment. Tracker is my main source of feedback and it tells me my blog is growing and people are returning to read my posts. I have limited experience (roughly 3months) but whatever I am doing appears to work. This Wed 1276 visitors came to my site and my unique visitors have grown to 78, so someone is listening. Excuse me reading.
    The successful people (in my opinion) are those pursuing hobbies, careers, etc that are emotionally rewarding, not financial. Age has never been an issue with me. Excluding physical limitations which can often be corrected through diet and exercise, our mental attitude plays a major role for health and emotional well being. If we maintain our curiosity and a willingness to learn we retain our feeling vitality and purpose. My blog helps provide a menu for exploring and communicating.
    Sales are another issue and I consider my blog as one part of a larger network. At the moment I do not have a book to sell. Most of my life has involved sales in various forms. The golden rule is, believe in your product and develop avenues of exposure and above all ask for the order. Studying successful bloggers tells me one of the common factors is frequent posting (hard work or
    enjoyable past time your choice). That is why I use twitter to interact with more than one interest group. They are all readers.
    I love you blog and you receive frequent comments, so I would think it is rewarding. So far the only comments on by blog are the return visitors. They must like something if they return for more. http://www.jimparrishavitator.co
    I am sure you would be missed if you quit blogging.
    Your Friend, Jim

    Reply
    • Jim, I told Peggy and Mary Jane that I am so in awe of your wide-ranging mind that I consider you a mentor. Thanks again for a fact- and inspiration-packed comment. And I’m not thinking of quitting. I was reacting to the dissatisfaction of a couple of my friends who haven’t gotten a lot of bang for their time and effort.

      Reply
  11. I see my editor failed me again. I am ready to fire him.

    Reply
  12. dawn kohler

     /  October 26, 2012

    Interesting note to writers in this blog. I plan to go to print on my novel the end of 2013. I would love to buy you dinner, wine, and or a round of golf to pick your brain on what worked for you and what you might do differently. Let me know if you have time for any of the above. I know you are a busy grandma!

    Dawn

    Reply
    • I would love to see you, Dawn! But you are right! it’s insane right now. But we have family in the OC we’ll see around Xmas – maybe we could have lunch then? A nice long one with wine and an ocean view! I’ll find out what dates the fam is doing it and see when you might be available!

      Reply
  13. Timely topic, Lynne. I have shifted radically from where I was a few years ago. I didn’t blog-I offered free stuff to subscribers. I did this for 2 reasons: 1. build my list, 2. show my skills. My peeps truly liked/like it-evidenced by the # of requested query letter critiques I receive.
    Here’s what they didn’t do-they didn’t ‘show’ me they loved it by sharing in social media even though my site made it easy to do. I don’t know if folks know this, but you can track who opens what, shares what, etc…
    Recently, I changed my site to a WP site so I could blog-Yes, I still offer free stuff but now my site is focused on my writing. Why? I have control over this-I don’t need to depend on the kindness of subscribers to ‘share’ & I write blogs that will strengthen my platform. I share as much as my time permits and I now ‘target’ those shares. A few years ago, my platform building was dependent on my level of ‘social media’ understanding. I understand more now. My content attracts ‘my’ tribe members who are invited to add their content to mine—It’s a village building proposition and today I know who my village peeps are much more than I did a few years back.
    ‘Live & learn’– in real time and cyberspace, it never ends.

    Reply
    • Marla, that’s the thing: live and learn. Watch to see what works, and then evolve and change, as you continue to do. Everybody is WAY busy these days, and spending time reading a blog is similar, in my view, to leafing through a newspaper and pausing to absorb an editorial. Kind of a luxury. So we need to figure out what do people have time for, and that’s why I’m recommending that new bloggers maybe focus more effort on Twitter and Facebook.

      Reply
      • I’m telling you, I’m falling in love with twitter-for Biz it’s showing lots of promise—I love FB but that’s a personal site for me–Twitter is where I find most of my writing and political peeps—it’s also lots of fun.

