Bran for bloggers

Yesterday was my Business of Writing meeting. If you’d been in the Pepper Mill in Thessalon, where we often hold these things, you’d have thought you were watching four women having a kaffeeklatsch. In fact, a couple of women who came in and stopped to say hi thought exactly that – that “business of writing meeting” was an excuse to get out with the girls.

I suppose it’s that, too, but what we’re really doing, Rhea, Pauline, Angie and I, is keeping each other on track. Angie is the Keeper of the Action Book. This is a deceptively, frivolously pink-covered notebook in which, every month, we write measurable goals for ourselves, and check off what we got done of last month’s goals.

Our goals are about writing, and also about promoting ourselves. Angie is working on a website for herself, as well as a blog. Rhea, who is my vintage, is feeling the same bewilderment and trepidation about the internet that I felt a couple of years ago. Pauline has a website, and she and I are the bloggers in the group. Pauline blogged almost daily a few years ago, and now she’s having trouble thinking of blog content.

“I don’t know how some bloggers can be so regular,” Pauline said yesterday. “I mean, where do they get their ideas?”

Because I am a child of the fifties, what sprang immediately to mind with the word “regular” was – well, you know. Bran. Roughage. Fibre. Keeps you – ahem – regular. You need to eat it every day in order to, well, be, um, regular. Regular input equals regular output. Maybe we’ll just stop this analogy right there.

So what’s bran for bloggers? Two words: paying attention.

Oh, I can hear you now: “Yeah, that’s a big, fat help, Elizabeth!” I know, I know – but that’s the synopsis. Here’s what I mean.

Most of what I write about is my own process and experience. Like many artists, I have a scientific streak, and I analyse and examine what’s going on when I write. I don’t do this while I’m writing, mind you, because that would bring the process to a dead halt. In the immortal words of Forrester (in the movie “Finding Forrester”) “Write now; think later.”

In the fall of 2010 I wrote exhaustively, perhaps tiresomely, about the process of making the Penguin Books deadline on October 31st. I’d never done a second draft of a novel before, and I wanted to know how I did it so I could do it again. I wanted to document my own roadblocks so that when I hit them on the next novel I could say, “Oh, yes – just keep writing through it” or maybe, “Take a break, come back in an hour” or perhaps even “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!” and then go on. This kind of introspection helps me, and I hope that some of what I learn from it, and pass on, helps other writers, too.

The other part of what I write is what I see around me; other writers and their process, marketing ideas, fun stuff, weird stuff, groups and sites that nourish my work – or otherwise. These provide help for me and, I hope, for some of you, even if it’s only a big, fat “Beware of the dog!’ sign.

The story of one writer’s journey can help another writer, and as long as I’m on this journey, I don’t expect to run out of bran.

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