        Reply
  14. Excellent topic for discussion, Lynne! I started my blog several years ago after the writing conference in Cincy, chiefly because we were told we HAD to have an author presence if we were going to succeed in today’s publishing business, and blogging was a good place to start. Unlike many others, I just can’t warm up to Facebook — I know too many people who use it only to keep up with what others are doing and to measure themselves by that. I don’t need an artificial yardstick, thank you very much!
    I blog for many reasons — it’s like a warmup exercise that “gets my writer’s juices flowing,” it allows me to be in control of a small part of the Internet, I believe I have something to say (and I say it about a lot of different topics), I love the thrill that comes when I hit Publish, and I’ve become quite fond of the community of writers, readers, moms, dads, and such out there.
    That said, I do believe maintaining a “successful” blog means you give up some key things — time, of course, as well as creativity and energy. It’s a trade-off, really. If you only blog, you reserve time and energy for other pursuits; if you decide to jump whole-hog into social media, you run the risk of spreading yourself too thin. Everybody gets only 24 hours in a day — how we choose to spend them is up to us. Perhaps we all need a break from this stuff, now and then!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Deb. You’re a #3 blogger, too, it sounds like. You’re in it for love! And you do seem to get a lot of it from your very vibrant community. But yep, sometimes we have to go outside and play, right?

      Reply
  15. Just now, I completed the first draft of the first chapter of my next book, “The Pukkekwerek,” Number 2 of “The Raven’s Daughter” trilogy. I had a choice today: write a new blog, or work on my next novel. I think I may blog now and again, and I LOVE your blog, Lynne. I encourage you to “Blog On, Sister!” but completing chapters of my book…now that’s rewarding to me, and IMHO more worthy of my time than blogging…not to say I won’t ever blog again…it can be fun!

    Reply
  16. Magda

     /  October 26, 2012

    I completely related to your post today. I have been blogging for exactly one month today. For the past month or two I have been wondering whether it is truly worth the effort. I came to the answer that it is worth it to me because I like writing and it’s good practice. From your list I would be a number 1 and for now I am happy. I have come to blogging late, not interested nor do I have time to investigate all the benefits of blogging. All I know is the best benefit for me is the satisfaction I feel when I complete a post.

    Reply
    • Then it’s good, Magda. I’m just looking for awareness. If you’re a #1, you know why you’re doing it. I wish you all the enjoyment that this self-awareness deserves. Happy blogging.

      Reply
  17. I agree it’s important to consider why we’re blogging, if it brings us joy, sanity, connection, etc. Because the monetizing of a blog may never transpire. I love the way they connect so many women – especially at an age where connections may have moved on otherwise. And I also always appreciate the permission we should give ourselves to quit if it isn’t working or purposeful.

    Reply
    • That’s the thing, Barb: self-awareness. Which is kind of the main point of this whole blog, now that I think of it. Happy Saturday.

      Reply
  18. I started out hot on my blog and now run warm to cold. My purpose was/is for self exploration and its creative expression. I’m now in the phase of living a completely self directed life with no outside professional expectations. So it interests me to see how I spend my time, and because I come from the communication world it’s become part of my DNA to share it with anybody interested in knowing about it.

    During the warm months I’ve been busy outdoors and haven’t spent enough time inside my head to slow down and write. As the weather cools and my body transitions to more quiet living, I’m hoping to read and write more frequently. But I have no grandiose motivation other than to live consciously and with purpose.

    I appreciate your discipline, Lynne, and enjoy your writing style and content.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Joyce. I’ve watched your transitions with interest. I’m curious about what most of us would do with the opportunity to live a “completely self-directed life.” I know you have the intellect to evaluate what you do with it, and reflect on the upcoming changes and evolution over time. I’ll be curious to read your posts, as you represent one slice of our age group.

      Reply
      • I’m curious what people would do with personal freedom too. I’d love to know that if money wasn’t the driving force behind time spent, what would people do with their lives.

        The caveat is that I’m not inferring that one can spend freely and live out their fantasies. I’m assuming that needs are met, bills can be paid and wants can be satisfied (within reason).

        My husband and I live a comfortable life, though not an extravagant one. But that’s our lifestyle of choice. I have no fantasies of living a different, lavish lifestyle. I’m living the life I’d like to.

        That said, during my “driving” career years I also lived the life I wanted to. I was passionate about my career and looked forward to work on most days.

        That’s why this stage of my life fascinates me; I never dreamed I’d actually enjoy and appreciate a life with no financial payoff.

        Reply
  19. heather

     /  October 27, 2012

    Yes, I committed to write a blog for a year about things I love (home, gardening, preparing healthy food, pondering, watching movies and seasons, life in Colorado, etc.) and I learned that i was really journaling and putting my thoughts out into the ethers while learning how to write a bit clearer. I woke up one day and realized that during my one year i had only 3 comments and like FB no one really gave a dang about what I know, think, feel or cook. Maybe I might have been a trifle more successful if i had added “adsense” and was selling something on my sites that would have driven more hits. I realized that there are/were millions of women out there doing what i was trying to do and the market was flooded (so to speak) and this was disheartening. Since I loathe the chaos that comes with such a garage sale of blogs out there, I fizzled in my enthusiasm — there was always someone with a better, more sophisticated website that offered better links, better photos, better design, more clever whistles and bells. It seemed to me I entered the craze a bit late – or what my mother would have said, “I was a day late and a dollar short.”

    Reply
    • Oh, Heather, thank you for writing! You exemplify perfectly the blogger for whom I think the effort might be a net loss. If you have felt it was worthwhile for any reason, you’d be in our #1 category. But it sounds like you didn’t, and your life is more beautiful and satisfying without the blog. I’m so about being mindful in the second half of life, and doing what brings you joy and satisfaction. I think blogging is good for many reasons, but it has a cost. Kudos to you for being clear-eyed about what you need and don’t need, and for having the guts to make the decision.

      Reply
  20. I started my blog last April. Everything I read and everyone I communicated with told me it was a necessity to establish a website and to start blogging immediately. The pressure was on to create well written content and to find an audience. I was up for the challenge.

    Some of my posts took a tremendous amount of time and effort. Yet, I loved having a place to write on a regular basis.Since the audience base for my upcoming memoir includes many distinct groups (educators, travelers, adventure seekers, people interested in India, people struggling with personal challenges, empty nesters, memoir readers as well as a few other groups) I struggle with finding ways to connect with such a diverse audience. Thus, my topics are plentiful. I have already posted 80+. Even though I raise questions and try to elicit a responses from my followers, I sometimes feel like I’m writing in a vacuum. Few respond, yet I move forward. I continue to enjoy writing in general and reviewing multicultural picture books.

    I have to admit, I am envious of people who have dozens of comments on a regular basis. I wish someone would share his/her secret. Is it just a matter of time or am I heading in the wrong direction?

    In just a few months, I have built a LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook audience. Like writing blogs, it has been a time consuming process, but an exciting adventure. I find it fascinating to connect with total strangers coming from many walks of life. It took a while to catch on to Twitter. Now I find it a great way to keep informed on many different topics and to share useful information.

    I’m not sure I follow your reasoning that the other forms of social media would be sufficient to create a platform for a soon to be published book. More often than not, my blog writing provides momentum for the other social media sites. How would I generate interest without posting regular blogs?

    If you or any of your followers can offer words of advice, I’m open to suggestions. Perhaps the advice I have received thus far has been faulty or outdated. I look forward to your response

    Reply
    • Hi Sandy, my main concern was ROI – that the amount of time and effort a new author puts into a blog might be better spent elsewhere. If you have a book out, and it’s on Amazon.com, all you need is to get people interested enough to go to your book page. It doesn’t require a blog & website to do that. Might even be counterproductive in this fast-paced world. Why ask your potential customers to do two clicks when one will get them to the book page?

      On your Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, you could link to your Amazon.com/author page. Instead of blogging, you get real active on those networks. Lots of people see your tweets and updates, click on your profile, and then go to your book page. Better yet, have them go to your Amazon.com/author page, where they can read about you, watch your book trailers and other videos, AND buy your book. This happens without the intermediate step of having them go to your website, let alone read your blog.

      Many networks are now affording their members all the benefits of a website and blog, while also offering a ready-made community. For ex, check out Goodreads (http://www.goodreads.com/author/how_to). You could also create a FB Fan Page (properly called a Business Page) as an alternative to a proprietary website. I recently clicked on an author’s website URL, and it took me from JohnSmith.com to his FB Author Page. You can do that with “domain mapping,” which is like call forwarding only it applies to URLs. For example, my domain, http://www.LynneSpreen.com actually “forwards” to my website, http://www.AnyShinyThing.com, but I could change that so it forwarded to my Goodreads Author Page, or my Amazon Author Page, or my Facebook Author Page, completely circumventing my blog/website.

      I know this is a lot of minutiae but dang, I think it’s so interesting! And it makes a blog like owning a BMW as opposed to a Nissan. They’ll both get you to work, but the Nissan is a lot cheaper to maintain. I hope this helps.

      Reply
  21. Gosh, Lynne, you always seem to write about the topic that is so timely in my own life. I often question why blog because as you mention in terms of financial payback there is none. I write because I have to. In the same way I was driven to shoot baskets over and over again in a day when girl’s weren’t allowed on the court, I am compelled to write to process my life. And if in baring my soul, my words lift someone else up in times of despair, that gives me courage to continue fighting in face of my obstacles. It is a curse and a blessing.

    Reply
    • Pat, I think you’re pushed by the same drive as Martha, above. That raises the blog to something sacred. And unique – I don’t have any other friends writing and sending BEAUTIFUL photos of what it means to live in France.

      Reply
  22. Excellent post, and just what’s been on my mind recently.

    Or in the words of my 2-year-old grandson, “What are we doing here?”

    I think I’ve fallen for the media-mogul concept you describe at the end. And as long as I find it fun, stimulating, and challenging, I suspect I’ll continue.

    Reply
    • Fun, stimulating and challenging are all good, Christine. My younger granddaughter is 2, by the way. Cute age, huh?

      Reply
      • Adorable age. Since they live about a six-hour drive away, we only get to see him about every three months or so. He will leap and bound out of the twos pretty quickly at that rate.

        Reply
  23. I have been spending some time evaluating that myself. No answers yet.

    Reply
  24. Your post sent the fear of god through me…I think I am #2. (And #3). My blog takes up an enormous amount of time. I am in the process of renaming it, have spend waayyy too much money on a brander, 6 months of time and it is still not up and viable. I also am social media challenged. But I have so much to say. And I have to write a book. I know that if I don’t it will be my regret on my deathbed.

    Lynn I first read your writings on Vibrant Nation because I also write for them. Then I saw you on BA50 who I also write for. So when I read this post I thought I must make contact with you. Your post is making me think. And rethink.

    Knowing why we do anything and if it is getting us closer to goals is a good thing. Just somedays it is a harder answer than others.

    Reply
    • Patricia, I feel like when an old neighbor looks you up and says, girl, it’s been 30 years! Thanks so much for contacting me, and for considering this post. Listen, #2 is pretty hard-core. You say you think you’re #2, but you have to absolutely have something to sell to be in that category. #1 is dabbling and experimenting, and #3 is consumed by a passion that will not let you quit.

      So in your case, I would say, get back to the drawing board and figure out what exactly you’re trying to do. What does success mean to you? I just found a fantastic blog post on just that subject.

      What might you do to experience some success now? Something that you can sell for actual $$. Seth Godin is famous for saying, “JUST SHIP.” What can you ship, now? If you just absolutely need to write a book, cut back on everything else and do that, because that sounds really important to you!

      Keep me posted, I wish you the best!

      Reply
  25. I found this post from Christine M. Grote and I’m glad she led me here. I’ve cut way back on my own blogging lately, as I try to figure what my own goals are and where I head from here. I’m not sure yet, what I will do, but your 3 reasons to blog are food for thought. Thank you for putting into words the complex world of blogging.

    Reply
    • You’re welcome, Lisa. It is complex! But the older I get, the more aware I am of the ROI on everything I do. Sometimes the ROI is just a good feeling in my heart, and that’s enough, but sometimes it has to be measured in more commercial terms. Best wishes.

      Reply
  26. Arlee Bird

     /  October 31, 2012

    This was recommended to me from Christine M Grote’s blog and the topic really speaks to me. I’ve been doing a lot of posting this year about this topic and reading other blogs also raising similar questions. I love blogging, but I also recognize the tremendous time suck that blogging can be.

    It would be great if I could have the readership without the reciprocity of commenting on blogs that don’t really have that much to offer. There are a lot of wonderful bloggers out there, but so much of what is getting posted just doesn’t mean that much to me. I want to be edified as well as be entertained, but the quality is not always there as much as I’d like it to be. It’s a quandary of achieving the happy balance that I’ve been trying to figure out. I want to blog, but I also need to have time to do things I need to do and to think relevant thoughts. I’m working on it.

    Great post!

    Reply
    • Arlee, everything you said is what I am feeling, quite emphatically! Esp. about balance and “think relevant thoughts.” In my dream life, I would spend my mornings (when I’m fresh and everything seems more captivating) pondering. I have figured out how to do that with my blog, but I fear for the newer authors. Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
  27. Good thoughts. Glad Christine pointed me in this direction.

    No two bloggers have identical reasons for blogging ~ and our reasons may change from day to day. We may blog:

    * To connect with others
    * To exchange ideas and insights
    * To be inspired
    * To learn new things
    * To share what we’ve learned
    * To hobnob and commisserate

    If someone is blogging SOLELY because someone told them that all wannabe novelists MUST have a blog audience in order to get published, they should read your post again . . . while asking themselves if they aren’t putting the cart before the horse:

    * What if I NEVER finish that novel because I am too busy blogging?
    * What if I finish it, but decide NOT to publish it?
    * What if I decide to self-publish it ONLY for select friends and family?

    If we’re enjoying the JOURNEY of blogging, reaching the ultimate DESTINATION of marketing a novel isn’t really an issue.

    But if blogging is just another “MUST DO” on a crowded and cumbersome list, especially if it detracts and distracts from a writer’s efforts to write “the Great American Novel,” they should consider reordering priorities.

    Reply
    • NR, Yes, right, exactly. As per my #1, 2 and 3 above. The thing that disturbs me is how aspiring writers are told they need to have a blog, when I think they’d be better off writing, as you say. Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
  28. Good question! I’ve asked myself the same one recently. I started my blog in January of this year when a literary agent said writers should start one at least three years before they have a book published. Since I’m writing a book I’d like to have published about surviving stage 3 pancreatic cancer last year, I started a blog. Now I find out that it is fun and am wondering why I am writing a book!
    Heaven only knows. :-)

    Reply
    • Gayle, as a 58-year-old, I’m feeling more and more that time is more valuable than money, and you probably feel that way even more, given the fact that you beat pancreatic cancer!! So I would say, try to identify and figure out the thing you want/need the most, and then figure out how to go toward that thing. If it is the warmth and camaraderie of a heartfelt community (like this one at AST), you can get that with a heartfelt blog! But if you need to produce a book to fulfill something in your life – if you’ve got a burning motivation that only a book can satisfy – then go for that.

      Reply
  29. Lynne, I hear you ! I don’t know how I missed this fantastic and very timely post and discussion. It all reinforces the need to examine our purpose for blogging in the first place. There are many ways to establish and maintain an online presence. One could probably argue too many so focusing on a few makes the best sense to me. It is so easy to spread oneself too thin ( which is probably why I missed this post). I love blogging and the weekly conversation “around my kitchen table”. It actually helps me stay motivated with my writing. At the present time, I can’t imagine not doing it so I’m a #3 blogger. Thanks for a lively and relevant discussion. I would miss you terribly if you decided to quit!

    Reply
    • Kathy, I’m not planning to quit, and thanks. I just meant it kills me that “gurus” are still giving out the same tired advice to all new authors. I just saw one yesterday. “Of course, you have to have a blog.” And I wanted to engage her. A blog is a wonderful idea for so many things, but if an author is doing it just to sell books, it’s not the smartest idea. At all. A website, yes. A blog, no. There are 80 million blogs just in the US. How would a brand new author make hers stand out such that it created a lot of sales? No, my feeling is, selling is one thing. Community is another. You and I are blessed to have community, and I could never walk away from that. I love my cyberpeeps!

      Reply
  30. I agree , Lynne. We are blessed to have community. Your discussion really brings home the concept of blogging to engage and build community vs using a blog to sell books. I love my cyberpeeps, too!

    Reply
  31. I love your blog!! I just started blogging on my own blog (have ghost written for businesses etc.) I am blogging for reason #1 but also to connect with people…..and go on a journey…..eventually to helping verbally abused women get out of bad relationships. Beverly Engel changed my life with her books…maybe with time…as it grows into whatever it’s meant to be…I will change a person’s life with my blog.
    Cheers to you Lynne

    Reply
  1. Re-evaluating « Christine M Grote
  2. Where Good Ideas Come From « Spirit Lights The Way

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  • Lynne Spreen

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  • Review of Private Life by Jane Smiley

    Private LifePrivate Life by Jane Smiley
    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    Maybe this book is better than my capacity to appreciate. I don't tend toward writing that is obscure, or dense (or makes me feel dense). However, sometimes it's better to roll along with the storytelling and let the deeper meaning work its way up from subconscious to conscious.

    The ending of this book is extremely powerful. Margaret, due to the traumatic incident that happened when she was five, lived in a fog her entire life, married to a wacko genius, and not waking up until she was in her sixties and everything/everyone is sad and tired. Yet she seems to catch fire, fueled by bitterness, in the very last 3 sentences of the epilogue. It was a long time to wait for the enlightenment.

    I gave the book 3 stars because there's too much backstory too soon, making it hard for me to develop an interest. Once there, I felt frustrated at the repetitious nature of Margaret's obtuseness, even though she's a bright woman, and her deferring to Andrew, even though this is what people - women especially - do.

    It went on for her whole life! That she was living in a cloud due to, I believe, the trauma of the childhood incident, and that she was ill served by those around her, didn't make it any easier to like this story. I know Smiley is a master writer, and I feel like a goof not giving her a better rating, but this is my honest reaction.

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  • Review of Up At The Villa by Somerset Maugham

    Up at the VillaUp at the Villa by W. Somerset Maugham
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    Very much enjoyed this short book, which I read in one night. The settings are lush, dialogue snappy, and the characters realistic and strong. The plot and writing are compelling. I enjoyed it because a theme might be, "people are not what they appear to be." A character acts one way and you think, okay, he's good and upstanding. And maybe he IS, but the "why" of it is enlightening. Maugham is a respected author for a reason. What talent! A very good story.

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  • Review of Benediction by Kent Haruf

    BenedictionBenediction by Kent Haruf
    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    Ever in search of stories about midlife and beyond, I set up a page on facebook (www.Facebook.com/midlife.fiction) and asked for suggestions. I got 38 great recommendations, and I hope to read and review every one of them. Herewith, then: Benediction by Kent Haruf. What a masterpiece.

    Benediction centers around an elderly man who is dying, but the story encompasses many rich characters, and their small stories touched me. In fact, I think this is what made the book so special for me: I saw a little bit of myself in each of them. Each one resonated. I felt again what it was like to be a lost little girl, a lonely divorcee, a misunderstood introspective, a grieving wife, a person who is coping with serious illness. I longed for the small-town atmosphere described here (the Fourth of July fireworks over the high school football field is a stellar short story all by itself.)

    Although the central character is dying, the book is not negative. Far from it - Benediction reflects on the everyday goodness (and tawdriness) of people. His characters are beset by the normal difficulties of life yet buoyed by simple beauties and kindnesses.

    Yet, nothing in Haruf's writing is overly dramatic or in the least saccharine. In fact, that's one of the aspects of Benediction I enjoyed the most: being surprised by tears on the completion of a plainly-written paragraph, phrase or description.

    I couldn't stop reading excerpts to my husband, since he also loves beautifully crafted writing. This book put me in mind of Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. If I could describe it in one word, it would be "elegiac."

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